William John Macquorn Rankine

William John Macquorn Rankine ( born July 5, 1820 Edinburgh, † December 24, 1872 in Glasgow ) was a Scottish physicist and engineer.

Life and work

Rankine was the son of a banker's daughter from Glasgow and a civil engineer and professional soldiers. He went to school only sporadically, as he was ailing in his youth, and was taught primarily at home, with an interest in mathematics was clear. After reading of Isaac Newton's Principia main age of 14 he became interested in physics. 1836 to 1838 he studied natural sciences at the University of Edinburgh, where he twice won a gold medal, once for an essay on the wave theory of light. In 1838 he left the university without a degree and became an assistant civil engineer John Benjamin MacNeill ( railways, port construction, sewer construction ), after he had already in the construction of railways cooperated as a student, which his father directed. At the same time he began to publish works that have been published, for example, by the Institution of Civil Engineers. In 1855 he was awarded the Regius Chair of Civil Engineering and Mechanics, Glasgow. In 1857 he founded the Institution of Civil Engineers of Scotland (and therefore resigned from the Association of London Civil ) and became its first president ( until 1870 ).

Rankine is considered one of the founders of thermodynamics and in particular has made ​​important contributions to the theory of the steam engine. He built on the work of Émile Clapeyron and Sadi Carnot. He also introduced the name of energy for the " living force " previously known under names such as basic physical size and made ​​the transition to the heat as the transfer of kinetic energy into a form of potential energy (matter existed as then in widespread mechanical conception of nature from small vortices ). His ideas to cyclic processes were similar to those of Rudolf Clausius ( Clausius- Rankine cycle ) and its thermodynamic work was taken up by James Clerk Maxwell.

Rankine also developed methods for calculating the distribution of forces (statics) in frame structures, examined the stability of walls in construction, the design and hydrodynamics of ships, and wrote about the fatigue of metals, eg axes of locomotives.

There are, in soil mechanics a Rankine earth pressure after. After the Rankine earth pressure theory ( " Rankinescher special case " ), we can calculate the course of the earth pressure on walls with the help of the active and passive earth pressure, the wall friction angle is zero, which is a computational simplification.

In 1849 he became a member of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, and 1853 Rankine was a member of the Royal Society in London. He was a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 1857 he received an honorary doctorate from Trinity College, Dublin.

Rankine was also a talented musician ( cello, piano, vocals), who also published notes for piano accompaniment of a song on railways The Iron Horse. He also wrote humorous poems like The Three Foot Rule against the metric system, which were collected and published after his death in 1874.

The lunar crater Rankine is named after him.

Main works

  • Manual of Applied Mechanics (1858 )
  • Manual of the Steam Engine and Other Prime Movers (1859 )
  • Manual of civil engineering (1862 )
  • Machinery and Millwork (1869 )
  • Mechanical Text Book ( 1873)
  • On the Thermodynamic Theory of Waves of Finite Longitudinal Disturbance, 1870, Philosophical Transactions, London / Edinburgh, Vol 160, pp 270-288
  • Collected works
  • On the stability of loose earth, Phil.Trans.Roy.Soc. Bd.147, 1857, pp. 9-27 ( earth pressure )