[SIGCIS-Members] Historical Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) Software

Paul N. Edwards pedwards at stanford.edu
Tue Sep 22 09:00:13 PDT 2020

Dear Ulf,

This may be because such software goes under different names in different fields, not always directly labeled “computational fluid dynamics” or even “fluid dynamics."

The first two fields to take on the computational simulation of fluid dynamics were atomic weapons research and meteorology/climate science.

My book on climate science, A Vast Machine: Computer Models, Climate Data, and the Politics of Global Warming (2010), describes (among other things) the history of the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, now at Princeton, one of the first labs to design such software starting in the 1950s.

A major element of all modern climate models is a “dynamical core,” which simulates the physics of fluid flows (air) around the globe. Ocean models also have one.

Both atomic weapons researchers and climate modelers used this textbook on methods for solving partial differential equations using finite difference techniques in the late 1950s: Richtmyer, R. D. (1957). Difference Methods for Initial-Value Problems. New York: Interscience Publishers. The last chapter is on fluid dynamics.

Aircraft and ship design now rely heavily on simulating fluid flows, previously done physically in wind tunnels and tanks. The physics of turbulent boundary layers is one aspect of this modeling, again not naming “fluid dynamics” directly.

I hope this gives you some hints for your search.



On Sep 21, 2020, at 23:09, Ulf Hashagen <u.hashagen at deutsches-museum.de<mailto:u.hashagen at deutsches-museum.de>> wrote:

Dear colleagues,

I became interested in the history of "Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) Software" last week, but could not find much historical source material on this topic so far. May I ask for your advice and comments?

Best, Ulf

PD Dr. Ulf Hashagen
Leitung / Head
Forschungsinstitut für Technik- und Wissenschaftsgeschichte / The Research Institute for the History of Science and Technology
Deutsches Museum
Museumsinsel 1
80538 München / Munich
Tel. +49/(0)89/2179-453
Fax  +49/(0)89/2179-239
u.hashagen at deutsches-museum.de<mailto:u.hashagen at deutsches-museum.de>

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Paul N. Edwards<https://profiles.stanford.edu/paul-edwards>

Director, Program on Science, Technology & Society<http://sts.stanford.edu>
William J. Perry Fellow in International Security and Senior Research Scholar
Center for International Security and Cooperation<http://cisac.fsi.stanford.edu/>
Co-Director, Stanford Existential Risks Initiative<https://cisac.fsi.stanford.edu/stanford-existential-risks-initiative>
Stanford University

Professor of Information<http://www.si.umich.edu/> and History<http://www.lsa.umich.edu/history/> (Emeritus)
University of Michigan

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