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Next: E.R.G. Eckert Up: Biographies of Major Figures Previous: Gino Girolamo Fanno   Index

Ludwig Prandtl

Figure 1.11:
Photo of Prandtl
Perhaps Prandtl's greatest achievement was his ability to produce so many great scientists. It is mind boggling to look at the long list of those who were his students and colleagues. There is no one who educated as many great scientists as Prandtl. Prandtl changed the field of fluid mechanics and is called the modern father of fluid mechanics because of his introduction of boundary layer, turbulence mixing theories etc.

Ludwig Prandtl was born in Freising, Bavaria, in 1874. His father was a professor of engineering and his mother suffered from a lengthy illness. As a result, the young Ludwig spent more time with his father which made him interested in his father's physics and machinery books. This upbringing fostered the young Prandtl's interest in science and experimentation.

Prandtl started his studies at the age of 20 in Munich, Germany and he graduated at the age of 26 with a Ph.D. Interestingly, his Ph.D. was focused on solid mechanics. His interest changed when, in his first job, he was required to design factory equipment that involved problems related to the field of fluid mechanics (a suction device). Later he sought and found a job as a professor of mechanics at a technical school in Hannover, Germany (1901). During this time Prandtl developed his boundary layer theory and studied supersonic fluid flows through nozzles. In 1904, he presented the revolutionary paper ``Flussigkeitsbewegung Bei Sehr Kleiner Reibung'' (Fluid Flow in Very Little Friction), the paper which describes his boundary layer theory.

His 1904 paper raised Prandtl's prestige. He became the director of the Institute for Technical Physics at the University of Göttingen. He developed the Prandtl-Glauert rule for subsonic airflow. Prandtl, with his student Theodor Meyer, developed the first theory for calculating the properties of shock and expansion waves in supersonic flow in 1908 (two chapters in this book). As a byproduct they produced the theory for oblique shock. In 1925 Prandtl became the director of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Flow Investigation at Göttingen. By the 1930s, he was known worldwide as the leader in the science of fluid dynamics. Prandtl also contributed to research in many areas, such as meteorology and structural mechanics.

Ludwig Prandtl worked at Göttingen until his death on August 15, 1953. His work and achievements in fluid dynamics resulted in equations that simplified understanding, and many are still used today. Therefore many referred to him as the father of modern fluid mechanics. Ludwig Prandtl died in Göttingen, Germany on August 15th 1953.

Prandtl's other contributions include: the introduction of the Prandtl number in fluid mechanics, airfoils and wing theory (including theories of aerodynamic interference, wing-fuselage, wing-propeller, biplane, etc); fundamental studies in the wind tunnel, high speed flow (correction formula for subsonic compressible flows), theory of turbulence. His name is linked to the following:

  • Prandtl number (heat transfer problems)
  • Prandtl-Glauert compressibility correction
  • Prandtl's boundary layer equation
  • Prandtl's lifting line theory
  • Prandtl's law of friction for smooth pipes
  • Prandtl-Meyer expansion fans (supersonic flow)
  • Prandtl's Mixing Length Concept (theory of turbulence)

next up previous index
Next: E.R.G. Eckert Up: Biographies of Major Figures Previous: Gino Girolamo Fanno   Index
Created by:Genick Bar-Meir, Ph.D.
On: 2007-11-21