HISTORY AND SCOPE OF FLUID MECHANICS


Like most scientific disciplines, fluid mechanics has a history of erratically occurring early achievements, then an intermediate era of steady fundamental discoveries in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, leading to the twentieth-century era of “modern practice,” as we self-centeredly term our limited but up-to-date knowledge.

Ancient civilizations had enough knowledge to solve certain flow problems. Sailing ships with oars and irrigation systems were both known in prehistoric times. The Greeks produced quantitative information.

Archimedes and Hero of Alexandria both postulated the parallelogram law for addition of vectors in the third century B.C. Archimedes (285–212 B.C.) formulated the laws of buoyancy and applied them to floating and submerged bodies, actually deriving a form of the differential calculus as part of the analysis.

The Romans built extensive aqueduct systems in the fourth century B.C. but left no records showing any quantitative knowledge of design principles.

From the birth of Christ to the Renaissance there was a steady improvement in the design of such flow systems as ships and canals and water conduits but no recorded evidence of fundamental improvements in flow analysis.

Then Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519) derived the equation of conservation of mass in one-dimensional steady flow. Leonardo was an excellent experimentalist, and his notes contain accurate descriptions of waves, jets, hydraulic jumps, eddy formation, and both low-drag (streamlined) and high-drag (parachute) designs.

A Frenchman, Edme Mariotte (1620–1684), built the first wind tunnel and tested models in it. Problems involving the momentum of fluids could finally be analyzed after Isaac Newton (1642–1727) postulated his laws of motion and the law of viscosity of the linear fluids now called newtonian.

The theory first yielded to the assumption of a “perfect” or frictionless fluid, and eighteenth-century mathematicians (Daniel Bernoulli, Leonhard Euler, Jean d’Alembert, Joseph-Louis Lagrange, and Pierre-Simon Laplace) produced many beautiful solutions of frictionless-flow problems.

Euler developed both the differential equations of motion and their integrated form, now called the Bernoulli equation. D’Alembert used them to show his famous paradox: that a body immersed in a frictionless fluid has zero drag. These beautiful results amounted to overkill, since perfect-fluid assumptions have very limited application in practice and most engineering flows are dominated by the effects of viscosity.

Engineers began to reject what they regarded as a totally unrealistic theory and developed the science of hydraulics, relying almost entirely on experiment. Such experimentalists as Chézy, Pitot, Borda, Weber,

Francis, Hagen, Poiseuille, Darcy, Manning, Bazin, and Weisbach produced data on a variety of flows such as open channels, ship resistance, pipe flows, waves, and turbines. All too often the data were used in raw form without regard to the fundamental physics of flow.

At the end of the nineteenth century, unification between experimental hydraulics and theoretical hydrodynamics finally began. William Froude (1810–1879) and his son Robert (1846–1924) developed laws of model testing, Lord Rayleigh (1842–1919) proposed the technique of dimensional analysis, and Osborne Reynolds (1842–1912) published the classic pipe experiment in 1883 which showed the importance of the dimensionless Reynolds number named after him.

Meanwhile, viscous-flow theory was available but unexploited, since Navier (1785–1836) and Stokes (1819–1903) had successfully added newtonian viscous terms to the equations of motion. The resulting

Navier-Stokes equations were too difficult to analyze for arbitrary flows. Then, in 1904, a German engineer, Ludwig Prandtl (1875–1953), published perhaps the most important paper ever written on fluid mechanics. Prandtl pointed out that fluid flows with small viscosity, e.g., water flows and airflows, can be divided into a thin viscous layer, or boundary layer, near solid surfaces and interfaces, patched onto a nearly inviscid outer layer, where the Euler and Bernoulli equations apply.

Boundary-layer theory has proved to be the single most important tool in modern flow analysis. The twentieth century foundations for the present state of the art in fluid mechanics were laid in a series of broad based experiments and theories by Prandtl and his two chief friendly competitors, Theodore von Kármán (1881–1963) and Sir Geoffrey I. Taylor (1886– 1975).

Since the earth is 75 percent covered with water and 100 percent covered with air, the scope of fluid mechanics is vast and touches nearly every human endeavor. The sciences of meteorology, physical oceanography, and hydrology are concerned with naturally occurring fluid flows, as are medical studies of breathing and blood circulation.

All transportation problems involve fluid motion, with well-developed specialties in aerodynamics of aircraft and rockets and in naval hydrodynamics of ships and submarines.

Almost all our electric energy is developed either from water flow or from steam flow through turbine generators. All combustion problems involve fluid motion, as do the more classic problems of irrigation, flood control, water supply, sewage disposal, projectile motion, and oil and gas pipelines.

The aim of this book is to present enough fundamental concepts and practical applications in fluid mechanics to prepare you to move smoothly into any of these specialized fields of the science of flow—and then be prepared to move out again as new technologies develop.

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