Person: Weber (4), Johanna
Johanna Weber was a mathematician who began her career in Germany but continued after World War II in England. She worked on aerodynamics and played a large part in designing the wings of Concorde and of the Airbus.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- Johanna attended primary school in Düsseldorf where she showed great abilities.
- Cologne is around 50 km from Düsseldorf and there was a good train connection between the two cities taking about 40 minutes so Weber was able to live at home and commute to university.
- The University of Göttingen had an outstanding reputation for mathematics and Weber moved to Göttingen to continue her studies at the university there.
- In 1935 Weber was awarded the degree of Dr. rer.
- Germany, however, had become a much changed country during Weber's years at university.
- Hitler and the Nazi party had come to power in 1933 and by the time that Weber qualified for a job as a secondary school teacher there was a condition that all school teachers were required to be members of the Nazi Party.
- Weber refused to join and so teaching was not open to her.
- On the day she arrived, Weber was invited to an Institute social evening organised by Dietrich Küchemann (1911-1976).
- As a result, they began to work together, Weber not only doing the mathematics but also diversifying into wind tunnel testing and liaison with the workshops.
- Throughout the war Weber worked at the Aerodynamische Versuchsanstalt at Göttingen.
- Weber and Küchemann returned to work and began writing up their research projects.
- Neither Weber nor Küchemann were keen accept but in October 1946 Küchemann changed his mind and accepted a six-month contract in the Aerodynamics Department at Farnborough.
- After settling in, he encouraged Weber to come to the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough and in August 1947 she accepted.
- Weber was the only woman among the German scientists coming to the Royal Aircraft Establishment and she was given accommodation in the Royal Aircraft Establishment staff hostel.
- Küchemann had spoken very highly of Weber to the staff at the Royal Aircraft Establishment so they knew she was an outstanding mathematician.
- In the full aerodynamic development of the aircraft there were further revisions to the wing design, including its integration with the engine air intakes, using the work that Küchemann and Weber had done in Göttingen during the war.
- From the time she arrived in England in 1947, Weber had lived in the Royal Aircraft Establishment hostel until 1953.
- The house had a spacious bed-sitting room and small kitchen designed to accommodate Weber.
- Weber, Küchemann and Maskell provided the shape and the sums, others carried their ideas through.
- After working on the design of Concorde, Weber worked on the design of the wings for the first Airbus, the A300B.
- In 1961, 34 Echo Barn Lane, Wrecclesham, the cottage next door to the Küchemanns house, went on the market and Weber purchased it.
- He had been writing the book The Aerodynamic Design of Aircraft with Weber's assistance and he had wanted her to be listed as a co-author but she had declined on the grounds that she did not want the responsibility.
- In 2010 Weber was 100 years old and her health had become so poor that, as her centenary approached, she decided to move into a nursing home.
- Many others have played their part in this success but, without the combination of Küchemann's vision and Weber's mathematical prowess, the advances in UK design capability between the 1940s and 1970s would probably not have occurred.
Born 8 August 1910, Düsseldorf, Germany. Died 24 October 2014, Farnham, Surrey, England.
View full biography at MacTutor
Tags relevant for this person:
Origin Germany, Women
Adapted from other CC BY-SA 4.0 Sources:
- O’Connor, John J; Robertson, Edmund F: MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive