Although Maxwell was directly involved in teaching and writing a textbook on heat theory he did not actively engage in research in this area until after he had read Gibbs' papers on thermodynamics. The stimulus of Gibbs's first two papers on the thermodynamics of homogeneous substances was such that Maxwell went beyond Gibbs and developed his own ideas on heterogeneous substances. These concepts remained unpublished, probably because they were included in Gibbs's thermodynamics later. Maxwell developed the concept that Gibbs subsequently called the potential. He also realized the importance of Gibbs's work for chemistry as well as for physics and proceeded, privately and in public to make Gibbs's work better known. Not only did he work in thermodynamics but he also stimulated colleagues at Cambridge to start research in this area, several years before Gibbs was “discovered” by Ostwald.

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