For Contributions to the Fundamental Theory of Aerodynamics
Citation 16th September 1931 London

Frederick William Lanchester, now residing at Dyott End, Oxford Road, Moseley, Birmingham, England, was born 23 October 1868, at Lewisham. His father was Henry Jones Lanchester, architect.

He studied at the Royal College of Science, South Kensington, England, 1886 to 1889, but did not graduate. There was no third year engineering at the college. Lanchester took mining but abandoned the course, read for engineering in South Kensington Library and attended engineering lectures and workshop tuition at the Finsbury Technical College in the evenings. In recognition of his great contributions to engineering science and aerodynamics, the University of Birmingham conferred on him in 1920 the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws.

Dr. Lanchester is a Fellow of the Royal Society, a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers, the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, and the Institution of Automobile Engineers, an Associate of the National Academy and the Institution of Naval Architects, and an Honory Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society. He was a member of the (British) Advisory Committee for Aeronautics from 1909 to 1920. He was President of the Institution of Automobile Engineers 1910-11 and President of the Junior Institution of Engineers 1916-17 and 1917-18.

On 27 May 1926, the Royal Aeronautical Society of Great Britain bestowed upon him its gold medal which had previously been awarded to only five persons, Orville and Wilbur Wright in May, 1909; Octave Chanute in July, 1910; Professor George Hartley Bryan and Mr. Edward Teshmaker Busk in May, 1915. On the occasion of receiving the medal Dr. Lanchester also read the Wilbur Wright Memorial Lecture for 1926 on the subject “Sustentation in Flight.”

Among his valuable contributions to the literature of aeronautics are the following books and papers:

Paper to Brimingham Natural History and Philosophical Society, on the theory of flight, 1894.

Theory of Stability (Patent 3608), 1897.

Aerial Flight, a two-volume treatise with the subtitles,
Aerodynamics, 1907,
Aerodonetics, 1908. (Translated into German by Professor C. Runge, of Gottingen; published by Teubner, Leipzig. Translated into French by Commandant C. Benoit; published by Gauthier Villars, Paris.)

Aircraft in Warfare, 1914.

Flying Machine from an engineering standpoint, 1914.
(James Forrest lecture of the Institution of Civil Engineering Congress, San Francisco, 1915. (Revised and corrected as an appendix to the Reprint edition of the James Forrest Lecture.)

A Contribution to the Theory of Propulsion and the Screw Propeller. (Read at the Spring Meeting of the 56th Session of the Institution of Naval Architects, 25 March 1915.)

TheAerofoil in the Light of Theory and Experiment. Paper before the Institution of Automoblie Engineers, 1916.

The Screw Propeller. Paper read before the Institutiuon of Automobile Enginers, 1916.

The Wilbur Wright Memorial Lecture before the Royal Aeronautical Society, October 1926.

Lanchester was one of the original members of the Aeronautical Research Committee under the Chairmanship of Lord Rayleigh. He contributed many papers to the Committee.

Lanchester was the foremost person to propound the now famous theory of flight based on the Vortex theory, so brilliantly followed up by Prandtl and others. He first put forward this theory in a paper read before the Birmingham Natural History and Philosophical Society on 19th June, 1894. In a second paper in 1897, in his two books published in 1907 and 1908, and his paper read before the Institution of Automobile Engineers in 1916, he further developed this doctrine.

In a lecture delivered in 1915, Lanchester said: “The author’s theory of sustentation in flight is based on the more general theory of vortex motion. The author believes he can claim priority as far as the discovery of the vortex or cyclic system surrounding the aerofoil is concerned, this having been the basis of a paper read before the Birmingham Natural History and Philosophical Society in 1894, and a further paper submitted by him to the Physical Society of London in 1897. The theory in question, with the results of a considerable number of other investigations, eventually received full publication in the year 1907 in the treatise ‘Aerial Flight’.” That is Lanchester’s great achievement, the Vortex theory, and upon it his fame chiefly rests.

The work presented in “Aerial Flight” which is new and original includes many things besides the cyclic theory: for example, the equation of the free flight paths (preasaging the looping of the loop amongst other things) and giving at once the relation between the stress under normal conditions and undulating or looping flight paths given inVolume 2 and plotted from the equations. Also the theory of longitudinal stability founded thereon, was all new. The theory of stability as presented is now recognized as a special case of Bryan’s more general work, but it is the real kernel of the subject and the special case of great importance.

