So who was he?

What are Van der
Waals forces?

What's his equation
all about?

Get to the lizards already

Other stuff

Links and references



So who was this Van der Waals
person anyway?

Van der Waals' greatest scientific achievement was winning the coveted Nobel Prize for Physics in 1910.  The prize was awarded for 'his work on the equation of state for gases and liquids'.  He basically came up with an equation which could be used as a modification of the ideal gas equation, to take account of the intermolecular forces between gas molecules:

or when divided through by n.

Not bad for someone who had to study maths and physics in his spare time, as his lack of qualifications in the classics disqualified him from academic exams! Despite these restrictions on his academic aspirations Van der Waals earned teaching certificates at University in Leyden.  He spent eleven years as a secondary school teacher before 1873 when the restrictions were lifted, and he was allowed to obtain his doctorate.  This was entitled 'On the continuity of the gas and liquid state', and introduced the famous equations shown above.

A mere three years later Van der Waals was appointed the first Professor of Physics at the new university, the Athenaeum Illustre of Amsterdam.  Nevertheless, it was a further thirty-four years before he was awarded the Nobel Prize for his doctorate.