Lord Kelvin on fluid mechanics
School of Mathematics & Statistics, University of St
Received: 9 January 2012
Received in final form: 14 March 2012
Published online: 29 May 2012
William Thomson, Baron Kelvin of Largs, was the best-known British scientist of his day, who made fundamental contributions to many areas of physics and engineering. Though his life and work have been much studied, his contributions to fluid mechanics have received far less attention that those in heat, electricity, magnetism, geophysics, “ether theory” and telegraphy. After a general introduction, Kelvin’s writings on fluid mechanics are comprehensively surveyed. These reveal the interplay of his mathematical expertise and physical intuition, his deployment of physical analogies, and the origins of some of his work in later-abandoned speculations. Among lasting contributions are his circulation theorem and minimum energy theorem, the misnamed “Stokes’ theorem”, a generalization of Green’s theorem, the method of stationary phase, and much on vortices, instabilities, tides and water waves.
© EDP Sciences, Springer-Verlag 2012