Ludwig Boltzmann, Austrian Physicist

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Image ID: HRJ9RC
Ludwig Eduard Boltzmann (February 20, 1844 - September 5, 1906) was an Austrian physicist whose greatest achievement was in the development of statistical mechanics, which explains and predicts how the properties of atoms (such as mass, charge, and structure) determine the visible properties of matter (such as viscosity, thermal conductivity, and diffusion). His most important scientific contributions were in kinetic theory, including the Maxwell-Boltzmann distribution for molecular speeds in a gas. In addition, Maxwell-Boltzmann statistics and the Boltzmann distribution over energies remain the foundations of classical statistical mechanics. They are applicable to the many phenomena that do not require quantum statistics and provide a remarkable insight into the meaning of temperature. He was subject to rapid alternation of depressed moods with elevated, expansive or irritable moods, likely the symptoms of undiagnosed bipolar disorder. In 1906, while on a summer vacation, he hung himself during an attack of depression. He was 62 years old.