Eucken, Arnold Thomas

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Eucken, Arnold Thomas

(b. Jena, Germany, 3 July 1884; d. Chiemsee, Germany, 16 June 1950)

physical chemistry.

Eucken did experimental and administrative work in physical chemistry. Much of his research was associated with projects of Walther Nernst, and he shared some of Nernst’s attitudes toward physical chemistry. His father, Rudolf C. Eucken, was a philosophy professor who received the Nobel Prize for literature in 1908. After graduating from the Gymnasium of Jena in 1902, Eucken entered the University of Kiel, where the inorganic chemistry course, taught by Heinrich Blitz, was oriented to new ideas in physical chemistry. Eucken also studied at the University of Jena. He entered the University of Berlin in 1905 to work in Nernst’s laboratory, and he completed his doctorate the following year. From 1908 Eucken was an assistant in Nernst’s laboratory. He was Privatdozent from 1911 and was in charge of some of the physical chemistry laboratories from 1913. In 1919 he became director of physical chemistry at the Technische Hochschule of Breslau and from 1930 was director of the Institute for Physical Chemistry at the University of Göttingen. Eucken received many academic honors.

After some early work in electrochemistry Eucken became very much involved with heat theory, and conducted experimental research associated with the determination of specific heats. In 1909 he measured specific heats by a method of Nernst’s; in the following decades he tested many heat laws experimentally. His work included experiments on the specific heats of hydrogen at low temperatures, Debye’s law for specific heats of solids at low temperatures, the range of applicability of Nernst’s heat theorem, the difference (predicted by quantum theory) between the specific heats of ortho- and para-hydrogen, and Einstein’s theory of specific heats. In the context of his later research on reaction kinetics, Eucken studied contact catalysis and the exchange of vibrational energy between gas molecules.

Eucken was eager to discourage overspecialization in science. For example, he felt that physical chemistry should be studied in terms of physics and mathematics. (He believed, however, that for satisfactory teaching, physical chemistry should remain a separate subject because it is not at all obvious how to apply physics to chemical phenomena.) Similarly, Eucken hoped to increase the interaction between science and technology; some of the research in his laboratory was chosen for the sake of its practical application, and Eucken was chairman of a committee to promote theoretical study of industrial processes.


I. Original Works. Eucken wrote many physical chemistry texts. An early version is Fundamentals of Physical Chemistry, trans. and adapted by E. R. Jette and V. K. Lamer (New York, 1925). For a listing of Eucken’s papers, consult Chemical Abstracts for the period 1900–1950.

II. Secondary Literature. See E. Bartholomé, in Die Naturwissenschaften, 37 (1950), 481–483; and R. Oesper, “Arnold Eucken,” in Journal of Chemical Education, 27 (1950), 540–541.

Sigalia Dostrovsky