Dr. Lanchester believes the different forms of stability and their inter-relation was stated for the first time in Volume II, and some of the implications of this work have scarcely yet been recognized; for example, the use of distributed vertical surface (as exemplified in the two tandem fins used in all his model gliders) as rendering a “flat spin” impossible.
Chapter IX of Volume II deals with the problem of soaring flight in a fuller and more comprehensive manner than had been previously attempted and everything in that chapter stands today. For example, the Soarability of air under cumulus clouds, i. e., the latter as an indicator of up-currents, was dealt with, a subject that has only quite recently come into prominence and been “rediscovered” in connection with human gliding. The distinction between the up-current and dyamic soaring is clearly defined and fully discussed. The fundamental theory of least resistance, and longest duration (time) of flight is expounded in Volume I, also the importance of skin friction is demonstrated and the reasons for Langley’s failure to recognize this are pointed out.

The medalist more recently expressed himself in the following paragraphs taken from a letter dated 6th June 1931 to the Secretary of The Daniel Guggenheim Medal Fund, Incorporated:
“If I were to say what I think to be the salient feature of my carreer, I think it would be to point to the fact that my work has been almost wholly individual. My scientific and technical work has never been backed by funds from external sources to any material extent, or been assisted by the holding of a position such as would give me command of any material resources. All research work that I have done was paid for out of my own pocket.

“So far as aeronautical science is concerned, I cannot say that I experienced anything but discouragement; in the early days my theoretical work (backed by a certain amount of experimental verification), mainly concerning the vortex theory of sustentation and the screw propeller, was refused by two leading scientific societies in this country, and I was seriously warned that my profession as an engineer would suffer if I dabbled in a subject that was merely a dream of madmen! When I published my two volumes in 1907 and 1908 they were well received on the whole, but this was mainly due to the success of the brothers Wright, and the general interest aroused on the subject.”

As a youth Frederick Lanchester was especially interested in engineering, and his memory cannot recall the beginning of that interest. His elders used to tell him that when he was four years old he had fully made his mind what he was going to be.

From 1889 to 1892 he was designer and assistant works manager of the Forward Gas Engine Company, specializing in internal combustion engines. From 1892 to 1895 he was engaged in development work on high speed motors and experimental work in aerodynamics. Experimental work and development of petrol engines, motor launches and the Lanchester car occupied his energies from 1894 to 1899. The Lanchester Motor Company, Limited, was formed in 1899; he was general manager and chief engineer from that year until 1904. He was consulting engineer to that company from 1904 to 1914, and consulting engineer and technical adviser to Daimler Company, Limited, and Birmingham Small Arms Company, Limited, 1909 to 1929. He was consultant from 1928 to 1930 to William Beardmore & Sons, Limited (Diesel Engine Works). From 1909 to 1920 he was a member of the British Advisory Committee for Aeronautics.

Lanchester made numerous successful inventions relating to the internal combustion engine, including the gas engine starter (adopted by Messrs. Crossley Brothers, Limited), 1890; the balanced reciprocating engine, 1895, the surface carbureter, 1895, the torsional crankshaft damper, 1910, the harmonic balancer, 1911, and a process for manufactur of piston rings, 1909.

Dr. Lanchester is also well known for his work in other fields; his invention of the pendulum accelerometer, which dates from 1889, opened up a new method of measuring and recording tractive and brake effort. His work on the design and production of worm gears and his worm gear dynamometer are widely known.

Dr. Lanchester is now (1931) absorbed in the subject of musical reproduction at the Lanchester Laboratories, Ltd., Spring Road, Tyseley, Birmingham. He first directed his attention to problems of musical reception and reproduction in the year 1927. The year 1928 saw perfected the acoustictube moving coil speaker is the “diffractaphone” aperture (Patent G B Number 317,339), a characteristic of which is constant acoustical impedance which is a counterpart to constant electrical impedance. Associated with this speaker is the “diffractaphone” aperture (Patent G B Number 325, 339). This invention is directed to insure the more perfect distribution of tones of different pitch in a concert hall or in the open.
Dr. Lanchester married Dorothea, daugther of the Reverend Thomas Cooper, of Field Broughton, near Grange over Sands, Westmoreland, in 1919. They have no children. His eldest brother, Henry Vaughan Lanchester, following his father’s profession, is one of the eminent arhitects of England.
The Daniel Guggenheim Gold Medal was presented to Dr. Lanchester on 16 September 1931, in London, on the occasion of the reading of the Wilbur Wright Memorial Lecture before the Royal Aeronautical Society by Mr. Glenn L. Martin, President of The Glenn L. Martin Company, Baltimore, U.S.A. In the presentation for this year, on behalf of the Board of Award. Mr. Griffith Brewer, of London, the member representing England on the Board of Award, delivered the medal and the accompanying certifcate of award to the medalist.

This article is reproduced with permission of the Daniel and Florence Guggenheim Foundation
950 Third Avenue 30th Floor
New York. NY 10022

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