Hierarchical Thermodynamics

1998 is the 125th anniversary of the publication by J. Willard Gibbs of his first thermodynamic work "Graphical methods in the thermodynamics of fluids". J. Willard Gibbs later created the general thermodynamic theory, which is a strict physical theory applying to the whole real world. This theory has been of limited, or of questionable use in biology for the investigation of open systems. Recently the theory has been extended to real open biological systems and a hierarchical equilibrium thermodynamics has been created . A study of quasiclosed systems enables one to draw conclusions about the thermodynamic direction of biological evolution and aging of living beings. The most essential application of the theory relates to the study of living creature's behavior and to anti-aging medicine, gerontology, pharmacology, nutrition and other branches of biology and medicine.

Supramolecular thermodynamics
of closed biological systems

Structure of the nucleosome

Karolin Luger et al.,
Nature 389 / September 1997, p.251

Helical conformation of a meta-substituted phenylacetylene octadecamer (n=18), where R=H and the end groups have been removed

J.C.Nelson et al.,
Science 277 / 19 September, 1997, p.1793

Supramolecular thermodynamics of quasiclosed biological systems

Thermodynamics of complex hierarchical natural systems, or macrothermodynamics, seems to focus on the three problems:

1. Whether current quasi-equilibria, that might be characterized in terms of the corresponding thermodynamic function extremum values, may be established in evolutionary open systems?

2. Whether quasi-closed type subsystems may be singled out from open hierarchical systems allowing the study, in appropriate time scales, of the behavior and evolution of the subsystems using thermodynamic functions with extremum properties?

3. Whether behavior and evolution of open non-stationary systems can be studied using mean specific values of classical thermodynamic function tending to extremum?

The answers to the first two questions are trivial and can be provided on the basis of the generally known concepts. The third question appears to be a new one and can be answered positively when the open system under consideration is in thermostat, together with which it presents a complete thermodynamic system. The totality of the environment (thermostat) and a living organism (an open non-stationary system per se) furnishes an example of such complete system. Primarily, the non-stationary open system under consideration is not in equilibrium with its thermostat; its evolution is explained in terms of the tendency to extremum of the mean specific value corresponding to the classic thermodynamic potential of the system formation. The system evolution is directed towards partial system - thermostat equilibrium. In the case of biological systems it is convenient to use mean specific values of the Gibbs function related to a unit of volume or mass, e.g. the mean specific value of the Gibbs function for intermolecular interactions at formation of supramolecular structure of an organism biotissue j is . It has been show for the first time that in the case when there is a thermostat which provides constancy of the environment’s chemical composition the value of an open biosystem j has the tendency to a minimum. This trend of the value to a minimum explains the accumulation of a substance with chemically high energy capacity by the biosystem which causes increase in the mean specific chemical component of the biological structure during long periods of evolution. The constructiveness of this new concept is evident because it focuses on the investigation of the open non-stationary system characteristics per se. This is very attractive because it offers the possibility of obtaining important quantitative information on the basis of experimental data. This approach has enabled us to substantiate and experimentally prove the possibility of a biosystem’s thermodynamic characteristics being inherited during the long stages of biological evolution when the environment remains practically unchangeable.


  • G.P.Gladyshev, Thermodynamics and Macrokinetics of Natural Hierarchic Processes (in Russian), Nauka, Moscow,1988.
  • G.P.Gladyshev, Thermodynamic Theory of the Evolution of Living Beings, NOVA Sci.Publ.,Inc.,NY, USA,1997.
  • G.P.Gladyshev, "Thermodynamics of Aging", Materials for the Symposium "Termodynamics and Information Theory in Biology",1998.
  • Differential equations of macrothermodynamics. The systems and the processes.