John Scott Russell
|John Scott Russell|
John Scott Russell
|Born||9 May 1808
Parkhead, Glasgow, Scotland
|Died||8 June 1882
Ventnor, Isle of Wight, England
|Education||Edinburgh University, St. Andrews University, Glasgow University|
|Spouse(s)||Harriette Russell (née Osborne)|
|Children||Osborne Russell, Norman Scott Russell, Louisa Scott Russell, Mary Rachel Scott Russell, Alice M. Scott Russell|
|Parents||David Russell and Agnes Clark Scott|
|Institution memberships||Royal Society of Edinburgh (Councillor 1838-9), Royal Society, Institution of Civil Engineers (Vice President), Institution of Naval Architects (Vice President), Society of Arts (Secretary 1845-50)|
John Scott Russell FRSE FRS (9 May 1808, Parkhead, Glasgow – 8 June 1882, Ventnor, Isle of Wight) was a Scottish civil engineer, naval architect and shipbuilder who built the Great Eastern in collaboration with Isambard Kingdom Brunel. He made the discovery of the wave of translation that gave birth to the modern study of solitons, and developed the wave-line system of ship construction.
Russell was a promoter of the Great Exhibition of 1851.
Early life 
John Russell was born on 9 May 1808 in Parkhead, Glasgow, the son of Reverend David Russell and Agnes Clark Scott. He spent one year at St. Andrews University before transferring to Glasgow University. It was while at Glasgow University that he added his mother's maiden name, Scott, to his own, to become John Scott Russell. He graduated from Glasgow University in 1825 at the age of 16 and moved to Edinburgh University where he taught science. At the same time he experimented with steam engines, inventing a method of staying the surface of the boiler which became universal.
On the death of Sir John Leslie, Professor of Natural Philosophy at Edinburgh University in 1832, Scott Russell, though only 24 years old, was elected to temporarily fill the vacancy pending the election of a permanent professor, due to his proficiency in the natural sciences and popularity as a lecturer. But although encouraged to stand for the permanent position he refused to compete with another candidate he admired and thereafter concentrated the engineering profession and experimental research on a large scale.
While in Edinburgh he took out a patent on a steam carriage with two cylinders developing 12 horsepower each. Six were constructed in 1834, well-sprung and fitted out to high standard, which ran between Glasgow and Paisley at hourly intervals at 15 mph. The road trustees objected that it wore out the road and placed various obstructions of logs and stones in the road, which actually caused more discomfort for horse-drawn carriages. But eventually one of the carriages was overturned and the boiler blew up causing the death of several passages. Two of the coaches were sent to London where they ran for a short time between London and Greenwich.
He married Harriette Osborne in 1839; they had two sons and three daughters, Louise (1841–1878), Rachel (1845–1882) and Alice. Arthur Sullivan and his friend Frederic Clay were frequent visitors at the Scott Russell home in the mid-1860s; Clay became engaged to Alice, and Sullivan wooed Rachel. While Clay was from a wealthy family, Sullivan was still a poor young composer from a poor family; the Scott Russells welcomed the engagement of Alice to Clay, who, however broke it off, but forbade the relationship between Sullivan and Rachel, although the two continued to see each other covertly. At some point in 1868, Sullivan started a simultaneous (and secret) affair with Louise (1841–1878). Both relationships had ceased by early 1869.
The wave of translation 
In 1834, while conducting experiments to determine the most efficient design for canal boats, he discovered a phenomenon that he described as the wave of translation. In fluid dynamics the wave is now called a Scott Russell solitary wave or soliton. The discovery is described here in his own words:
I was observing the motion of a boat which was rapidly drawn along a narrow channel by a pair of horses, when the boat suddenly stopped—not so the mass of water in the channel which it had put in motion; it accumulated round the prow of the vessel in a state of violent agitation, then suddenly leaving it behind, rolled forward with great velocity, assuming the form of a large solitary elevation, a rounded, smooth and well-defined heap of water, which continued its course along the channel apparently without change of form or diminution of speed. I followed it on horseback, and overtook it still rolling on at a rate of some eight or nine miles an hour [14 km/h], preserving its original figure some thirty feet [9 m] long and a foot to a foot and a half [300−450 mm] in height. Its height gradually diminished, and after a chase of one or two miles [2–3 km] I lost it in the windings of the channel. Such, in the month of August 1834, was my first chance interview with that singular and beautiful phenomenon which I have called the Wave of Translation.
Scott Russell spent some time making practical and theoretical investigations of these waves. He built wave tanks at his home and noticed some key properties:
- The waves are stable, and can travel over very large distances (normal waves would tend to either flatten out, or steepen and topple over)
- The speed depends on the size of the wave, and its width on the depth of water.
- Unlike normal waves they will never merge—so a small wave is overtaken by a large one, rather than the two combining.
- If a wave is too big for the depth of water, it splits into two, one big and one small.
Scott Russell's experimental work seemed at contrast with the Isaac Newton and Daniel Bernoulli's theories of hydrodynamics. George Biddell Airy and George Gabriel Stokes had difficulty to accept Scott Russell's experimental observations because Scott Russell's observations could not be explained by the existing water-wave theories. His contemporaries spent some time attempting to extend the theory but it would take until the 1870s before an explanation was provided.
