BRIAN SPALDING

The Global Energy Prize laureate 2009

THE FLUX FORCE
Brian Spalding learnt to predict the behavior of fluid media and model it by means of a universal software application

 

“Brian Spalding did not invent the Computational Fluid Dynamics”, writes Dr. Akshay Ranchal. “He did not give a name to this subject. However, Brian Spalding more than anyone else made progress in the CFD practical application for engineering problems and developed an efficient methodology, which engineers found convenient. The basic engineering practice of the Professor Spalding’s team got the name “The Imperial College (IC) approach to CFD”. Most of the modern commercially available software tools originate from the IC team activity during the decade from the mid-1960s to the mid- 1970s”. Dr. Brian Spalding was the leader and an active member of the research team. During the whole decade, he was the author of the key breakthrough ideas, which at critical moments redirected the scientists’ focus of attention Although his key contribution to science is connected with complex mathematical concepts, his breakthrough discoveries became possible because, in the first place, he looked at the physics of the phenomena. He saw “trees” and thus he did not get lost in the forest of mathematical equations. He looked at the processes that these equations attempted to express. He thought like an engineer. He worked with “gaps” in the knowledge on multiphase media and turbulence. For me Brian is the best illustration for Richard Feynman’s famous statement: “Why care about what other people think?” There is a quote from Virgil “Possunt quia possunt videntur” (They can, because they think they can). However, in his case another formulation is more appropriate: “They can because they do not know that they cannot”. At many stages of his life, he simply did not know (or rather did not care) that other people had already testified that the problem was impossible to solve. They tried to prove it using complex mathematical and physical arguments, and Brian simply found the way to develop a practical solution for it. Already famous and acknowledged Dr. Spalding did not hesitate to admit: “Sometimes I feel proud of how little I know”. “Sometimes I managed to do what everyone thought was impossible”, he said at the Global Energy Award Ceremony. “Yet I did it because I’m an ignorant person. Ignorance is an important feature for scientists like me”.

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