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Rival theories of the aerofoil: 1909-1926

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From the early years of aviation through World War One, until c. 1926, British and German experts in aerodynamics disagreed about how an aircraft wing generates lift. The British developed the discontinuity theory, the Germans the circulation theory. I shall describe the course of this divergence and seek to explain it in terms of differing mathematical traditions and their respective institutional roots. It emerges that the more successful theory was based on the least realistic physics. Welcome to relativism at 30,000 feet!

This talk is part of the Departmental Seminars in History and Philosophy of Science series.

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