Personal Impressions, Stories and Anecdotes

In the following, some students, colleagues and friends have kindly shared with us their encounters with Georg Weinblum. While a few voices are admiring and enthusiastic, more measured and considered voices are included as well.

John N. Newman, a colleague and friend from the United States and Weinblum Memorial Lecturer 1988/89

Georg Weinblum came to the United States in 1948 to work at the David Taylor Model Basin (DTMB). When he returned to Hamburg in 1952, he left a multitude of friends and admirers. He had a significant impact on their work and on the subsequent development of ship research in the United States.

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My first contact with Professor Weinblum was an exchange of airmail in 1958, when I was still a student and starting to focus on research in ship motions. My interest and understanding of this subject was largely due to the seminal paper, "On the Motions of Ships at Sea", by Weinblum and St. Denis, published in 1950. I sent a preliminary copy of my work to Weinblum, and received a prompt, thoughtful reply.

Weinblum's influence was still pervasive when I started to work at DTMB in 1959. I studied his papers, and listened with admiration to personal recollections from his friends. When he returned to DTMB for a short visit, I was excited to meet him and honoured that he took an interest in my own work. Later, we met several times. He treated me like a colleague, despite the difference in our age and experience. During one of my first visits to the Institut für Schiffbau, I presented a seminar on the Haskind relations; he sat in one of the first rows and, at the crucial point in the proof, applauded as if it was a concert or political rally.

Weinblum had a close friendship with John Wehausen. They shared scientific and cultural interests and multilingual fluency. Wehausen's dedication to ship hydrodynamics was largely due to Weinblum's influence during their years together at DTMB. Weinblum undoubtedly advocated Wehausen’s appointment to the Berkeley Faculty, with profound consequences for the development of ship hydrodynamics worldwide. Coincidentally, or perhaps deliberately, Wehausen invited both of us to Berkeley during the summer of 1963; after that, we all travelled to Ann Arbor for the Seminar on Theoretical Wave Resistance, attended by a large international group, and then to DTMB for a smaller meeting which was organized to take advantage of the presence of these eminent visitors. My interactions with Weinblum during that summer were particularly rewarding, both technically and socially.

Georg Weinblum's spirit was inspiring for young researchers and students. I was very fortunate to benefit from his encouragement and friendship during the formative years of my career.


Horst Nowacki, professor emeritus, Technical University of Berlin

I remember vividly that I visited Weinblum in Hamburg toward the end of writing my dissertation on potential flow numerical computations about a three-dimensional hull shape of arbitrary form with a propeller. He appeared to be favorably impressed by my approach and encouraged me in his typical, generous way. I was very grateful for this recognition and inspiration by a prominent scientist to a young student, although he also informed me then that Hess and Smith of Douglas Aircraft Corp. had just completed a study on a very similar subject by a somewhat different numerical approach. Soon after this meeting and after completing my doctorate in Berlin I consulted Weinblum again when I was looking for a research opportunity in the United States.

Click here to read the full text [1].


Alfred Kracht, a former assistant of Weinblum

Im Dezember 1957 wurden an der Universität Rostock vier Studenten der Schiffbautechnischen Fakultät einer konspirativen Gruppenbildung beschuldigt und am 10. Dezember in der Aula des Hauptgebäudes der Universität Rostock vor ein Auditorium zitiert und hier der diversen antisozialistischen Agententätigkeiten beschuldigt. Für uns stand fest, dass unser Studium hier und jetzt ein Ende gefunden hat und wir die Arbeiter-und-Bauern-Republik sofort verlassen müssen.

Click here to read the full text [2] (in German).


Peter Schenzle, one of his former students at the University of Hamburg

When I came to Hamburg in 1962, after my preliminary examination in Stuttgart, Prof. Weinblum was already an emeritus professor. Since his designated successor, Otto Grim, was unavailable at the time, Weinblum had to once again give the introductory lecture on ship hydrodynamics.

