Clifford Truesdell
Clifford Ambrose Truesdell III

(1919-02-18)February 18, 1919
DiedJanuary 14, 2000(2000-01-14) (aged 80)
Scientific career
Natural philosophy
History of science
Doctoral advisorSolomon Lefschetz
Harry Bateman
Doctoral studentsWalter Noll

Clifford Ambrose Truesdell III (February 18, 1919 – January 14, 2000) was an American mathematician, natural philosopher, and historian of science.[1][2][3][4][5][6]


Truesdell was born in Los Angeles, California. After high school, he spent two years in Europe learning French, German, and Italian, and improving his Latin and Greek. His linguistic skills stood him in good stead in his later historical investigations. At Caltech he was deeply influenced by the teaching of Harry Bateman. In particular, a course in partial differential equations "taught me the difference between an ordinary good teacher and a great mathematician, and after that I never cared what grade I got in anything."[7] He obtained a B.Sc. in mathematics and physics in 1941, and an MSc. in mathematics in 1942.

In 1943, he completed a Ph.D. in mathematics at Princeton University. For the rest of the decade, the U.S. Navy employed him to do mechanics research.

Truesdell taught at Indiana University 1950–61, where his students included James Serrin, Jerald Ericksen, and Walter Noll. From 1961 until his retirement in 1989, Truesdell was professor of rational mechanics at Johns Hopkins University.[8][9] He and Noll contributed to foundational rational mechanics, whose aim is to construct a mathematical model for treating (continuous) mechanical phenomena.[10]

Truesdell was the founder and editor-in-chief of the journals Archive for Rational Mechanics and Analysis and Archive for History of Exact Sciences, which were unusual in several ways. Following Truesdell's criticisms of awkward style in scientific writing,[11] the journal accepted papers in English, French, German, and Latin.

In addition to his original work in mechanics, Truesdell was a major historian of science and mathematics, editing or co-editing six volumes of the collected works of Leonhard Euler.

Criticism of Truesdell's support of rational thermodynamics

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Bernard Lavenda opined that, if there is something rational in rational thermodynamics, it is well-hidden.[12][page needed] Ingo Müller said the 'rational' theory failed even in fields where it assumed expertise: "More damage was suffered by rational thermodynamics when it was found that the theory could not be applied to non-Newtonian fluids."[13][page needed]

Truesdell become also famous by his attacks on Lars Onsager (Nobel Prize 1968 for nonequilibrium thermodynamics) and related scientists. Ingo Müller reports:[13][page needed]

Truesdell’s outspoken partisanship of rational thermodynamics and his flamboyant style fueled some lively controversies between adherents of TIP [thermodynamics of irreversible processes] and the protagonists of rational thermodynamics, chiefly Truesdell himself. His attacks on Onsagerism were advanced with much satirical verve, that makes them fun to read for those who were not targeted. However, the defenders of TIP tried their best to pay Truesdell back in his own coin. Woods pointed out some awkward features of rational thermodynamics in a paper entitled “The bogus axioms of continuum mechanics.”57 And Ronald Samuel Rivlin (1915–2005) delighted a worldwide audience with a frequently repeated humorous lecture under the title “On red herrings and other sundry unidentified fish in modern continuum mechanics.

An article written by Müller on the frame dependence of stress and heat flux[14] was later refuted by Truesdell. (Correction of two errors in the kinetic theory of gases which have been used to cast unfounded doubt upon the principle of material frame-indifference.[clarification needed])[15]


