Smeaton’s Coefficient

John Smeaton (1724-1792) had a long and illustrious career as a civil an mechanical engineer. One byproduct of his work is something known as “Smeaton’s Coefficient.” This coefficient was derived from his work – not calculated by Smeaton himself. Unfortunately, the coefficient became of vital importance to the Lillienfeld,  the Wright Brothers, and other pioneers of aviation around the globe.

The value of the coefficient was incorrectly belevied to be 0.005. Because calculations made with this variable failed to result in wings with the lift the Wright Brothers anticipated, they undertook their own series of wind tunnel tests. They accurately calculated the coefficient at closer to 0.0033. The tests they undertook and the correct calculation of Smeaton’s Coefficient led directly to the Wrights ability to be the first to make manned, powered flight.

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John Smeaton
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Need more info: Modeling Ships and Space Craft: The Science and Art of Mastering the Oceans and Sky by Gina Hagler — Part II – Evolution of Theory, Chapter Four – Hydrodynamic Theorists


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