Part 1 : The evolution of shipbuilding

Archimedes, Simpson, Thomson and changing shipbuilding. 

This post will review three actors in the evolution of shipbuilding.

        It was said that what we can qualify as modern history began in 1453 (at the fall of Constantinople). Thus, the medieval way of life gave way to the modern age. It was during this period that science and ships truly gained engineering sense. By that way mathematicians, philosophers and research led to the establishment of what we now call : naval architecture.

At the beginning, shipbuilding was seen as a form of art more than engineering, since there wasn't formulas which we can now use. Furthermore, this meant that shipwrights applied their full fledged experience and instinct to create a vessel. This is why a lot of the crafts were fairly small fishing vessels. It was easier for the shipwrights to find stability, and they were lacking knowledge of displacement, for example. 

After a few centuries came the time of the industrial revolution and period of the Enlightenment. At that period, the notable James Watt was a student experiencing with steam condensation. A discovery which would later change the world... a true visionary of his time. With the revolution, shipwrights gained an important amount of knowledge to allow for greater vessels, stability and displacement. 

It would be important to include the important personality : Archimedes.  He's the notable mathematician behind the definition of pi ( π ). His formula's evolved around leverage and hydrostatics, as well. Additionally, he is an early inventor of mechanical theories. In naval architecture, you will come by the great name of Thomas Simpson. His rules are essential in the estimation of areas with a base, 2 ordinates and a curve. A key component in hull design. During his life, Simpson had become a mathematician and an astronomer. Over the years, he would be a professor and then move to Stockholm where he would become a fellow of the Royal Society. In 1743, he published his three rules and they stayed with him ever since. Alongside his research some of the initial methods had been produced by Isaac Newton.

Following Simpson is the notable James Thomson. A inventor and rival of Simpson. Thomson had studied at the University of Glasgow and over time he had become an engineer. He lived his whole life in England and published numerous works that ranged from : hydrolics, tides, railways etc. In his career, he had many involvements with ships. His famous rule focused on the mensuration of areas under a fair curve.

However, Simpson's rules and Thomson's rule have been calculated and give results that are less than 0.1% to 1% different from each other. So, this gives more than acceptable accuracy in hull design.

         In conclusion, over a few centuries shipbuilding was considered an art but has become much more scientific due to the three personalities mentioned above. Thus, it is important to give respect and acknowledge their work involved in the evolution of shipbuilding. 

To read Part 2 : Click Here

Source : "Ship and Shipbuilders" by Fred M Walker



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