Ludwig Boltzmann

Birth Name:
Ludwig Eduard Boltzmann
Birth Date:
February 20, 1844
Birth Place:
Vienna, Austria
Death Date:
September 5, 1906
Place of Death:
Hotel Ples, Duino, Triest, Austria-Hungary
Age:
62
Cause of Death:
Suicide - hanging
Cemetery Name:
Der Wiener Zentralfriedhof
Claim to Fame:
Science
Ludwig Boltzmann was one of the greatest theoretical physicists of all time. His fame is due to his pioneering research work on thermodynamics and statistical mechanics (his basic equation of kinetic gas theory and the second principle of thermodynamics) as well as the atomic hypothesis of matter. He also made important contributions in mechanics, electromagnetism, mathematics and philosophy. Boltzmann was an extraordinary mathematician, a philosopher, a great teacher (he had an outstanding memory), he was a brilliant conversationalist as well as an excellent pianist with a great passion for Beethoven. And yet he was a controversial figure and his innovative ideas (on atomism and irreversibility in particular) were often misunderstood and ostracized. In particular, his love of extreme mathematics earned him the by-name of "algebraic terrorist". Only a few years after his suicide that Jean Baptiste Perrin’s experimental verification of Brownian motion would settle the century-long debate about the atomic theory and thereby validate Boltzmann’s career.

Fun Facts

The formula on his tombstone, S = k log W, is the equation for the entropy of a system of particles. It states that entropy, which can be regarded as a measure of a system’s “disorder,” depends only on a constant number k (now named Boltzmann’s constant) and the number of possible “microstates” W. Microstates essentially describe the configurations of the locations and momenta of particles in a system.

In 1904 Boltzmann visited the World’s Fair in St Louis, USA. He lectured on applied mathematics and then went on to visit Berkeley and Stanford. Unfortunately he failed to realise that the new discoveries concerning radiation that he learnt about on this visit were about to prove his theories correct.

At sixty-two, suffering from incumbent  blindness and other ailments, in the process of giving in to depression after the loss of his eldest son, his pride and self-esteem took a great toll owing to the criticism of many fellow scientists. Boltzmann then sought refuge and peace of mind  in the  small village of Duino, on the border of the Astro-Hungarian Empire. Neither the sunsets non the beautiful gulf nor Rilke’s verses helped him fend off the terrible depression that was devouring his soul and on a bleak day towards the end of the summer, on September 5th 1906 Boltzmann took his life by hanging himself from the window of his hotel room – formerly known as Hotel Ples now the one of the buildings of the United World College, opposite the Carabinieri station.

Cemetery Information:

Final Resting Place:

Der Wiener Zentralfriedhof

1110 Wien

Simmeringer Hauptstraße 234, Vienna,

Austria

Europe

Map:

Map of Der Wiener Zentralfriedhoff in Vienna, Austria
Map of Der Wiener Zentralfriedhoff in Vienna, Austria

Grave Location:

Gruppe 14 C, Grab Nr. 1

Grave Location Description

As you enter the cemetery through Tor 2 (Gate 2) drive straight ahead towards The St. Charles Borromeo Cemetery Church in the middle of the Vienna Central Cemetery. As you approach the church take the second to last right turn before the church and look to your left into Gruppa 14 C and you will find the large, unmistakable memorial to one of the greatest theoretical physicists of all time Ludwig Boltzmann.

Grave Location GPS

48.1517390898766, 16.438851588181283

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