Karl Weissenberg - The 80th Birthday Celebration Essays
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Biographical Notes on Karl Weissenberg






Karl Weissenberg was born in Vienna (Austria) on the 11th of June 1893 and he has lived a long life under varied conditions. Already before his University studies he attended 14 different schools in Austria, Germany and France. He took his matriculation in Frankfurt a / Main at the age of 16 ½  years.

He studied at the Universities of Vienna, Berlin and Jena, taking Mathematics as his main subject with Physics and Chemistry as subsidiaries and - for good measure - a little bit of Law and Medicine. In 1916 he got his Ph.D. (Mathematics) in Jena, and became a Privat-Dozent and later a Professor of Physics at the University of Berlin.

His teaching and research activities covered an unusually wide field. As a teacher he held professorships and guest professorships in four different sciences, viz, in Physics at the Universities of Berlin and Southampton, Physical-Chemistry at the University of Paris, Civil Engineering and Engineering Mechanics at the Columbia University in New York, and Human Anatomy at the Medical School in South Carolina.

As a research-worker he published over 70 original papers on the most varied subjects, including in his mathematical papers new ideas about the analysis of Symmetry-Groups and about Tensor and Matrix algebra, while in his medical papers he worked out new methods for the measurement of blood-circulation, for the dosimetry of X-rays in the treatment of cancer, and for the localisation by X-rays of foreign matter in human bodies. Particularly successful was his work in Physics. He used his mathematical theories about the analysis of Symmetry-Groups for a symmetry classification of polycristalline solids, and for a molecular theory of single crystals. Combining theory with experiments he developed methods for the determination of the constitution and structure of solids of all kinds. The methods culminated in the design of an instrument, known in the literature as the 'Weissenberg X-ray Goniometer', and used all over the world in crystallographic research laboratories. This instrument allowed for the first time a unique determination of the structure in all three dimensions of space.

Parallel with all this work one finds his interest directed to the field of Rheology. Here his theories allowed him to predict various effects with a paradoxical appearance and to verify them experimentally. Best known here is the so-called 'Weissenberg Effect'. According to this effect one finds that elastic and visco-elastic materials subjected to torsional movements by a rotating rod develop radial forces which make them climb up on the rod. Before Weissenberg's work one knew only centrifugal forces generated by movements.

He designed a new type of measuring instrument, known in the literature as the Weissenberg Rheogoniometer, which allowed for the first time to measure in the flowing material the movements and forces and their developments in time in all three directions of space. It is widely used for the determination of the strength of materials with respect to their elasticity, viscocity, relaxation, etc. In order to account for the similarity in behaviour of visco-elastic materials he introduced a dimensionless constant, known as the “Weissenberg number”.

He applied his research to diverse practical, technological and medical problems including on the one hand the working of metals in drawing of wires and in rolling of sheets, and on the other hand the manufacture of a new type of artificial silk, finer and stronger than natural silk. Of special importance was his application to the study of the changes of the flow properties of blood in various diseases.

The combination of his new theories with fascinating demonstration experiments made him a much sought-after lecturer, so much so that he was invited as Guest of Honour to give introductory lectures at many big international congresses including one on Textiles and some on Microcirculation of blood and on Technological Rheology.

Important though his activities were as research worker and teacher his main work was yet in another sphere in which he acted as administrator and scientific advisor. In Germany he acted in this capacity as a member of the Scientific Council of the Kaiser Wilhelm Gesellschaft and as an advisor to its various research institutes and to the big industries, including Siemens & Halske, I. G. Farben and Rhodiaceta. Later, in England, he was advisor to diverse Ministries, to the Atomic Research in Harwell, to the Royal South Hants Hospital, to Gillette Industries, Sangamo Controls Ltd., etc.

For many years he regularly travelled to the U.S.A. for several months to have short time consultancies with Hospitals, Universities, Government Departments and Industries including Shell, Dupont and American Oil.

He received many academic honours. In addition to the four professorships at the great Universities he was elected as:

1. This was a special honour which he shared only with A. Einstein and M. von Laue.

2. Highest British award for the design of a new type of scientific instrument.



Preface  /  Acknowledgements  /  Biographical Notes

Weissenberg’s Influence on Crystallography 

Karl Weissenberg and the Development of X-Ray Crystallography

The Isolation of, and the Initial Measurements of the Weissenberg Effect

        The Role of Similitude in Continuum Mechanics

The Effect of Molecular Weight and Concentration of Polymers in Solutions on the Normal Stress Coefficient

        Elasticity in Incompressible Liquids

The Physical Meaning of Weissenberg's Hypothesis with Regard to the Second Normal-Stress Difference

        A Study of Weissenberg's Holistic Approach to Biorheology

The Weissenberg Rheogoniometer Adapted for Biorheological Studies

        Dr. Karl Weissenberg, 1922-28

Weissenberg’s Contributions to Rheology

The Early Development of the Rheogoniometer

        Some of Weissenberg's More Important Contributions to Rheology: An Appreciation

        Publications of Karl Weissenberg and Collaborators  /  List of Contributors




© Copyright John Harris