UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

Helmholtz and Maxwell : the significance of the Hertzian synthesis Lund, Erik August


The problem of energy is a serious difficulty for modern physics arising out of the Nineteenth Century. In modern times, the concept of energy is linked both to the First Law of Thermodynamics, or the Law of Conservation of Energy, and the velocity of particles. Other usages of energy include the language of electrodynamics which locates it in space, and quantum mechanics. Despite that, its existence is in debate. The confusion is one of origins. Common perceptions, which locate the idea of energy among the by-products of the empirical law of conservation of energy are mistaken. Rather, the law of conservation of energy is First Formulated as a metaphysical statement by a generation of true natural philosophers whose most prominent spokesman was Hermann von Helmholtz. Helmholtz's Kantian Formulation of what he called "the Law of Conservation of Force" does not require energy. That idea is, rather, invented by J.C. Maxwell, in the mistaken impression that he merely employed an entity whose existence was already proven. When the Halmholtzian and Maxwellian traditions meet in the work of Heinrich Hertz, they are reconciled in such a way as to discard important elements of Maxwell's theory and leave Kantian ideas intact. The Kantian Formulation coupled with interpretations which retained the language of the Maxwell theory remain Fixed in historical hindsight as the consensus position of classical physics, and this obscures both the true origins of energy and the separate origins and progress of the First Law of Thermodynamics.

Item Media

Item Citations and Data


For non-commercial purposes only, such as research, private study and education. Additional conditions apply, see Terms of Use https://open.library.ubc.ca/terms_of_use.