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The Gap Between Theory And Practice: Hydrodynamical And Hydraulical Utopias In The 18th Century

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Chapter Summary

This chapter discusses one fairly well-known area of tensions between hydraulic engineering and emerging hydrodynamic theory of the late 17th and early 18th centuries. It shows that a simple account of an existing gap between theory and practice in the field of hydraulics and hydrodynamics ? if understood mainly as a stumbling block for the advancement of science and engineering ? would miss an aspect that was crucial for the development of scientific as well as engineering culture in the enlightenment period. This aspect concerns the existence of a utopia of mathematical engineering, as it were, a utopia that was fed both by the hopes of hydraulical engineers to mathematize their technical knowledge and by mathematicians or ?geometers?, as 18th-century language would have it, to frame a mathematical theory of flows that would enable engineers to improve their technical solutions.

Keywords: 18th century; geometers; hydraulic engineering; hydraulical practice; hydrodynamic theory; mathematical engineering; mathematical theory; utopia



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