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Ludwig Prandtl



Father of Aerodynamic Theory


Ludwig Prandtl was born in Freising, Germany on 4 February 1875. He was an engineer by training and was endowed with rare vision for the understanding of physical phenomena, and the unusual ability to put them into simple mathematical form. Prandtl was a most able researcher and teacher, becoming professor of mechanics at the University of Hanover in 1901. From 1904 to 1953 he served as professor of applied mechanics at the University of Gottingen where he established a school of aerodynamics and hydrodynamics that achieved world renown.

Prandtl’s discovery, in 1904, of the boundary layer led to an understanding of skin friction and drag and of the way in which streamlining reduces wing drag. His initial work on wing theory, which followed similar work by Frederick Lanchester but was carried out independently, elucidated the process of flow over an airfoil of finite span and is known as the Lanchester-Prandtl wing theory. Subsequently, Prandtl made decisive advances in boundary layer and wing theories and his work became the basic material of aerodynamics. He later contributed the Prandtl-Glaubert rule for subsonic airflow to describe compressibility effects of air at high speeds. Prandtl also made important advances in developing theories of supersonic flow and turbulence.

Prandtl gave modern wing theory its practical mathematical form. He is considered the father of aerodynamic theory, for there is hardly a part of it to which he did not contribute, and many of its fundamental concepts originated in his fertile mind.

Ludwig Prandtl died in Gottinger, Germany on 15 August 1953.

Invested 1992 in the International Aerospace Hall of Fame

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Updated: March 12, 2004