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Johanna Weber

Discussion in 'WWII Era Obituaries (non-military service)' started by GRW, Nov 9, 2014.

  1. GRW

    GRW Pillboxologist WW2|ORG Editor

    Oct 26, 2003
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    Stirling, Scotland
    "On 5 November 1956, the government-sponsored supersonic transport aircraft committee held its first meeting, at the Royal Aircraft Establishment, in Farnborough, Hampshire. The aim of the STAC was to explore the development of commercial flight beyond the sound barrier. Thirteen years later, Concorde made its first flight and, while it proved to be a commercial disaster, is still hailed as a triumphant application of Anglo-French science. One vital element in the success of the Concorde was provided by two émigré German scientists working at the RAE – Johanna Weber, a mathematician, who has died aged 104, and Dietrich Küchemann, a fluid dynamicist.

    What they came up with, in collaboration with Eric Maskell, an RAE dynamicist, was, in the words of the RAE’s deputy director of the time, Morien Morgan, “a heresy”. It was a slender delta, arrow-shaped wing concept which, for the era of supersonic flight, utilised a separated airflow, challenging what had been seen as basic principles of aircraft design. The thinking, set out in a 1956 paper, became reality with Concorde. Weber, Küchemann and co provided the shape and the sums, others carried their ideas through.

    Weber’s career was almost entirely bound up in her collaboration with Küchemann, which had begun in pre-second world war Germany. She was born in Düsseldorf, the child of an impoverished farming family that had migrated to the city. Four years after her birth, in 1914 her father became an early casualty of the first world war – which meant that her family was provided with a small PENSION for her education.

    Weber, having excelled at convent school, spent two terms at Cologne University reading chemistry and mathematics, with physics, before moving on to Göttingen, a university that exemplified the golden age in German science that was to be shattered by the 1933 Nazi takeover. Weber moved on to a teacher-training diploma but, without Nazi credentials, she was passed over for a TEACHING JOB. She spent two years working for the ballistics department of the Krupp company, before taking up a mathematics post in 1939 at the Aerodynamische Versuchsanstalt (AVA, experimental aerodynamics institute) in Göttingen.

    She met Küchemann and his wife on her first day at AVA. Küchemann, from an anti-Nazi background, had been at the institute for three years. In the months before the second world war erupted, a “just wonderful” collaboration between the two scientists was born, one that would last until Küchemann’s death in 1976. He had the vision, the instinctive grasp of physics, the ability to see “three-dimensional things”, while Weber, who saw herself as a timid person, loth to give lectures, preferred her calculations."

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