"How Far Do Experiments on Models Represent Experiments on Full Sized Machines?" : The Examination and Dispute on the Reliability of the Wind Tunnels in Britain, 1909-1917

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Author(s)

Abstract

This paper discusses a historical process in which early aeronautical engineers examined the reliability of data from wind tunnels and their applicability to the prediction of the performance of full-scale aircraft. It specifically follows the case in 1910s Britain before and during the First World War. In the early 1910s, engineers at the National Physical Laboratory(NPL)constructed wind tunnels and checked their operability as scientific instruments. Based on this preliminary examination, wind tunnels were employed in experimental research on airplane stability. After the eruption of the war, however, the discrepancy became recognized between the predicted performance of airplanes designed on the basis of data from the NPL and their real performance in flight. This recognition led to the investigation of its possible sources and causes by representatives from the NPL as well from the Royal Aircraft Factory, where flight tests as well as wind tunnel experiments were actively conducted. Their investigative activity was controversial and confrontational, as is visible in the minutes and reports of the committee organized for this purpose. This paper traces the detailed process of this search for the source or cause of the discrepancies, which concluded with only a partial success in its investigation.

Journal

  • Historia scientiarum. Second series : international journal of the History of Science Society of Japan

    Historia scientiarum. Second series : international journal of the History of Science Society of Japan 20(2), 96-122, 2010-12-30

    The History of Science Society of Japan

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Codes

  • NII Article ID (NAID)
    110008513377
  • NII NACSIS-CAT ID (NCID)
    AA11081495
  • Text Lang
    ENG
  • Article Type
    ART
  • ISSN
    02854821
  • Data Source
    CJP  NII-ELS 
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