Selected writings


  1. ^ Clifford Truesdell at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
  2. ^ Capriz, G. (2000). "Obituary – Clifford Ambrose Truesdell (1919–2000)". Meccanica. 35 (5): 463–466. doi:10.1023/A:1010368106989. S2CID 115855559.
  3. ^ Giusti, E. (2003). "Clifford Truesdell (1919–2000), Historian of Mathematics". Journal of Elasticity. 70 (1–3): 15–22. doi:10.1023/B:ELAS.0000005636.90348.2b.
  4. ^ Serrin, J. (2005). "An Appreciation of Clifford Truesdell". The Rational Spirit in Modern Continuum Mechanics. pp. 31–38. doi:10.1007/1-4020-2308-1_4. ISBN 1-4020-1828-2. S2CID 121586030.
  5. ^ Speiser, D. (2003). "Clifford A. Truesdell's Contributions to the Euler and the Bernoulli Edition". Journal of Elasticity. 70 (1–3): 39–53. doi:10.1023/B:ELAS.0000005663.42447.08.
  6. ^ Ball, J. M.; James, R. D. (2002). "The Scientific Life and Influence of Clifford Ambrose Truesdell III" (PDF). Archive for Rational Mechanics and Analysis. 161 (1): 1–26. Bibcode:2002ArRMA.161....1B. doi:10.1007/s002050100178. S2CID 123253633.
  7. ^ Truesdell, C. (1984). An Idiot's Fugitive Essays on Science: Methods, Criticism, Training, Circumstances. New York: Springer-Verlag. p. 422. ISBN 0-387-90703-3.
  8. ^ Remembering Clifford Truesdell Archived 2007-04-02 at the Wayback Machine, from Turin's Accademia delle Scienze
  9. ^ Coleman, B. D. (2003). "Memories of Clifford Truesdell". Journal of Elasticity. 70 (1–3): 1–3. doi:10.1023/B:ELAS.0000005576.29772.a7.
  10. ^ Noll, W. (2003). "The Genesis of Truesdell's Nonlinear Field Theories of Mechanics". Journal of Elasticity. 70 (1–3): 23–30. doi:10.1023/B:ELAS.0000005581.36943.75. S2CID 125471624.
  11. ^ See "A Comment on Scientific Writing" in Truesdell (1984).
  12. ^ Lavenda, Bernard (1978). Thermodynamics of Irreversible Processes. Macmillan Press.
  13. ^ a b Müller, Ingo (2007). A History of Thermodynamics: the Doctrine of Energy and Entropy. Springer.
  14. ^ Müller, Ingo (1972). "On the frame dependence of stress and heat flux". Archive for Rational Mechanics and Analysis. 45 (4): 241–250. Bibcode:1972ArRMA..45..241M. doi:10.1007/BF00251375. S2CID 124937687.
  15. ^ Truesdell, Clifford (1976). "Correction of two errors in the kinetic theory of gases which have been used to cast unfounded doubt upon the principle of material frame-indifference". Meccanica. 11 (4): 196–199. Bibcode:1976Mecc...11..196T. doi:10.1007/BF02128292. S2CID 122191983.
  16. ^ "Honorary doctorates - Uppsala University, Sweden".
  17. ^ Friedman, Bernard (1948). "Review: An essay towards a unified theory of special functions, by C. Truesdell" (PDF). Bull. Amer. Math. Soc. 56 (3): 268–269. doi:10.1090/S0002-9904-1950-09382-3.
  18. ^ Bloom, Frederick (1981). "Review: A first course in rational continuum mechanics, by C. Truesdell" (PDF). Bull. Amer. Math. Soc. (N.S.). 5 (3): 359–364. doi:10.1090/s0273-0979-1981-14957-0.
  19. ^ McVittie, G. C. (1954). "Review: Vorticity and the thermodynamic state in a gas flow, by C. Truesdell" (PDF). Bull. Amer. Math. Soc. 60 (5): 493–494. doi:10.1090/s0002-9904-1954-09843-9.
  20. ^ McVittie, G. C. (1955). "Review: The kinematics of vorticity, by C. Truesdell" (PDF). Bull. Amer. Math. Soc. 61 (4): 356–358. doi:10.1090/s0002-9904-1955-09945-2.
  21. ^ Struik, D. J. (1955). "Review: Rational fluid mechanics, 1687–1765, by C. Truesdell" (PDF). Bull. Amer. Math. Soc. 61 (5): 451–454. doi:10.1090/s0002-9904-1955-09952-x.
  22. ^ Channell, D. F.; Truesdell, C. (1982). "The Tragicomical History of Thermodynamics, 1822-1854". Technology and Culture. 23 (1): 104–106. doi:10.2307/3104457. JSTOR 3104457.

Further reading