Truesdell was born in Los Angeles, California. After high school, he spent two years in Europe learning French, German, and Italian, and improving his Latin and Greek. His linguistic skills stood him in good stead in his later historical investigations. At Caltech he was deeply influenced by the teaching of Harry Bateman. In particular, a course in partial differential equations "taught me the difference between an ordinary good teacher and a great mathematician, and after that I never cared what grade I got in anything." He obtained a B.Sc. in mathematics and physics in 1941, and an MSc. in mathematics in 1942.
Truesdell was the founder and editor-in-chief of the journals Archive for Rational Mechanics and Analysis and Archive for History of Exact Sciences, which were unusual in several ways. Following Truesdell's criticisms of awkward style in scientific writing, the journal accepted papers in English, French, German, and Latin.
In addition to his original work in mechanics, Truesdell was a major historian of science and mathematics, editing or co-editing six volumes of the collected works of Leonhard Euler.
Criticism of Truesdell's support of rational thermodynamics
In the words of Bernard Lavenda if there is something rational in rational thermodynamics it is well-hidden. Ironically, the 'rational' theory even failed in fields where the authors assumed expertise: "More damage was suffered by rational thermodynamics when it was found that the theory could not be applied to non-Newtonian fluids.".
Truesdell become also famous by his attacks on Lars Onsager (Nobel Prize 1968 for nonequilibrium thermodynamics) and related scientists. As Ingo Müller reports:
"Truesdell’s outspoken partisanship of rational thermodynamics and his flamboyant style fuelled some lively controversies between adherents of TIP and the protagonists of rational thermodynamics, chiefly Truesdell himself. His attacks on Onsagerism were advanced with much satirical verve, that makes them fun to read for those who were not targeted. However, the defenders of TIP tried their best to pay Truesdell back in his own coin. Woods pointed out some awkward features of rational thermodynamics in a paper entitled “The bogus axioms of continuum mechanics.”57 And Ronald Samuel Rivlin (1915–2005) delighted a worldwide audience with a frequently repeated humorous lecture under the title “On red herrings and other sundry unidentified fish in modern continuum mechanics.”
An article written by Müller (On the frame dependence of stress and heat flux) was later refuted by Truesdell (Correction of two errors in the kinetic theory of gases which have been used to cast unfounded doubt upon the principle of material frame-indifference).
Euler Medal of the USSR Academy of Sciences, 1958 and 1983;
^Truesdell, Clifford (1976). "Correction of two errors in the kinetic theory of gases which have been used to cast unfounded doubt upon the principle of material frame-indifference". Meccanica. 11 (4): 196–199. doi:10.1007/BF02128292.
^Channell, D. F.; Truesdell, C. (1982). "The Tragicomical History of Thermodynamics, 1822-1854". Technology and Culture. 23 (1): 104–106. doi:10.2307/3104457.
Becchi, Antonio; Corradi, Massimo; Foce, Federico; Pedemonte, Orietta, eds. (2003), Essays on the History of Mechanics: In Memory of Clifford Ambrose Truesdell and Edoardo Benvenuto, Basel–Boston–Berlin: Birkhäuser Verlag, p. 256, doi:10.1007/978-3-0348-8091-6, ISBN 3-7643-1476-1, MR2052763.
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