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Ludwig Prandtl

The following paragraphs are an excerpt from the foreword of the english translation of the book "Ludwig Prandtl. A Biographical Sketch, Remembrances and Documents"
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Ever since I received from Professor Ernst Mueller, now more than ten years ago, a copy of Ludwig Prandtl's biography, authored in German by his daughter Mrs. Johanna Vogel- Prandtl, I wanted to have the text translated to English. Prandtl was clearly one of the greatest fluid dynamicists ever, but his later life seemed to me to be somewhat tragic for reasons that the readers will soon see. I was especially keen that the contents of Prandtl's letter of 1941 to Hermann Goering, decrying the outbursts against "Jewish Science", which had evolved into a political movement in Nazi Germany, should be made public. It must have taken some courage and concern on Prandtl's part to note that "they [the antagonists of "Jewish Physics"] have poisoned the air with ... disdain for the past..." See also Chapter 21 of this book. This aspect of Prandtl's personality was counter to the notion that was in circulation after the second world-war---that he was a naïve man who had buried his head in the sand. I immediately made some inquiries for translation and publication of the book but the project stalled for a number of reasons, including finances. Both Ernst Mueller and the biographer, with whom he was in contact about the possibility of the translation, passed away sometime thereafter, which slowed the project even further.


The occasion of the 100th anniversary of Prandtl's 1904 paper on boundary layers revived the idea in my mind and I was fortunate that Dr. V. Vasanta Ram readily agreed to translate the biography. For him, as for me, it has been a labor of love. As one of Professor Hermann Schlichting's Ph.D. students, Vasanta Ram belongs to Prandtl's academic family, is knowledgeable about both German and English, and thus an ideal person to have undertaken the task. He has worked hard on the translation despite his physical handicap and other hurdles that he and I faced during the exercise. He commands my unstinted praise and gratitude. I also wish to thank Professor Roddam Narasimha for being a steady source of encouragement.