2-55-2. Peter Guthrie Tait to H. Poincaré

4/3/9211Published in Nature on 10.03.1892.

I fear M. Poincaré has not read my review of his book with sufficient attention.22For Tait’s review see (§ 2-62-2). Otherwise he could hardly have written the letter printed in your last number.33Poincaré’s letter to the editor of Nature was published the previous day, on 03.03.1892 (§ 2-55-1). The chief objections I made, taken in the reverse order of their importance, were

  1. (1)

    The work is far too much a mere display of mathematical skill. It soars above such trifles as historical details, while overlooking in great measure the experimental bases of the theory ; and it leaves absolutely unnoticed some of the most important branches of the subject.

    (Thus for instance, Sadi Carnot gets far less than his due, Rankine is not alluded to, and neither Thermoelectric Motivity nor the Dissipation of Energy is even mentioned!)

  2. (2)

    It gives an altogether imperfect notion of the true foundation for the reckoning of absolute temperature.

  3. (3)

    It completely ignores the real (i.e. statistical) basis of the Second Law of Thermodynamics.

If these are what M. Poincaré alludes to as ‘‘reproches généraux, contre lesquels ma préface proteste suffisamment,’’ I can only express genuine amazement that a Preface should be capable of having such powers, and envy the man who is able to write one.

As to smaller matters: I did not attack M. Poincaré’s printer, I virtually said he was excusable under the circumstances. And as to the quite subsidiary question which M. Poincaré seems to think I regard as the most important, I have only to say that I could scarcely be expected to know that the words ‘‘on n’a pu jusqu’ici constater l’existence des forces électromotrices, &c.,’’ imply, as M. Poincaré now virtually interprets them, ‘‘One has not yet been able to assign the origin of the electromotive forces, &c.’’

P. G. T.

PrTL. Tait 1892.

Time-stamp: "30.12.2016 11:30"