Waals, Johannes Diderik Van Der

van der Waals, Johannes Diderik

van der Waals, Johannes Diderik (yōhäˈnəs dēˈdərĭk vän dər väls), 1837–1923, Dutch physicist. It had been known for some time that the behavior of real gases differs from that of an ideal gas as predicted by thermodynamics and the kinetic-molecular theory of gases. Van der Waals was led to the hypothesis of the continuity of the gaseous and liquid states of matter by combining the kinetic theory of gases with Laplace's theory of capillarity. In his theory of corresponding states (1880) he presented an equation of state (now named for him) for homogeneous substances in terms of pressure, volume, and temperature (see gas laws); unlike the ideal gas law, his equation contains constant factors (different for each real substance) to account for the fact that molecules are of finite size and experience weak forces of mutual attraction (now called van der Waals forces). For that work and for discovering the law of binary mixtures he received the 1910 Nobel Prize in Physics. He was professor (1877–1907) at the Univ. of Amsterdam.
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Waals, Johannes Diderik Van Der


Born Nov. 23, 1837, in Leiden; died Mar. 9, 1923, in Amsterdam. Dutch physicist.

A self-taught man, Van der Waals was a professor at the University of Amsterdam from 1877 to 1907. In 1873 in his work On the Continuity of the Gaseous and Liquid States, having noted the volume of molecules and their mutual attraction, he conceived the idea of the continuity of gaseous and liquid states of matter and derived the equation that bears his name. This equation is equally applicable to liquids and gases and yields results close to the experimental ones. This work earned him his doctor’s degree. The equation, in its reduced form, led him to the discovery of the law of corresponding states. In 1890, Van der Waals proposed a general equation for binary mixtures. He also made substantial contributions to the development of the thermodynamic theory of capillarity. He was awarded a Nobel Prize in 1910.


Über die Kontinuität des gasförmigen und flüssigen Zustande s. Leipzig, 1881.
In Russian translation:
Kurs termostatiki, vols. 1-2. Moscow, 1936. (With F. Konstamm.)
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.