Father of steam and gas turbines

Father of steam and gas turbines

A gas turbine is a heat engine, which transforms the heat energy of gases into mechanical work. The gas turbine is supplied with gases heated with working substance or with a combustion gas generated in other machines. While passing through the turbine, gases derive their kinetic energy into blades. A steam turbine is a classic type of gas turbine for high performances, which is used as propulsion for generators in nuclear and thermal power plants.

TurbineSlovak native Aurel Stodola was at the birth of a new generation of rotary heat engines – steam and gas turbines, which meant the end of the steam engine dominating in the 19th century. Stodola is not considered to be the inventor of the turbine, but he was the inventor, who moved the global technical work significantly forward. The first steam turbine was constructed by Laval in 1883; and in 1884, Parsons built the first reaction turbine. Stodola in his work Steam and Gas Turbines, which was translated from the German original into five world languages, developed a discipline about construction of steam turbines. His discoveries of the collision force of steam and jet cooling effects were innovatory. Stodola was the pioneer of a new discipline – gas turbines. Already in 1930 he predicted that the planes will be propelled by turbines. At that moment, he had been perhaps already realizing that his pioneering work will also contribute to that. Stodola is also the inventor of important thermodynamic Gouy-Stodola Theorem, which explains energy losses of thermodynamic transformations arising as a result of their irreversibility.

As a constructor, he was also active in the field of prosthetics. He constructed a moving artificial hand together with the surgeon F. Sauerbruch. The first real success was Stodola’s wide-grip hand, which was presented to the public in 1916. This prosthesis was the first controllable hand prosthesis of which fingers were opening and closing on the principle of the body sending commands.

In addition to the scientific and technical work, there was another area in the life of Aurel Stodola in which he excelled – educational work. He worked as a professor at one of the most prestigious universities – ETH Zurich. He built up an extensive mechanical – experimental and theoretical laboratory at the department, one of the most modern in Europe. He led the Department of Mechanical and Process Engineering until he was 70 years old. Contemporaries considered Stodola as a born teacher with mathematical talent and great art ability.

Stodola’s scientific work in Zurich, which belonged to his first, dealt with the regulation of water machines. The basis of his scientific work consisted in the theory of automatic regulation and scientific foundations of designing and constructing steam and combustion turbines. The book Steam and Gas Turbines, which was translated into several languages, is regarded as the greatest work of Aurel Stodola. The authorship of the graphical calculation of torsional and flexural vibrations of beams and shafts, which is still being used today, is also attributed to him. Therefore, Stodola became one of the founders of the machine mechanics.

Aurel Stodola – pedagogue, scientist, constructor, philosopher, ethicist – hence a versatile personality, definitely overstretched the boundaries of his era.

An exhibition Aurel Stodola –  Message for future generationsAn exhibition Aurel Stodola – Master of technology, which is loanable, was realized in the Slovak Centre of Scientific and Technical Information. If interested, contact us at ncpvat@cvtisr.sk


Brochure – Aurel Stodola – Master of technology, SCSTI

Gas turbine. In: Wikipedia: the free encyclopedia [online].[quote 2015-06-30] [seen 2015-03-11]. Available

Compiled by: Martina Pitlová

Published by: ZČ

Translated: Andrej Mišech

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