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We, as students, thus had the chance to get to know a living legend: the co-initiator of shipbuilding courses in Hanover/Hamburg and the founder of the Institut für Schiffbau at the University of Hamburg. We experienced a professor of the old Gdańsk school with his noble Baltic charm and tone, an approachable teacher who was entirely devoted to giving us vivid explanations of fundamental terms and familiarising us with scientific ways of thinking and understanding. He poured out his ‘cornucopia’, a flood tide of small notes and pieces of paper, photocopied diagrams and formulas from the specialist literature, which he then discussed with us vigorously.

He apologised for the fact that he, who was part of the ‘Old Iron’, had to give us his lecture. When he learned that we had also paid a lecture fee for it, he rebuffed it indignantly and appeared in the next lecture with a bag full of coins, which he distributed to us for reimbursement.

Later, around 1965 to 1970, we got to know Georg Weinblum as a senior host of chummy, international guest researchers and speakers at ‘his institute’ in Hamburg, where he engaged in lively discussions and sometimes advised younger colleagues on the classic fundamentals by the ‘grand old men’ of Gdańsk and Saint Petersburg.

He took part in all current developments, including those in computer science and data processing, and even met me once at the Institute's new drum plotter. I had been playing around with perspective projections to represent hull lines in a graphic manner. He inquired in detail what I was doing and then found that I had connected the calculated points with splines that were continuous in their tangents but not in their curvatures. An example of these perspectival hull lines later graced the Institute's reports and survive today on the cover of the Schriftenreihe Schiffbau (Shipbuilding Series) published by the Hamburg University of Technology.

Original Text in German

Als ich 1962 nach dem Vorexamen in Stuttgart zum Schiffbau-Studium nach Hannover kam, war Georg Weinblum schon emeritiert. Da sein designierter Nachfolger auf dem Lehrstuhl für Schiffstheorie Otto Grim noch nicht zur Verfügung stand, musste er noch die die Einführungsvorlesung zu den Grundlagen der Schiffs-Hydrodynamik halten.

Wir lernten also noch eine lebende Legende kennen, den Mit-Initiator des Schiffbau-Studiengangs Hannover-Hamburg und Gründer des Instituts für Schiffbau an der Universität Hamburg. Wir erlebten einen Professor der alten Danziger Schule mit seinem vornehmen baltische Charme und Tonfall und ebenso einen „Lehrer zum Anfassen”, dem daran gelegen war, uns die Grundbegriffe anschaulich zu machen und das wissenschaftliche Denken und Verstehen zu vermitteln. Dazu schüttete er uns sei „Füllhorn” aus, eine Flut von kleinen Zettelchen mit fotokopierten Diagrammen und Formeln aus der Fachliteratur, die er dann lebhaft mit uns besprach.

Er bat um Entschuldigung, dass er, der ja zum „Alten Eisen” gehöre, uns noch seine Vorlesung zumuten müsse. Als er erfuhr, dass wir dafür auch noch „Kolleg-Geld” bezahlt hatten, wies er das empört zurück und erschien in der nächsten Vorlesung mit einem Beutel voller Münzen, die er uns zur Rückerstattung verteilte.

Später um 1965 – 1970 erlebten wir Georg Weinblum an „seinem Institut” in Hamburg als Senior-Gastgeber befreundeter internationaler Gastwissenschaftler und Referenten, wo er lebhaft diskutierte und manchesmal die jüngeren Kollegen auf die klassischen Grundlagen der „Alten Meister” aus Danzig und St. Petersburg hinwies.

Er nahm Anteil an allen aktuellen Entwicklungen, auch der Rechentechnik, und traf mich einmal am neuen Trommelplotter des Instituts. Ich spielte gerade mit der perspektivischen Projektion um Schiffslinien anschaulich darstellen zu können. Er erkundigte sich eingehend, was ich da machte und stellte dann fest, dass ich die berechneten Punkte durch Splines verbunden hatte, die zwar stetig in ihren Tangenten, aber nicht in ihren Krümmungen waren. Ein Beispiel dieser perspektivischen Schiffslinien zierte später die Institutsberichte und hat heute noch auf dem Umschlag der „Schriftenreihe Schiffbau” der TUHH überlebt.



[1] Memories of and Inspirations by Georg Weinblum written by Horst Nowacki
[2] Erinnerungen an Georg Weinblum written by Alfred Kracht (in German)