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Charles Coulston Gillispie and Raffaele Pisano, Lazare and Sadi Carnot

Recension de Charles Ashbacher :

Lazare the father is far better known as a politician and soldier than as a scientist. His work in creating, organizing and equipping the massive army raised in France after the revolution demonstrates without question that he was an organizational genius. Napoleon is known as a military genius, but without the skills of Lazare Carnot, his victories would have been few and the history of what is known as the Napoleonic era would have been quite different. Trained as an engineer, Lazare Carnot made some original contributions to the development of the machines and the scientific principles that govern their behavior.

However, Lazare’s greatest contribution to machine science is his siring and nurturing of his son Sadi, the man considered the “father of thermodynamics.” This book only briefly covers the personal side of their history ; the emphasis is on the mathematical and physical background of their work as well as some of the enormous number of applications.

Thermodynamics is the study of the ways where energy is converted from one form into another and explanations of the limits to the efficiency of the processes. Since this covers all mechanical and biological machines, a basic knowledge of thermodynamics is essential for the functioning of all scientists. Since this book takes you back to the creation of the area of thermodynamics, scientists in every field can learn from this book.

The authors do an excellent job of presenting the historical sequence of the work of the two Carnots. The mathematical and physical background of their results is put down before it is explained. For example, chapter 7 has the title “On Principles in Sadi Carnot’s Thermodynamics.” The text is well written, it would be possible for people that are not thoroughly schooled in mathematical principles such as integration to learn the principles of thermodynamics from reading this history.

The professor that I had for my courses in physical chemistry used to include exercises and other snippets into the instruction so that we would develop some appreciation for the “sweat, physical and mental effort and sometimes even blood” that researchers expended in developing the science of chemistry. From this book you will obtain an appreciation of the efforts of the Carnots’ in putting down the intellectual foundations for the rise of the machines that made the industrial revolution possible.

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