Clifford Ambrose Truesdell III
February 18, 1919
|Died||January 14, 2000 (aged 80)|
History of science
|Doctoral advisor||Solomon Lefschetz|
|Doctoral students||Walter Noll|
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 taught at Indiana University 1950–61, where his students included James Serrin, Jerald Ericksen, and Walter Noll. From 1961 until his retirement in 1989, Truesdell was professor of rational mechanics at Johns Hopkins University. He and Noll contributed to foundational rational mechanics, whose aim is to construct a mathematical model for treating (continuous) mechanical phenomena.
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.
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.".
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).