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IIHR’s Historical Studies

IIHR's first director and founder, Floyd Nagler, examines a turbine.

IIHR’s first director and founder, Floyd Nagler, examines a turbine.

From IIHR’s inception, its technical work has existed side-by-side with a passion for historical studies. IIHR’s first director, Floyd Nagler, routinely gathered information on 19th-century water wheels. He also brought them back to the Hydraulics Laboratory so his students could “get to know water power from A to Z.”

This passion has been two-fold, including a fascination with IIHR’s past and a sincere interest in tracing the development of water studies elsewhere. In the 1950s, IIHR Director Hunter Rouse began collecting rare books on the history of hydraulics. The 500-plus volumes are now described as “the finest collection known to exist on the history of hydraulics.” Rouse used the collection to write two widely cited books on the history of hydraulics. He also taught a course on the subject.

Beginning in the 1960s, Professor Enzo Macagno meticulously pursued the interpretation and analysis of the fluid mechanics and hydraulics interests of Leonardo da Vinci. His work is detailed in a series of IIHR monographs.

A new book by Cornelia F. Mutel and Robert Ettema focuses on the life and work of Hans Albert Einstein and his contributions to sediment-transport theory. Titled Hans Albert Einstein: His Life as a Pioneering Engineer, the book was published by the American Society of Civil Engineers in 2014. It tells the story of Albert Einstein’s eldest son, Hans Albert, a gifted and dedicated hydraulic engineer. The book is the culmination of a longstanding project at IIHR. It combines the story of Hans Albert’s life with a fascinating account of his work in the field of river engineering. The book’s authors weave these two threads together seamlessly, providing an absorbing and readable account that will appeal to scientists and nonscientists alike.

Over time, IIHR has produced a number and diversity of history-related articles and books, including seminal works on the history of hydraulics and biographical sketches of significant 20th-century hydraulicians. IIHR has produced articles and a book on its own history, Flowing Through Time, by Cornelia F. Mutel. IIHR also maintains a formal archive of its own historic papers. The archive is open for use by scholars and students. It is used to prepare IIHR seminars, displays, and additional historic publications on a continuing basis. An article by Robert Ettema and Tatsuaki Nakato, “John Fisher Kennedy — student and statesman of hydraulic engineering,” was published in 2014 and is available online.





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Last modified on June 18th, 2015
Posted on March 23rd, 2011

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