John Scott Russell

John Scott Russell ( born May 9, 1808 in Glasgow, † June 10, 1882 in London) was a British engineer, shipbuilder and physicist. He is known by the construction of the ship Great Eastern, the then largest moving object, and by his discovery of solitons.

Curriculum vitae

Russell was born on May 9, 1808, son of a clergyman in the Vale of Clyde. He studied mathematics and mechanics in Edinburgh, St. Andrews and Glasgow and has been with for 26 years Professor of Experimental Physics at the University of Edinburgh. In addition to theoretical research, he built numerous smaller steam ships and road locomotives. He took over the management of the Caird shipyard in Glasgow, where he was appointed in 1844 to London, where he built numerous steamers according to new principles, including the Great Eastern, and organized the Royal Commission for the Great Exhibition in 1851. Though excellent engineer shortage, it to him. necessary to the business acumen Russell died on 10 June 1882 in London.

Russell as an engineer

Russell transferred the Crystal Palace, the symbol of the Great Exhibition of London, from Hyde Park to Sydenham in the London Borough of Lewisham. In addition, Russell constructed the rotunda, the symbol of the 1873 World Exhibition in Vienna, making it the largest dome in the world.

Russell as shipbuilders

Russell built for Switzerland, the town of Schaffhausen (1851 ), along with Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the Great Eastern, by far the largest for a long time ship in the world ( launched 1858 ), but also the first railway Trajektdampfer on Lake Constance (1869 ) - also this is a ship of huge dimensions.

Russell as the discoverer of solitons

The solitons he discovered when he investigated the best possible design for a canal boat. Russell rode several miles in addition to about ten feet long and about half a meter high water wave, which spread in a narrow Scottish channel, and observed that the waveform changed only slightly.

He studied the phenomenon further with the help of a tank in his workshop. He discovered a few key properties of these waves:

  • The waves can continue stable over long distances.
  • The velocity of the waves depends on the size of the shaft and the depth of water.
  • Unlike normal waves, they do not unite. A small wave is overtaken by a larger one.
  • If a shaft is too big for the water depth, it divides into two waves: one large and one small.

It took until 1895 before the phenomenon could also be explained theoretically by the Korteweg -de Vries equation, and into the 1960s, until the significance of the discovery was discovered.

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