Take the 2-minute tour ×
Physics Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for active researchers, academics and students of physics. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Where do the terms microcanonical, canonical and grand canonical (ensemble) come from?

When were they coined and by whom? Is there any reason for the names or are they historical accidents?

share|improve this question
    
I think it was J. W. Gibbs who first defined them, and probably coined the terms... –  Jellby Jul 17 '12 at 13:19

2 Answers 2

up vote 3 down vote accepted

I'm not completely sure, but I think they are introduced by Gibbs, and that book (available for download) is of historic importance.

The word ensemble really just means "set" in french, you consider the space of canonical coordinates of the detailed mechanics = mircostates and you impose statistics by the fundamental postulate.

share|improve this answer
1  
I was trying to read something in that book, but through Google in a reprint... so the right pages were not available. This is what it says in p. xi: "We consider especially ensembles of systems in which the index (or logarithm) of probability of phase is a linear function of the energy. This distribution, on account of its unique importance in the theory of statistical equilibrium, I have ventured to call canonical, and the divisor of the energy, the modulus of distribution." –  Jellby Jul 17 '12 at 13:33
    
@Jellby: Well good :) –  NikolajK Jul 17 '12 at 13:34
    
The book definitely looks like the first time canonical and microcanonical ensembles are called by those names. Grand canonical is missing, though. –  Emilio Pisanty Jul 17 '12 at 14:04
    
Maybe in his "Equilibrium" paper? –  Jellby Jul 17 '12 at 14:36

I do not know where they come from, but in french a canonical form is an expression which appears "naturally". For instance the canonical basis for the linear space spaned by the second degre polynom is made of: {1,X,X^2}

share|improve this answer

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.