Field of Science

Random Facts about Ludwig B.

Not that Ludwig B. - the other Ludwig B: Ludwig Boltzmann, an Austrian physicist.

Boltzmann's name is familiar to many science students through the eponymous constant: 1.381 x 10-23 Joules/mole-Kelvin, which appears in many equations. The constant (usually written as k) arises from the proportionality between the absolute entropy of a system (S) and the number of possible arrangements of that system (W). Boltzmann's expression of the entropy, S=k ln W, is inscribed on Boltzmann’s tombstone in Vienna, Austria. Boltzmann did not write it in this form, however, Planck did.

Boltzmann also has two other equations named for him, the first is a diffusion equation used in neutron transport theory and the second describes particles in a gravitational field. In 1904, Boltzmann gave lectures on mathematics at the World’s Fair in St. Louis. He was also a popular lecturer in philosophy at the University of Vienna. Boltzmann is considered the founder of statistical mechanics, and a strong proponent of the “atomistic” view that underscored the importance of understanding the behavior of atoms and molecules in order to understand the bulk.

Loosely, the entropy is a measure of the "randomness" in a system.


  1. I had a post about some philosophical questions Boltzmann brought up during his philosophy lectures.

  2. My name is Alexis and I work at L’Oreal USA in NYC, supporting the For Women in Science program. L’Oreal partnered with UNESCO on this program ten years ago to help advance the role of women in science and to encourage more young women scientists to continue their pursuits in the field.

    Since the inception of this partnership, the For Women in Science program has awarded more than $4 million in grants to over 150 female scientists in 85 countries.

    In 2004, the company also established a US national fellowship program which each year awards five post-doctoral female researchers with fellowship grants of $40,000. To date, this program has awarded research grants of $500,000.

    You can learn more about the international or national fellowships or laureate awards at

    In May we will be recognizing the five 2008 US Fellows at the annual awards luncheon held at the American Museum of Natural History in New York.

    The call for 2008/2009 applicants begins in August and applications close on October 31, 2008. I hope you’ll share this with any colleagues who might be eligible to apply or to check out the website for more information.


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