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Diederik J. Korteweg, Pioneer of Criticality



Johanna Levelt Sengers, A H. Levelt


Dutch mathematician Diederik Johannes Korteweg (1848-1941), pictured in figure 1, is best known for the 1895 paper he wrote with his student Gustav De Vries. This paper on the propagation of soliton waves in channels, has, in recent decades, been widely recognized as a ground-breaking work. Korteweg also studied the stress now called the Korteweg stress-resulting from density gradients at an interface between two fluids. Korteweg s contributions to the thermodynamics of phase transitions and criticality in fluid mixtures are far less known. They include honing the tools of differential geometry to characterize phase separation and criticality of fluid mixtures, developing a method of deformation of surfaces, and performing the first detailed analysis of the phase behavior of a special case of the van der Walls equation for binary fluid mixtures
Physics Today
No. 12


criticality, double-tangent plane, fluid mixtures, fluid phase separation, four-phase coexistence, history, lambda line, Potts model, spinodal


Levelt, J. and Levelt, A. (2002), Diederik J. Korteweg, Pioneer of Criticality, Physics Today (Accessed June 19, 2024)


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Created December 1, 2002, Updated June 2, 2021