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)
Project (2008-)

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

This 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 focused on the interdependencies of politics, 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, the project looked to discern 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 aimed to 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 comprised 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
  4. networking with other research institutions and with military, political, and industrial agencies