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A Fresh Look at a Beautiful Subject

Zhigang Suo's picture

This is a review on Thermal Physics by Charles Kittle and Herbert Kroemer. I posted the review on Amazon on 2 December 2001.

This is by far THE BEST textbook on the subject. As many people say, thermodynamics is a subject that one has to learn at least three times. I can easily understand the very negative review from the undergraduate student at Berkely. The subject itself is hard, and simply is not for everyone, not for the first run at least. I say this from experience. I earned a Ph.D. degree over ten years ago, and took courses on thermodynamics at both undergraduate and graduate levels. I didn't understand the subject at all, and didn't find much use in my thesis work. However, something about the subject has kept me going back to it ever since. I now own about 40 books on the subject, and use the ideas almost daily in my research.

I discovered Kittel-Kroemer only recently, and have found it absolutely great. The book took an unconventional approach, as the authors explained well in the Preface and the Introduction. This approach makes the central concept, the entropy, as well as the derived ideas, the temperature, the chemical potential and the Boltzmann factor, so clear that one has to wonder why they are obscure in many other books. I find this approach the most direct and satisfying. The book contains a wonderful collection of examples. The book is written with authority and great care. It is beautifully produced, and a joy to read. (My copy hasn't fall apart, and doesn't look it ever will!)

If there is a new edition, I'd like to see more links to thermodybnamics in practice. Some rudimentary description of measurements of basic quantities will further enhance the book. A few device examples, in addition to the battery, will help to make the connection. The beautiful logic structure notwithstanding, thermodyanmics is an experimental sceince. Some quantities are easy to calculate, others are easy to measure. The division of labor, an idea so natural in research and everyday life, is often missed in textbooks.

I recommend this book most strongly, and wish more people will discover its beauty.


Henry Tan's picture

I Agree, a great book!

I used the 2nd edition of this book, Thermal Physics by Charles Kittel and Herbert Kroemer, when I was a undergraduate student studying in the Drpartment of Physics at the Tsinghua University.

It was used as a text book for the course taught by Prof. Xingzhong Li (

Mogadalai Gururajan's picture

H B Callen's Thermodynamics and an introduction to thermostatistics is a wonderful text book too; in fact, we used Callen as the text, and Kittel and Kroemer as a supplementary text (for problems).

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