Russian-born Belgian physical chemist who received the Nobel Prize
for Chemistry in 1977 for contributions to nonequilibrium thermodynamics.
Prigogine's work dealt with the application of the second law of thermodynamics
to complex systems, including living organisms. The second law states
that physical systems tend to slide spontaneously and irreversibly toward
a state of disorder (this process is known as entropy); it does not,
however, explain how complex systems could have arisen spontaneously
from less ordered states and have maintained themselves in defiance
of the tendency toward entropy. Prigogine argued that as long as systems
receive energy and matter from an external source, nonlinear systems
(or dissipative structures, as he called them) can go through periods
of instability and then self-organization, resulting in more complex
systems whose characteristics cannot be predicted except as statistical
probabilities. Prigogine's work was influential in a wide variety of
fields, from physical chemistry to biology, and was fundamental to the
new disciplines of chaos theory and complexity theory.
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