Article ID: CBB000931143

Sichtbarmachung, Common Sense and Construction in Fluid Mechanics: The Cases of Hele-Shaw and Ludwig Prandtl (2008)


Bloor, David (Author)

Studies in History and Philosophy of Science
Volume: 39
Pages: 349--358

Publication Date: 2008
Edition Details: Part of a special issue: “Science and the Changing Senses of Reality circa 1900”.
Language: English

At the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries a concerted effort was made in the discipline of fluid mechanics to make hidden and fleeting processes visible and to capture the results photographically. I examine two important cases. One concerns the photographs taken by H. S. Hele-Shaw in the 1890s showing the flow of a perfect, frictionless fluid. The other case deals with the photographs of boundary layer separation taken by Ludwig Prandtl. These were presented to the Third International Congress of Mathematicians in Heidelberg in 1904. My concern in both cases will be with the relation of the photographs to the reality actually or putatively portrayed in the photograph. Superficially the two cases are very different. Perfect fluids were accepted as mere mathematical abstractions to which nothing real could correspond while the reality of the boundary layer has been accepted as a discovery of enormous physical and technical importance. A detailed examination, however, suggests some inner connections of a kind that challenges the understanding of certain common sense distinctions between the two cases.


Description On the effort to make hidden and fleeting processes visible through photography.

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Article Sibum, H. Otto (2008) Science and the Changing Senses of Reality circa 1900. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science (p. 295). unapi

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Authors & Contributors
Hoffmann, Christoph
Eckert, Michael
Matteo Citrini
Bart van der Steen
Chaokang Tai
Villone, Barbara
Berichte zur Wissenschaftsgeschichte
Science in Context
NTM: Zeitschrift für Geschichte der Naturwissenschaften, Technik und Medizin
Notes and Records: The Royal Society Journal of the History of Science
European Physical Journal H
Endeavour: Review of the Progress of Science
Concordia University (Canada)
Wallstein Verlag
University of Chicago Press
Sussex Academic Press
Johns Hopkins University Press
Visual representation; visual communication
Fluid mechanics
Scientific illustration
Science and art
Salcher, Peter
Prandtl, Ludwig
Mach, Ernst
Kármán, Theodor von
Thomson, James
Sheldon, William Herbert
Time Periods
19th century
20th century, early
20th century
18th century
17th century
Great Britain
United States
Académie des Sciences, Paris

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