Lord Rayleigh published a paper in Philosophical Magazine in 1876 to support John Scott Russell's experimental observation with his mathematical theory. In his 1876 paper, Lord Rayleigh mentioned Scott Russell's name and also admitted that the first theoretical treatment was by Joseph Valentin Boussinesq in 1871. Joseph Boussinesq mentioned Scott Russell's name in his 1871 paper. Thus Scott Russell's observations on solitons were accepted as true by some prominent scientists within his own lifetime.
Korteweg and de Vries did not mention John Scott Russell's name at all in their 1895 paper but they did quote Boussinesq's paper in 1871 and Lord Rayleigh's paper in 1876. Although the paper by Korteweg and de Vries in 1895 was not the first theoretical treatment of this subject, it was a very important milestone in the history of the development of soliton theory.
It was not until the 1960s and the advent of modern computers that the significance of Scott Russell's discovery in physics, electronics, biology and especially fibre optics started to become understood, leading to the modern general theory of solitons.
Ship building 
Scott Russell moved to Millwall, London in 1844, and organised the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851. He worked on the design of yachts, boats, barges and ships, and he was a director of the J Scott Russell & Co. shipbuilding company.
He was held in high regard by Isambard Kingdom Brunel who made him a partner in his project to build the Great Eastern. The project was plagued with a number of problems—Scott Russell was in financial difficulties and the two men disagreed on a number of aspects of the design and construction of the ship. The Great Eastern was eventually launched in 1858.
The American engineer Alexander Lyman Holley befriended Scott Russell and his family on his various visits to London at the time of the construction of Great Eastern. Holley also visited Scott Russell's house in Sydenham. As a result of this, Holley, and his colleague Zerah Colburn, travelled on the maiden voyage of Great Eastern from Southampton to New York in June 1860. Scott Russell's son, Norman, stayed with Holley at his house in Brooklyn — Norman also travelled on the maiden voyage, one voyage that John Scott Russell did not make.
Scott Russell was a better scientist than a businessman and his reputation never fully recovered from his financial irregularities and disputes.
Doppler effect 
Honours and awards 
In 1838 he was awarded the gold Keith Medal by the Royal Society of Edinburgh for his paper "On the Laws by which water opposes Resistance to the Motion of Floating Bodies". He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in June 1849 for Memoirs on "The great Solitary Wave of the First Order, or the Wave of Translation" published in the Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, and of several Memoirs in the Reports of the British Association.
In 1995, the aqueduct which carries the Union Canal – the same canal where he observed his Wave of Translation – over the Edinburgh Bypass (A720) was named the Scott Russell Aqueduct in his memory. Also in 1995, the hydrodynamic soliton effect was reproduced near the place where John Scott Russell observed hydrodynamic solitons in 1834.
A building at Heriot-Watt University is named after him.
His 1844 paper has become a classical paper and is quite frequently cited in soliton-related papers or books even after more than one hundred and fifty years.
- Russell, J. Scott (1845). "Report on Waves". Report of the fourteenth meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, York, September 1844. London: John Murray. 311–390, Plates XLVII–LVII.
- Russell, J. Scott (1864). The Modern System of Naval Architecture. London: Day and Son. OCLC 80429969.
- Russell, J. Scott (1885). The Wave of Translation in the Oceans of Water, Air, and Ether. London: Trübner & Co. OCLC 39005948.
- "Obituary, John Scott Russell, FRS". Minutes of the Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers 87. 1887.
- Weeks, Lyman Horace (2010). History of Automobile and its inventors.. Tec Books. p. 85.
- Ainger, p. 87. Some two hundred love letters from the two women to Sullivan have survived.
- Scott Russell (1845)
- This passage has been repeated in many papers and books on soliton theory.
- Lord Rayleigh (1876). "On waves". Philosophical Magazine. Series 5 1 (4): 257–279.
- Boussinesq, J. (1871). "Théorie de l'intumescence liquide, applelée onde solitaire ou de translation, se propageant dans un canal rectangulaire". Comptes Rendus de l'Academie des Sciences 72: 755–759.
- Korteweg, D.J.; de Vries, G. (1895). "On the Change of Form of Long Waves advancing in a Rectangular Canal and on a New Type of Long Stationary Waves". Philosophical Magazine, 5th series 39: 422–443.
- Darrigol (2005)
- Scott Russell, John (1848). "On certain effects produced on sound by the rapid motion of the observer". Report of the Eighteenth Meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science (John Murray, London in 1849) 18 (7): 37–38. Retrieved 2008-07-08.
- "Library and Archive Catalogue". The Royal Society. Retrieved 10 October 2010.
- Ainger, Michael (2002). Gilbert and Sullivan – A Dual Biography. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-514769-3.
Further reading 
- Darrigol, Olivier (2005). Worlds of Flow: A History of Hydrodynamics from the Bernoullis to Prandtl. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-856843-6. includes discussion on the discovery of solitons
- Emmerson, George S. (1977). John Scott Russell: A Great Victorian Engineer and Naval Architect. John Murray. ISBN 0-7195-3393-7.
- "Obituary of John Scott Russell". The Times. Archived from the original on 25 May 2011.