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Heat was considered to be an invisible fluid, called caloric,until late into the eighteenth century. It was believed that a hot piece of material contained more caloric than a cold one and that an object would become warmer by transferring caloric into it. In the mid-1800s, Mayer, Helmholtz, and Joule discovered independently that heat is simply a form of energy. They realized that when two bodies have different temperatures, thermal energy is transferred from the hotter to the colder one when brought into contact. Count Rumford discovered, by observing the boring of cannons, that mechanical work expended in the boring process was responsible for the increase in temperature. He concluded that mechanical energy could be transformed into thermal energy. This observation lead eventually to the concept of a mechanical heat equivalent. Today, these results are treated in a different, more rigorous, scientific language (see next chapter).

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© 2001 Springer-Verlag New York, Inc.

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Hummel, R.E. (2001). Introduction. In: Electronic Properties of Materials. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg.

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  • Print ISBN: 978-3-642-86540-4

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