Comment on Clebsch’s 1857 and 1859 papers on using Hamiltonian methods in hydrodynamics
Instituto de Matematica (PEMAT), UFRJ, Av. Athos da Silveira Ramos 149, CT - Bloco C, Cid. Univ. - Ilha do Fundão. Caixa Postal 68530, 21941-909, Rio de Janeiro, RJ, Brazil
2 Université Côte d’Azur, Observatoire de la Côte d’Azur, CNRS, Laboratoire J. L. Lagrange, Boulevard de l’Observatoire, CS 34229, 06304, Nice Cedex 4, France
Accepted: 29 March 2021
Published online: 2 August 2021
The present paper is a companion of two translated articles by Alfred Clebsch, titled “On a general transformation of the hydrodynamical equations” and “On the integration of the hydrodynamical equations” (https://doi.org/10.1140/epjh/s13129-021-00015-8, https://doi.org/10.1140/epjh/s13129-021-00016-7). The originals were published in the “Journal für die reine and angewandte Mathematik” (1857 and 1859). Here we provide a detailed critical reading of these articles, which analyzes methods, and results of Clebsch. In the first place, we try to elucidate the algebraic calculus used by Clebsch in several parts of the two articles that we believe to be the most significant ones. We also provide some proofs that Clebsch did not find necessary to explain, in particular concerning the variational principles stated in his two articles and the use of the method of Jacobi’s Last Multiplier. When possible, we reformulate the original expressions by Clebsch in the language of vector analysis, which should be more familiar to the reader. The connections of the results and methods by Clebsch with his scientific context, in particular with the works of Carl Jacobi, are briefly discussed. We emphasize how the representations of the velocity vector field conceived by Clebsch in his two articles, allow for a variational formulation of hydrodynamics equations in the steady and unsteady case. In particular, we stress that what is nowadays known as the “Clebsch variables”, permit to give a canonical Hamiltonian formulation of the equations of fluid mechanics. We also list a number of further developments of the theory initiated by Clebsch, which had an impact on presently active areas of research, within such fields as hydrodynamics and plasma physics.
© The Author(s), under exclusive licence to EDP Sciences, Società Italiana di Fisica and Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2021. corrected publication 2021