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Theory and Practice: Some New Thoughts on an Old Battle

Aircraft Engineering and Aerospace Technology

ISSN: 0002-2667

Article publication date: 1 March 1929



IN the dark ages of flying a controversy raged over several months in one of our more venerable contemporaries on the, apparently, burning question of whether the designing of aeroplanes was an art or a science. The dispute has, of course, long since settled itself, and there can be few who would now say that aeroplane design is not among the sciences. But a small reverberation of the thunder may be found in the contention of one who is prominently engaged on the research side of Government activities, that no piece of engineering can be right unless it looks right. Or, to quote him perhaps more accurately and with a difference, if any product of engineering is right it inevitably looks right. It seems that this may in a sense be only another way of stating one aspect of the earlier discussion. The author of the view argues that as any particular mechanical contrivance—say a ship, a railway engine, a motor‐car, or an aeroplane—develops, and approaches more nearly to perfection, its lines gradually become more pleasing to the eye. It is, perhaps, a little difficult to see how, for example, the art of the bodybuilder can react favourably on the internal‐combustion‐engine designer; and pushed to an absurdity the argument would appear to prove that the lady who visits the motor‐show and chooses her car purely on the colour and shape of the body without reference to mechanical considerations will inevitably hit on the best car. But none the less, there undoubtedly is a subtle truth in the assertion; which is, incidentally, probably more true of the aeroplane than of the other vehicles mentioned, because its external shape is inextricably bound up with its performance, as Professor Melvill Jones incidentally drove home in his paper published in our last issue.


(1929), "Theory and Practice: Some New Thoughts on an Old Battle", Aircraft Engineering and Aerospace Technology, Vol. 1 No. 3, pp. 79-80.




Copyright © 1929, MCB UP Limited

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