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The Bernoullis

Title page from Daniel Bernoulli's Hydrodynamica.

Title page from Daniel Bernoulli’s Hydrodynamica.

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Jacques and Johann Bernoulli of Basel, Switzerland, along with their descendants, became distinguished in the 17th and 18th centuries as mathematicians and physical scientists. Daniel, son of Johann, was trained as a physician and later taught anatomy, mathematics, and physics. However his greatest work was the 1738 book Hydrodynamica, lauded as the first cohesive, substantial treatise on hydrodynamics. That book coined the term “hydrodynamics” and also anticipated a number of later developments, including the kinetic-molecular theory of gases, the principle of jet propulsion, and the law of conservation of energy.

The family’s sharing of talent did not induce a sharing of good will. Daniel’s father, a highly competitive man, in 1743 composed a book Hydraulica and predated it to 1732, prior to the publication of Daniel’s book.  By doing so, he claimed to have originally developed many of Daniel’s ideas himself.  Daniel wrote to the renowned mathematician Euler that Johann, through this act, had diminished Daniel of his inventions and robbed him of the efforts of 10 years.  However, former IIHR Director Hunter Rouse claims that Johann’s work should be recognized for its anticipation of the Bernoulli principle, which is now typically credited to Daniel.

Hydrodynamica and Hydraulica were translated from the Latin by two of Rouse’s graduate students and published in a single volume in 1972.

Frontispiece for Chapter 1 of Daniel Bernoulli’s Hydrodynamica.

Frontispiece for Chapter 1 of Daniel Bernoulli’s Hydrodynamica.

The Bernoullis in the History of Hydraulics Collection:

  • Jacques Bernoulli. Dissertatio de Gravitate Aetheris (Essay on the Weight of Air), published Amsterdam, 1683. Original editions. (Call number TL578 B47)
  • Johann Bernoulli. Essay d’une Nouvelle Theorie de la Manoeuvre des Vaisseaux (Essay on a New Theory of the Manuvering of Ships), published Basel, 1714. Original edition. (Call number VK553 B4)
  • Johann Bernoulli. Opera Omnia, Tam Antea Sparsim Edita, Quam Hactenus Inedita (Collected Works, or “All works, previously published in bits and pieces as well as those hitherto unpublished”; this includes his Hydraulica), published Lausanne/Geneva in 1742. Original edition.  (Call number QA3 B52 v.1-4)
  • Daniel Bernoulli. Hydrodynamica, Sive de Viribus et Motibus Fluidorum Commentarii (Hydrodynamics, or Commentaries on Forces and Motions of Fluids), published Strasbourg, 1738. Original edition, two copies. (Call number QC144 B613, TC144 B6)
  • Danielle Bernoulli, Hydrodynamics, and Johann Bernoulli, Hydrodraulics. Translated from the Latin by T. Carmody and H. Kobus, published by Dover Publications, New York, 1972. (Call number QC144 B613 1968)
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Last modified on June 29th, 2015
Posted on April 14th, 2011

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