In his "Rational Thermodynamics" 1983, 2nd ed., on page 55, Truesdell writes

The axiomatization of Caratheodory has left a baneful legacy: Born's endorsement, which for a long time promoted in physical circles widespread complacent belief that thermodynamics had been standing on a general and secure foundation since 1909. Until recently physicists used Caratheodory's name as a mall to smash subsequent fundamental inquiry by the mathematically critical. To this I can speak from an experience of my own a third of a century ago, when I submitted an essay of mine to a nabob who enjoyed positive measure on a Nobel basis in theoretical physics. The Great Man replied on July 8, 1948:

[T]he value of such general investigations ... is certainly rather limited.
However, I find an axiomatic treatment often very clarifying, and I certainly have no objection against it. I do not think that one can go in this way beyond the well established theories. I am therefore very doubtful whether Murnaghan and your generalizations of the classical mechanics of continua, correspond in any way to the behaviour of real solids or fluids. ... Second, your exposition of thermodynamics certainly goes against the grain. ... I do not understand, why you dismiss the work of Caratheodory (which is a serious and helpful attempt to axiomatise thermodynamics) in one sentence.

At first reading I thought Truesdell was talking about Born, but now I am not sure at all. On page 33 in the footnote he quite effusively praises him for

[In view of my words about Born's baneful influence on thermodynamics perhaps it is not out of place to remark here that his autobiography as well as the reputation he left behind him reflect a fine character as well as charm, learning, letters, and eminent humanity, along with a very human and ridiculous yearning for the approbation of a committee in Sweden. His encounter with the foundations of thermodynamics seems to be the one instance in his life when his physical sense failed him.]

So I do not think Born is the "nabob". My question is, who was this "Great Man" and "nabob who enjoyed positive measure on a Nobel basis in theoretical physics"?

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    $\begingroup$ Wikepdia makes me think it was Lars Onsager $\endgroup$ – kimchi lover Oct 1 '18 at 14:42
  • $\begingroup$ @kimchi_lover you maybe right, Onsager got his Nobel in 1968 and the 1st edition of this book was written in early 1968 but it does not have the quoted passage! So Truesdell must have been really po'd ... Actually the rest of the book does not really criticize Onsager much except on page 376 "The postulates of Onsager and Casmir may be good ones, but of course such an array of assumptions makes it impossible to regard their claims as having been proved from statistical mechanics in the sense that the theorems of Maxwell, Boltzmann, Gibbs, and Khinchin are proved theorems, etc." $\endgroup$ – hyportnex Oct 1 '18 at 18:36
  • $\begingroup$ @kimchilover +1, I think you got it answered. $\endgroup$ – Francois Ziegler Oct 13 '18 at 19:14

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