Comprising two volumes this work provides a particularly comprehensive account of the development of kinetic theory and statistical mechanics up to the beginning of the 20th century. The author's historical researches go far beyond any other books on the subject, filling in many more details and putting the history of kinetic theory in the context of 19th century scientific and intellectual history. In the course of detailed examination of the sources, both published and unpublished, the author throws much new light on the dynamics of scientific change, and refutes some generally accepted ideas about historical events. In one section of the work, he demonstrates the use of a kind of historical document which has rarely, if ever, been exploited by historians of science, namely, referees' reports. The work is primarily directed towards physicists, but as it is not only concerned with technical aspects of the history of physics but also deals with cultural and philosophical connections, it will also appeal to historians of science and philosophers. Book 2 is completed by an unusually comprehensive bibliography.
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Brush's book is an impressive achievement. I know of no other work treating the subject with anything like its scope and depth... This is a book that has much to offfer any student, teacher, or researcher in statistical physics, and beyond that anyone who cares about what Maxwell called "the most interesting of all subjects, the history of the development of scientific ideas". -- Martin J. Klein, Physics Today
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