Euler—The Origins of Theoretical Fluid Dynamics

Bernoulli’s equation, expressed by Equations (3.14) and (3.15), is historically the most famous equation in fluid dynamics. Moreover, we derived Bernoulli’s equation from the general momentum equation in partial differential equation form. The momentum equation is just one of the three fundamental equations of fluid dynamics—the others being continuity and energy. These equations are derived and discussed in Chapter 2 and applied to an incompressible flow in Chapter 3. Where did these equations first originate? How old are they, and who is responsible for them? Considering the fact that all of fluid dynamics in general, and aerodynamics in particular, is built on these fundamental equations, it is important to pause for a moment and examine their historical roots.

As discussed in Section 1.1, Isaac Newton, in his Principia of 1687, was the first to establish on a rational basis the relationships between force, momentum, and acceleration. Although he tried, he was unable to apply these concepts properly to a moving fluid. The real foundations of theoretical fluid dynamics were not laid until the next century—developed by a triumvirate consisting of Daniel Bernoulli, Leonhard Euler, and Jean Le Rond d’Alembert.

First, consider Bernoulli. Actually, we must consider the whole family of Bernoulli’s because Daniel Bernoulli was a member of a prestigious family that dom­inated European mathematics and physics during the early part of the eighteenth century. Figure 3.51 is a portion of the Bernoulli family tree. It starts with Nikolaus Bernoulli, who was a successful merchant and druggist in Basel, Switzerland, during the seventeenth century. With one eye on this family tree, let us simply list some of the subsequent members of this highly accomplished family:

1. Jakob—Daniel’s uncle. Mathematician and physicist, he was professor of math­ematics at the University of Basel. He made major contributions to the develop­ment of calculus and coined the term “integral.”

2. Johann—Daniel’s father. He was a professor of mathematics at Groningen, Netherlands, and later at the University of Basel. He taught the famous French mathematician L’Hospital the elements of calculus, and after the death of Newton in 1727 he was considered Europe’s leading mathematician at that time.

3. Nikolaus—Daniel’s cousin. He studied mathematics under his uncles and held a master’s degree in mathematics and a doctor of jurisprudence.

4. Nikolaus—Daniel’s brother. He was Johann’s favorite son. He held a master of arts degree, and assisted with much of Johann’s correspondence to Newton and Liebniz concerning the development of calculus.

5. Daniel himself—to be discussed below.

6. Johann—Daniel’s other brother. He succeeded his father in the Chair of Math­ematics at Basel and won the prize of the Paris Academy four times for his work.

7. Johann—Daniel’s nephew. A gifted child, he earned the master of jurisprudence at the age of 14. When he was 20, he was invited by Frederick II to reorganize the astronomical observatory at the Berlin Academy.

8. Jakob—Daniel’s other nephew. He graduated in jurisprudence but worked in mathematics and physics. He was appointed to the Academy in St. Petersburg, Russia, but he had a promising career prematurely ended when he drowned in the river Neva at the age of 30.

With such a family pedigree, Daniel Bernoulli was destined for success.

Daniel Bernoulli was bom in Groningen, Netherlands, on February 8, 1700. His father, Johann, was a professor at Groningen but returned to Basel, Switzerland, in 1705 to occupy the Chair of Mathematics which had been vacated by the death of Jacob Bernoulli. At the University of Basel, Daniel obtained a master’s degree in 1716 in philosophy and logic. He went on to study medicine in Basel, Heidelburg, and Strasbourg, obtaining his Ph. D. in anatomy and botany in 1721. During these studies, he maintained an active interest in mathematics. He followed this interest by moving briefly to Venice, where he published an important work entitled Exerci – tationes Mathematicae in 1724. This earned him much attention and resulted in his winning the prize awarded by the Paris Academy—the first of 10 he was eventually to receive. In 1725, Daniel moved to St. Petersburg, Russia, to join the academy. The St. Petersburg Academy had gained a substantial reputation for scholarship and intellectual accomplishment at that time. During the next 8 years, Bernoulli experi­enced his most creative period. While at St. Petersburg, he wrote his famous book Hydrodynamica, completed in 1734, but not published until 1738. In 1733, Daniel returned to Basel to occupy the Chair of Anatomy and Botany, and in 1750 moved to the Chair of Physics created exclusively for him. He continued to write, give very popular and well-attended lectures in physics, and make contributions to mathematics and physics until his death in Basel on March 17, 1782.

Daniel Bernoulli was famous in his own time. He was a member of virtually all the existing learned societies and academies, such as Bologna, St. Petersburg, Berlin, Paris, London, Bern, Turin, Zurich, and Mannheim. His importance to fluid dynamics is centered on his book Hydrodynamica (1738). (With this book, Daniel introduced the term “hydrodynamics” to the literature.) In this book, he ranged over such topics as jet propulsion, manometers, and flow in pipes. Of most importance, he attempted to obtain a relationship between pressure and velocity. Unfortunately, his derivation was somewhat obscure, and Bernoulli’s equation, ascribed by history to Daniel via his Hydrodynamica, is not to be found in this book, at least not in the form we see it today [such as Equations (3.14) and (3.15)]. The propriety of Equations (3.14) and (3.15) is further complicated by his father, Johann, who also published a book in 1743 entitled Hydraulica. It is clear from this latter book that the father understood Bernoulli’s theorem better than his son; Daniel thought of pressure strictly in terms of the height of a manometer column, whereas Johann had the more fundamental understanding that pressure was a force acting on the fluid. (It is interesting to note the Johann Bernoulli was a person of some sensitivity and irritability, with an overpowering drive for recognition. He tried to undercut the impact of Daniel’s Hydrodynamica by predating the publication date of Hydraulica to 1728, to make it appear to have been the first of the two. There was little love lost between son and father.)

