The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics

2018 Edition
| Editors: Macmillan Publishers Ltd


  • Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen
Reference work entry


A concept of momentous importance for our understanding of physical reality though it is, entropy is one of the most poorly understood even by many physicists as a keen thermodynamicist, D. ter Haar, opined. A ‘far-fetched’ notion, ‘obscure and difficult of comprehension’ judged J. Willard Gibbs, the architect of statistical thermodynamics. It was apposite for Lord Snow to argue that some familiarity with the law of entropy, the second law of thermodynamics, separates the educated into two cultures. But this condition is quite curious given that the fountainhead of thermodynamics is anthropomorphic in a far more pronounced degree than that of any other branch of physics. No other physical concept belongs to our ordinary experience as inherently as heat and work or temperature and pressure. Indeed, thermodynamics is at bottom a physics of economic value as Sadi Carnot initiated it in his famous 1824 memoir about our efficient use of energy (Georgescu-Roegen 1971).

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Authors and Affiliations

  • Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen
    • 1
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