The European Physical Journal H

, Volume 40, Issue 2, pp 205–240

Early history of extended irreversible thermodynamics (1953–1983): An exploration beyond local equilibrium and classical transport theory


DOI: 10.1140/epjh/e2014-50033-0

Cite this article as:
Lebon, G. & Jou, D. EPJ H (2015) 40: 205. doi:10.1140/epjh/e2014-50033-0


This paper gives a historical account of the early years (1953–1983) of extended irreversible thermodynamics (EIT). The salient features of this formalism are to upgrade the thermodynamic fluxes of mass, momentum, energy, and others, to the status of independent variables, and to explore the consistency between generalized transport equations and a generalized version of the second law of thermodynamics. This requires going beyond classical irreversible thermodynamics by redefining entropy and entropy flux. EIT provides deeper foundations, closer relations with microscopic formalisms, a wider spectrum of applications, and a more exciting conceptual appeal to non-equilibrium thermodynamics. We first recall the historical contributions by Maxwell, Cattaneo, and Grad on generalized transport equations. A thermodynamic theory wide enough to cope with such transport equations was independently proposed between 1953 and 1983 by several authors, each emphasizing different kinds of problems. In 1983, the first international meeting on this theory took place in Bellaterra (Barcelona). It provided the opportunity for the various authors to meet together for the first time and to discuss the common points and the specific differences of their previous formulations. From then on, a large amount of applications and theoretical confirmations have emerged. From the historical point of view, the emergence of EIT has been an opportunity to revisit the foundations and to open new avenues in thermodynamics, one of the most classical and well consolidated physical theories.

Copyright information

© EDP Sciences and Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Département d’Astrophysique, Géophysique et Océanographie, Bâtiment B5, Liège UniversityLiègeBelgium
  2. 2.Departament de Física, Universitat Autònoma de BarcelonaCataloniaSpain