Duhem, Pierre Maurice Marie

Duhem, Pierre Maurice Marie pyĕr mōrēsˈ märēˈ düĕmˈ [key], 1861–1916, French physicist and philosopher and historian of science. After studying at the École Normale Supérieure he taught at Lille (1887–1893), Rennes (1893–1894), and Bordeaux (1894–1916). His extension and application of the thermodynamic potential to topics in chemistry ranks him among the founders of modern physical chemistry. His Traité d'énergétique générale (2 vol., 1911) aimed at a generalized, abstract thermodynamics that subsumed classical mechanics. His major philosophical work, La théorie physique: Son objet, sa structure (1906; tr. The Aim and Structure of Physical Theory, 1954), depreciates pictorial models in favor of an axiomatic approach, according to which a physical theory is not an explanation, but a system of mathematical propositions that represents experimental laws. As a historian Duhem discovered important currents of medieval thought in physics, cosmology, and astronomy, which he saw as precursors of the 17th-century scientific revolution. He set forth this material, hitherto almost unknown, in Études sur Léonard de Vinci (3 vol., 1906–13) and Le Système du monde (10 vol., 1913–59).

See study by A. Lowinger (1941).

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