Person: Prandtl, Ludwig
Ludwig Prandtl was a German engineer who worked on aerodynamics.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- Alexander Prandtl was a Professor at the Agricultural College Weihenstephan in Freising.
- Ludwig was baptised when he was exactly one week old.
- These unfortunate events had, of course, quite a serious impact on Ludwig during his time in secondary education.
- Ludwig loved to sketch, particularly when on holiday in the South Tyrol, and also show considerable musical talent, having piano lessons from the age of nine.
- In 1888 Prandtl was sent to the Ludwig Gymnasium in Munich.
- He lived in a dormitory at the school but this was not a good experience for the 13-year old Prandtl who was bullied by the older boys.
- After two years, he returned to the Ludwig Gymnasium in Munich where now he was more able to fit in and make good friends.
- After graduating, Prandtl remained at the Königlich Technische Hochschule for a year having been appointed as an assistant to August Föppl.
- This practical woman with a warm-hearted disposition took the young Prandtl, who was so alone and abandoned to the world without female support, under her wing from time to time.
- Prandtl wrote his doctoral thesis Lateral displacement phenomena, a case of unstable elastic equilibrium while working as Föppl's assistant.
- The thesis was published in early 1901 at Nuremberg and Prandtl immediately sent a copy to August Föppl.
- Before the award of his doctorate, Prandtl applied for a position at the Maschinenbaugesellschaft in Nuremberg where he took up a position on 1 January 1900.
- He made a number of suggestions including Prandtl.
- He was extremely impressed with Prandtl, despite his youth, and strongly advised that he be appointed.
- Prandtl continued to work on fluid flow and, within four years, he had answered the outstanding open problem regarding fluid flow with vanishing viscosity by introducing the boundary layer, or, as Prandtl described it, the friction layer on the walls of the container.
- Prandtl went to Berlin to negotiate over the offer and, after making the difficult decision, Prandtl accepted Klein's offer on 1 July 1904; by the end of the month, all the paperwork had been completed.
- It is clear that Prandtl held Klein in high regard and this was one factor in his decision to move to Göttingen.
- Indeed, after Prandtl moved to Göttingen he became a close friend of Klein.
- Although Göttingen provided Prandtl with outstanding research opportunities, he was less happy with the teaching duties he was asked to perform.
- Ludwig later said how sad Prandtl looked to receive this news.
- However, Prandtl received a letter from August Föppl shortly after the New Year telling him that Gertrud's engagement had been broken off soon after it was announced.
- In January 1909 another of August Föppl's sons, Otto Föppl, came to Göttingen taking up a position as Prandtl's assistant.
- In April 1909, Prandtl proposed marriage to Gertrud in a letter.
- Several of Prandtl's assistants who had been drafted for military duties were brought back to Göttingen to assist in this which was considered of major importance for the war effort.
- This more powerful, 300 horse-power, tunnel gave Prandtl more scope for research.
- Although financed from war funds and intended for military research, nevertheless these facilities also gave Prandtl and his team scope to undertake research with no obvious military aims which they happily undertook.
- The professorship was offered to Prandtl but, after much thought, he rejected the offer.
- After making the position more attractive to Prandtl, it was again offered in 1922 and this time he accepted.
- We note that the Gesellschaft für Angewandte Mathematik und Mechanik was founded in 1922 and Prandtl became the Society's first president.
- Let us now look at Prandtl's research.
- Prandtl preferred a small staff of rational thinkers and was almost afraid of the emotional interference which comes with the touch of the stick and with real flying.
- Now Dr Prandtl is awarded the second Guggenheim gold medal for notable achievement in aeronautics.
- Prandtl stood up for Heisenberg and others including Einstein.
- In September 1938 Prandtl attended the Fifth International Congress for Applied Mechanics in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.
- Prandtl may be considered one of those honourable, conscientious scholars of a bygone era, conscious of his integrity and respectability, whom we certainly cannot afford to do without, nor should we wish to, in light of his immensely valuable contributions to the development of the air force.
- Although he was now 70 years old, Prandtl again began lecturing to students.
- Prandtl received many honours for his contributions.
Born 4 February 1875, Freising, near Munich, Germany. Died 15 August 1953, Göttingen, Germany.
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Adapted from other CC BY-SA 4.0 Sources:
- O’Connor, John J; Robertson, Edmund F: MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive