Johannes Diderik van der Waals (23 November 1837 – 8 March 1923) was a Dutch theoretical physicist who made significant contributions to the understanding of the behavior of gases and liquids.
Van der Waals was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1910.
Life and Career
He was born on 23 November 1837, in Leiden, Netherlands. He initially trained as a schoolteacher before studying physics and mathematics at the University of Leiden.
He got his doctorate in 1873 after presenting his thesis on ‘the continuity of gaseous and liquid states’.
In 1873, van der Waals published his most famous work, a paper on the behavior of gases and liquids, in which he introduced the concept of the van der Waals force, which describes the attractive and repulsive forces between molecules.
He also proposed the van der Waals equation of state, which is a modification of the ideal gas law that accounts for the finite size of gas molecules and their interactions.
Van der Waals became a physics professor at Amsterdam’s Municipal University in 1877. He worked here for most of his academic career and did most of his research here.
He proposed the theory of capillarity in 1893 based on thermodynamics to show molecules are in continuous motion, and even though it didn’t find a lot of takers at the time; it does prove to be correct.
He died on 8 March 1923, in Amsterdam.
Van der Waals was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1910 in recognition of his contributions to the understanding of the behavior of gases and liquids.