Maxwell's Demon and the Culture of Entropy

Andrew Rex, University of Puget Sound
Harvey S. Leff, Physics Department, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, 3801 W. Temple Ave., Pomona, California 91768 U.S.A.


Maxwell's demon was conceived in Maxwell's mind two years after Clausius proposed the term entropy and has had a symbiotic relationship with entropy for the last 125 years. The demon has helped us understand entropy, and, in turn, the entropy concept has enabled clarification of the subtleties of Maxwell's demon. We trace the historic interplay of Maxwell's demon with entropy within the contexts of thermodynamics, statistical mechanics, information theory, and the theory of computing. We give evidence that Maxwell's demon has become an essential part of the culture of entropy.