Archive for History of Exact Sciences

, Volume 68, Issue 2, pp 241–263 | Cite as

The mutual influence of aircraft aerodynamics and ship hydrodynamics in theory and experiment

  • Larrie D. FerreiroEmail author


As early as 1784, sharp-eyed engineers and scientists noted striking similarities between the dynamics of seagoing vessels and aerial vehicles. By the early twentieth century, naval engineers and scientists were developing and designing airplanes and dirigibles using empirical principles derived from naval architecture. Several key researchers in aerodynamics began their career as naval architects (David A. Taylor, William F. Durand and Jerome C. Hunsaker) and carried out their experiments in ship testing facilities. By the 1930s, however, the transfer of knowledge was irrevocably reversed as empiricism gave way to more fundamental, physics-based research. The rapid evolution of complex aircraft systems and flight envelopes led to new theoretical developments in aerodynamics and maneuvering, which quickly found their way into naval ship design. The theoretical and experimental results for airfoils, rigid airships and fixed-wing aircraft developed by Ludwig Prandtl, Theodore von Kármán, Max M. Munk and Hilda M. Lyon were employed in the hydrodynamic development of surface ships and submarines. This paper examines how the ideas, concepts and data from one discipline influenced the other and explores the processes by which that knowledge was transferred between disciplines.


Frictional Resistance Model Basin Hull Form Naval Architecture Naval Architect 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



I am grateful to Michael Eckert, Olivier Darrigol and Horst Nowacki for their knowledge, insights and suggestions.


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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Stevens Institute of TechnologyFairfax StationUSA

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