In 1834, John Scott Russell made what he described as the most original observation of his life. On seeing a boat being drawn along a narrow canal by a pair of horses he noticed that when it suddenly stopped, the bow wave continued forward at great velocity, rolling on for several miles at a speed of eight to nine miles per hour. He was convinced that this was an important phenomenon and began to experiment in his garden with a wave tank, studying what he described as the ‘Wave of Translation’.
|John Scott Russell. © NMM|
His ideas were little understood by his contemporaries and it was not until the 1960s, when scientists began to use modern digital computers, that the significance of his discovery was fully appreciated. It was discovered that many phenomena in physics, electronics and biology can be described by a mathematical and physical theory of ‘Soliton’ as Scott Russell’s wave is now known.
Scott Russell conducted the first experimental study of the ‘Doppler Shift’ of sound frequency as a train passes.
Scott Russell helped to revolutionise 19th-century naval architecture, founding the Institute of Naval Architects and developing the ‘wave line’ system of hull construction