During Daniel Bernoulli’s most productive years, partial differential equations had not yet been introduced into mathematics and physics; hence, he could not ap­proach the derivation of Bernoulli’s equation in the same fashion as we have in Section 3.2. The introduction of partial differential equations to mathematical physics was due to d’Alembert in 1747. d’Alembert’s role in fluid mechanics is detailed in Section 3.20. Suffice it to say here that his contributions were equally if not more important than Bernoulli’s, and d’Alembert represents the second member of the triumvirate which molded the foundations of theoretical fluid dynamics in the eighteenth century.

The third and probably pivotal member of this triumvirate was Leonhard Euler. He was a giant among the eighteenth-century mathematicians and scientists. As a result of his contributions, his name is associated with numerous equations and tech­niques, for example, the Euler numerical solution of ordinary differential equations, eulerian angles in geometry, and the momentum equations for inviscid fluid flow [see Equation (3.12)].

Leonhard Euler was born on April 15, 1707, in Basel, Switzerland. His father was a Protestant minister who enjoyed mathematics as a pastime. Therefore, Euler grew up in a family atmosphere that encouraged intellectual activity. At the age of 13, Euler entered the University of Basel which at that time had about 100 students and 19 professors. One of those professors was Johann Bernoulli, who tutored Euler in mathematics. Three years later, Euler received his master’s degree in philosophy.

It is interesting that three of the people most responsible for the early develop­ment of theoretical fluid dynamics—Johann and Daniel Bernoulli and Euler—lived in the same town of Basel, were associated with the same university, and were con­temporaries. Indeed, Euler and the Bernoulli’s were close and respected friends—so much that, when Daniel Bernoulli moved to teach and study at the St. Petersburg Academy in 1725, he was able to convince the academy to hire Euler as well. At this

invitation, Euler left Basel for Russia; he never returned to Switzerland, although he remained a Swiss citizen throughout his life.

Euler’s interaction with Daniel Bernoulli in the development of fluid mechanics grew strong during these years at St. Petersburg. It was here that Euler conceived of pressure as a point property that can vary from point to point throughout a fluid and obtained a differential equation relating pressure and velocity, that is, Euler’s equation given by Equation (3.12). In turn, Euler integrated the differential equation to obtain, for the first time in history, Bernoulli’s equation in the form of Equations

(3.14) and (3.15). Hence, we see that Bernoulli’s equation is really a misnomer; credit for it is legitimately shared by Euler.

When Daniel Bernoulli returned to Basel in 1733, Euler succeeded him at St. Petersburg as aprofessor of physics. Euler was a dynamic and prolific man; by 1741 he had prepared 90 papers for publication and written the two-volume book Mechanica. The atmosphere surrounding St. Petersburg was conducive to such achievement. Euler wrote in 1749: “I and all others who had the good fortune to be for some time with the Russian Imperial Academy cannot but acknowledge that we owe everything which we are and possess to the favorable conditions which we had there.”

However, in 1740, political unrest in St. Petersburg caused Euler to leave for the Berlin Society of Sciences, at that time just formed by Frederick the Great. Euler lived in Berlin for the next 25 years, where he transformed the society into a major academy. In Berlin, Euler continued his dynamic mode of working, preparing at least 380 papers for publication. Here, as a competitor with d’Alembert (see Section 3.20), Euler formulated the basis for mathematical physics.

In 1766, after a major disagreement with Frederick the Great over some financial aspects of the academy, Euler moved back to St. Petersburg. This second period of his life in Russia became one of physical suffering. In that same year, he became blind in one eye after a short illness. An operation in 1771 resulted in restoration of his sight, but only for a few days. He did not take proper precautions after the operation, and within a few days, he was completely blind. However, with the help of others, he continued his work. His mind was sharp as ever, and his spirit did not diminish. His literary output even increased—about half of his total papers were written after 1765!

On September 18, 1783, Euler conducted business as usual—giving a mathe­matics lesson, making calculations of the motion of balloons, and discussing with friends the planet of Uranus, which had recently been discovered. At about 5 p. m., he suffered a brain hemorrhage. His only words before losing consciousness were “I am dying.” By 11 p. m., one of the greatest minds in history had ceased to exist.

With the lives of Bernoulli, Euler, and d’Alembert (see Section 3.20) as back­ground, let us now trace the geneology of the basic equations of fluid dynamics. For example, consider the continuity equation in the form of Equation (2.52). Although Newton had postulated the obvious fact that the mass of a specified object was con­stant, this principle was not appropriately applied to fluid mechanics until 1749. In this year, d’Alembert gave a paper in Paris, entitled “Essai d’une nouvelle theorie de la resistance des fluides,” in which he formulated differential equations for the conservation of mass in special applications to plane and axisymmetric flows. Euler

took d’Alembert’s results and, 8 years later, generalized them in a series of three basic papers on fluid mechanics. In these papers, Euler published, for the first time in history, the continuity equation in the form of Equation (2.52) and the momentum equations in the form of Equations (2.113a and c), without the viscous terms. Hence, two of the three basic conservation equations used today in modem fluid dynamics were well established long before the American Revolutionary War—such equations were contemporary with the time of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson!

The origin of the energy equation in the form of Equation (2.96) without viscous terms has its roots in the development of thermodynamics in the nineteenth century. Its precise first use is obscure and is buried somewhere in the rapid development of physical science in the nineteenth century.

The purpose of this section has been to give you some feeling for the historical development of the fundamental equations of fluid dynamics. Maybe we can appre­ciate these equations more when we recognize that they have been with us for quite some time and that they are the product of much thought from some of the greatest minds of the eighteenth century.

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