Tilman Sauer

The first section of volume 4 contains documentation of Hilbert’s efforts, made between 1898 and 1910, to establish classical mechanics as the foundation for all of known physics, including thermodynamics, hydrodynamics, and electrodynamics. This period ends with Hilbert’s lecture course titled “Mechanik der Kontinua” (1911), in which he examines the effects that the newly discovered principle of special relativity has on our comprehension of physical principles.

The lecture course titled “Kinetische Gastheorie” (1911/12), which presents a novel strategy for addressing issues about statistical physics, kicks off the second portion of the book. The lecture course titled “Molekulartheorie der Materie” (1913) addresses a subject that Hilbert considered being of utmost significance, and he returns to it on multiple occasions.

The final lecture course included in this volume is titled “Statistische Mechanik” (1922), and it provides a very insightful comparison of the various approaches that people like Maxwell, Boltzmann, Gibbs, and others have taken to the foundational problems that are associated with statistical physics. It is a model of conceptual clarity and logical analysis in its purest form.