Ship Theory, Ship Design and Georg Weinblum

Insights from the first Weinblum Memorial Lecture given by John V. Wehausen

The first Weinblum Memorial Lecture was given by John V. Wehausen, a close friend of Georg Weinblum. His lecture was divided into two parts [1]: While the second part is devoted to a purely hydrodynamical problem, the first part discusses the role of ship theory in ship design. Wehausen’s lecture is of particular interest because of the insightful references he made to Georg Weinblum's research.

Wehausen characterises Weinblum as a ship theorist who does not see ship theory as an end in of itself. He points to one central question in Weinblum's research and teaching activities: How can ship theory help to improve ship design? According to Wehausen:

If one had to categorize Georg Weinblum among naval architects, it would be fair, I believe, to call him a ship theorist. He himself liked the term "ship theory", his own research was primarily devoted to this, he supported it among others, and one of his chief goals as a teacher was to try to provide prospective naval architects with a good understanding of the fundamentals of their profession.

I have been rereading many of Georg Weinblum's papers during recent months and one aspect that has struck me is his constant concern for the application of ship theory to ship design. In almost every paper I have looked at, some part of it is devoted to its implications for design. Some are almost completely oriented in this direction.

This isn't surprising, I suppose. Georg Weinblum was serious about his profession, in fact, more than that, he was enthusiastic about it and he was convinced that the study of ship theory could and would result in the improvement of ships.


Wehausen argues that, in general, ship design does not necessarily need ship theory because experienced designers could apply the method of trial and error from a safe initial position. However, Wehausen recognises that there are some situations when ship theory plays a vital role:

  • Design problems with no tradition to start from, i.e. one has to begin from scratch
  • Design problems requiring a major and not only an incremental change for a real improvement of a given design

For facing these kinds of problems, a theoretical insight into ship theory is required. Georg Weinblum of course knew that:

Even the hydrostatic calculations were once revolutionary. The story of Archimedes' excitement upon discovering a hydrostatic law is too well known to need repeating. Those developments in ship theory that prove useful in design will certainly, in the future, become as much apart of a naval architect's took [sic!] kit as hydrostatic calculations or Froude's Hypothesis are today. And this is, of course, what Georg Weinblum foresaw and planned for when he proposed a modernization of the curriculum of study for naval architects that would allow them to grasp the significance of the most recent developments in ship theory. In the years to come this may prove to be his greatest contribution to Naval Architecture.


Click here for more information on Wehausen's lecture, the first Weinblum Memorial Lecture.


[1] Manuscript of the first Weinblum Memorial Lecture on tub.dok