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  • Hikouki no tanjou to kuuki-rikigaku no keisei: Kokkateki kenkyuu kaihatsu no kigen wo motomete by Takehiko Hashimoto
  • Nobumichi Ariga
Takehiko Hashimoto 橋本毅彦, Hikouki no tanjou to kuuki-rikigaku no keisei: Kokkateki kenkyuu kaihatsu no kigen wo motomete 飛行機の誕生と空気力学の形成:国家的研究開 発の起源をもとめて [The Invention of the Airplane, the Emergence of Aerodynamics, and the Formation of National Systems of Research and Development] Tokyo: University of Tokyo Press, 2012. 424 pp. ¥5,800.

Aerodynamics is a branch of mechanics that studies the motion of air and its interaction with solid bodies. The effect of moving air on airframes is crucial in designing aircraft, and it is no wonder that the science of aerodynamics was developed as part of the effort to construct a high-performance airplane. It is also natural that modern states, recognizing airplanes’ military significance, have taken a great interest in aerodynamics. But how does research and development of this kind proceed? How are science and engineering related to each other, particularly in government research programs? The present book provides some insights into these questions.

The Invention of the Airplane, the Emergence of Aerodynamics, and the Formation of National Systems of Research and Development is based on Takehiko Hashimoto’s doctoral dissertation and subsequent studies that can be regarded as its sequels. The title does not indicate what this volume is really about; it is neither about the history of airplanes nor about national research and development projects in general. Instead, the book discusses the research activities carried out by the United Kingdom’s Advisory Committee for Aeronautics from World War I to 1940 (this was the main subject of the author’s doctoral work at Johns Hopkins University) and related developments in Germany, the United States, and Japan. Although he spends some time on social and institutional backgrounds, Hashimoto’s principal interests are aeronautical scientists and engineers and the development of research programs. His earlier archival research, especially that on the Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, has enabled him to reproduce discussions among the committee members, which may be interesting [End Page 375] not only for historians of science but for scholars in science and technology studies in general.

Apart from the introduction and conclusion, the book consists of seven chapters. While the last chapter addresses a Japanese case, the others have as their principal topic the development of aerodynamics in the United Kingdom. While it is commonly observed that twentieth-century developments in aerodynamics owed much to Germany and the United States, the author justifies his focus on the British case by pointing to a variety of rich historical resources, including the minutes of the Advisory Committee, the likes of which cannot be found for its German or American counterparts.

The first two chapters discuss the early years of the Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, which was established in 1909. Research on the stability of aircraft accounts for much of chapter 1, while chapter 2 focuses on wind tunnel experiments. The main character is Leonard Bairstow of the National Physical Laboratory, whose different attitudes Hashimoto describes. Bairstow mediated between mathematical scientists and aeronautical engineers working on stability; yet when the results of experiments with full-sized aircraft failed to match those with models, he would not compromise, maintaining that there must have been some problems with the full-scale experiments. (Readers interested in the details may consult the author’s English-language articles, Hashimoto 2007 and 2010.)

The next two chapters are concerned with the modern theory of aerodynamics developed in Germany by Ludwig Prandtl and its reception in the United Kingdom. Before that time, British scientists had developed rival theories that are basically forgotten today. (On this subject, see Bloor 2011, a voluminous monograph inspired by an early study by Hashimoto.) As Hashimoto shows in detail, British scientists and engineers, on encountering the Prandtl theory, compared it carefully to their own theories and assumptions. Geoffrey I. Taylor, for example, examined the conceptual basis of the German theory, lending it further legitimacy.

One of the book’s finer contributions is its demonstration of how scientists and engineers communicate with each other. Hashimoto pays attention, in particular, to their use of graphical methods. The graphs employed by such engineers as Bairstow (chapter 1) and...


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