Fluid Mechanics in Times of War

Fluid Mechanics in Times of War: Research Practices interacting Politics, Industry and the Military


Measurement of a full-scale Me 109 warplane by Messerschmitt in the large wind tunnel 6 of the Aerodynamische Versuchsanstalt in 1941 (Source: Zentrales Archiv des Deutschen Luft- und Raumfahrtzentrums Göttingen)

This research project comprises a comprehensive institutional study about the history of the Aerodynamic Research Establishment (Aerodynamische Versuchsanstalt - AVA) in Göttingen and its predecessor organizations (1907–1950). Several case studies will focus on the interdependencies of politics, the industry and the military with regard to the epistemic and cognitive developments in fluid dynamics. How did local institutional arrangements shape epistemic objects in experimental practices and how was local research interrelated with national and international demands? Specific patterns of the adaptation of scientists and their research to armament purposes and to war conditions will be studied by analyzing essential research episodes in fluid dynamics during World War I and II, discussing aerodynamics of airplanes, submarine propellers and projectiles. In particular, it shall be discerned how, under the influence of the military and war, certain hybrid, multi-disciplinary forms and reconfigurations of research developed. How were common epistemic patterns reshaped by military and industrial needs? To what extent did scientists of the AVA influence research programs and science policy beyond their local context? The study will shed light on the international development of aeronautical research in Nazi-occupied Europe where the AVA established a network of outposts from 1940 onwards, exploiting research facilities and scientific resources for the purposes of German military aeronautical research. How did Allied military intelligence systematically organize the transfer of knowledge and scientists, evaluating and skimming the results of German war research in fluid dynamics?


The project will comprise four dimensions respectively:

1. institutional development, structure and profile;

2. dynamics in research (conjunctions of experimental research with efforts of mathematization and engineering technologies);

3. hybridization of research; and

4. networking with other research institutions and with military, political, and industrial agencies.

  • Florian Schmaltz: Aeronautical Research under Nazi Occupation in Paris: The Aerodynamische Versuchsanstalt Göttingen and the Mobilisation of Resources, French Scientists and Engineers, 1940–1944, in: Claudine Fontanon and Irina Gouzévich (eds.): Les les ingénieurs civils et la circulation des savoirs en XIXe –XXe siècles, Paris (in print).
  • Florian Schmaltz: Luftfahrtforschung unter deutscher Besatzung: Die Aerodynamische Versuchsanstalt Göttingen und ihre Außenstellen in Frankreich im Zweiten Weltkrieg, in: Dieter Hoffmann and Mark Walker (eds.): Fremde Wissenschaftler unter Hitler. Göttingen: Wallstein 2011, pp. 384-407.
  • Florian Schmaltz: Vom Nutzen und Nachteil der Luftfahrtforschung im NS-Regime. Die Aerodynamische Versuchsanstalt Göttingen und die Strahltriebwerksforschung im Zweiten Weltkrieg in: Christine Pieper and Frank Uekötter (eds.): Vom Nutzen der Wissenschaft. Über eine prekäre Beziehung. Stuttgart 2010, pp. 67-113.
  • Florian Schmaltz & Moritz Epple: Das Max-Planck-Institut für Dynamik und Selbstorganisation, in: Peter Gruss und Reinhard Rürup (eds.) Denkorte. Max-Planck-Gesellschaft und Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gesellschaft. Brüche und Kontinuitäten 1911-201. Dresden 2010, pp. 137-145.
  • Florian Schmaltz: Aerodynamic Research at the Nationaal Luchtvaartlaboratorium (NLL) in Amsterdam under German Occupation during World War II, in: Ad Maas and Hans Hooijmaijers (eds.): Scientific Research in World War II: What Scientists Did in the War. New York, NY 2009, pp. 146-182.