tisdag 18 september 2012

The Dusk of Fluid Dynamics

The Dawn of Fluid Mechanics by Michael Eckert (2006) is presented as follows:
  • This is the first publication to describe the evolution of fluid dynamics as a major field in modern science and engineering. It contains a description of the interaction between applied research and application, taking as its example the history of fluid mechanics in the 20th century.
  • The focus lies on the work of Ludwig Prandtl, founder of the aerodynamic research center (AVA) in Göttingen, whose ideas and publications have influenced modern aerodynamics and fluid mechanics in many fields. While suitable for others, this book is intended for natural scientists and engineers as well as historians of science and technology.
The book gives valuable information on Prandtl, his role as German scientist through two World Wars, and his role as Father of Modern Fluid Mechanics. We cite from Chapter 8 Prandtl, Fluid Dynamics and National Socialism:
  • The question how fluid dynamics fared under the new regime cannot be answered without closer inspection of Prandtl's own political attitude. Such inspection brings to the fore a most ambivalent relationship between science and politics. 
  • In November 1933, Prandtl expressed in a private letter to his brother-in-law his satisfaction that one can now "as a German carry the head higher again". 
  • Prandtl was more than willing to place his capabilities and his institute to regime's disposal and the regime appreciated and honored Prandtl for this service.
  • In contrast to physics and mathematics, which experience a decline as a result of Nazi politics, fluid dynamics flourished in the Third Reich.
  • The regime's interest in aerodynamics research soon manifested itself in terns of generous financial support. Aeronautical research experienced a boom which was believed to be impossible before 1933.
  • Göring declared to the congregated scientists in an address at a meeting of the German  Academy of Aeronautical Research "Fluid dynamics has to combine with Air Force research in order to clear the basic laws form application to the Air Force and to guide the development align new paths".
  • Göring and his ministry also made use of Prandtl's reputation for propaganda purposes...to portray Nazi Germany as a country where science was still in high esteem, despite the purge of Jewish scientists from the universities. There are no indications that Prandtl felt uncomfortable with this role...he informed Göring in a letter in December 1936 of the measures that will be taken in his institute "for the conversion of research at a beginning of war".
  • Prandtl, like many other strongly nationally minded Germans, was impressed by the Nazi's determination to free Germany from what they considered the manacle of the Versailles treaty.
  • Göring praised German aeronautical research although "the collapse of our empire after the end of the war has prevented this good tradition from being continued". Only "the resolution of our Fuhrer to restore for Germany the military authority robbed by the Versailles dictate" made it possible to follow this tradition once again. At such occasions, Prandtl often sat in the front row next to the highest authorities of the Nazi regime.
  • When the German Academy of Aeronautical Research met on March 1 1939, Prandtl was awarded in the presence of numerous foreign celebrities the "Hermann Göring medal", the Nazi's highest distinction for scientific merit in aeronautics.
  • In May 1937 Prandtl wrote to William Knight the former NACA representative in Paris "I believe that Fascism in Italy and National Socialism in Germany represent very good beginnings of new thinking and economics".  
  • Prandtl described Hitler as a "man of tremendous nerve" who admittedly "made himself a million people his bitter enemies, but on the other side eighty million people his faithful and ardent followers".
  • With regard to the "Jewish question" he argued "The struggle which Germany unfortunately had to fight against the Jews, was necessary for its self-preservation".
  • Prandtl was neither naive nor forced against his will to participate in "the propaganda mission" as he called his efforts to sell Hitler's plans for a new order to the scientific world.
One should maybe bear these sides of Prandtl's soul in mind when recognizing him as the Father of Modern Fluid Mechanics. Prandtl as scientist is further scrutinized in Dr Faustus of Modern Physics

4 kommentarer:

  1. Hej Claes,

    contrary to the view put forward by von Karman (in his autobiography) or Eckert, Prandtl's daughter gives a quite contradicting view on Prandtl's political view. For the case you are interested in both views, I am giving you here the German and English Translation, which are both freely available as e-books.
    English Translation: http://users.ictp.it/~krs/other.html

  2. Yes I have read that. It is natural that a daughter gives a different view than a more neutral observer.
    There were many scientists going with stream in the Third Reich and so if Prandtl did, he was not alone.
    Of course you may argue that science and politics are different things, but also that they are closely intertwined with Einstein an illuminating example.

  3. As I said, I am just showing two sides, and of course a daughter will have a biased view, but so will everyone (especially Karman, who was known not to be a very humble man) and it is up to us to judge which of the views is more convincing to us. I have not claimed that his daughters account is more trustworthy; I just thought that the initial account from your side might give the impression as if the view presented is predominant.

  4. I did not claim to give the truth, just noticed one piece of information. It is up to the reader to judge,
    and your input is recorded as a comment which is not filtered out by me.