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The Flying Mathematicians of World War I

Tony Royle



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McGill-Queen's University Press
22 October 2020
Keith Lucas was killed instantly when his BE2 biplane collided with that of a colleague over Salisbury Plain on 5 October 1916. As a captain in the Royal Flying Corps, Lucas would have known that his death was a very real risk of the work he was doing in support of Britain's war effort. But Lucas wasn't a career pilot - he was a scientist. The Flying Mathematicians of World War I details the advances and sacrifices of a select group of pioneers who left the safety of their laboratories to drive aeronautics forward at a critical moment in history. These mathematicians and scientists, including Lucas, took up the challenge to advance British aviation during the war and soon realized that they would need to learn how to fly themselves if they were to complete their mission. Set in the context of a new field of engineering, driven apace by conflict, the book follows Lucas and his colleagues as they endured freezing cockpits and engaged in aerial versions of Russian roulette in order to expand our understanding of aeronautics. Tony Royle deftly navigates this fascinating history of technical achievement, imagination, and ingenuity punctuated by bravery, persistence, and tragedy. As a result, The Flying Mathematicians of World War I makes accessible the mathematics and the personal stories that forever changed the course of aviation.
By:   Tony Royle
Imprint:   McGill-Queen's University Press
Country of Publication:   Canada
Dimensions:   Height: 229mm,  Width: 152mm, 
ISBN:   9780228003731
ISBN 10:   0228003733
Pages:   288
Publication Date:   22 October 2020
Audience:   College/higher education ,  Professional and scholarly ,  Primary ,  Undergraduate
Format:   Hardback
Publisher's Status:   Active

Tony Royle is a research associate and tutor at the Open University and a former Royal Air Force and commercial airline pilot.

Reviews for The Flying Mathematicians of World War I

The bravery of these scientists who took to the air to help the war effort is quite remarkable. Untrained as pilots, some paid the ultimate price as they raced against the clock. Royle's viewpoint as a modern airline captain gives a unique insight to the challenges they faced and the game-changing advances they made. Jonathan Agnew, BBC cricket commentator and amateur aviator -- Jonathan Agnew I cannot think of a better guide to this remarkable story than a former pilot. In uncovering the aeronautical exploits of these men and women, Royle has produced a work in which the human dimension is very much to the fore. Of a high scholarly standard, engagingly written, and abundantly illustrated, this book is a significant addition to the literature on the early history of flight. June Barrow-Green, Open University This book challenges our image of the swaggering warrior-turned-test-pilot who possessed the right stuff at the dawn of the supersonic era. Instead we meet an earlier and entirely different breed - the mathematicians, engineers, and scientists of Great Britain during World War I, many of whom learned to fly (some losing their lives) so they could better understand and test the aircraft they were responsible for designing. Thoroughly researched and thoughtfully analysed, written by an experienced pilot, this book is accessible to anyone interested in aviation history. Alan D. Meyer, Auburn University and author of Weekend Pilots: Technology, Masculinity, and Private Aviation in Postwar America The Flying Mathematicians of World War I is an entertaining and inspiring read that communicates the power of mathematics, along with the romance and personal adventure of flying. The teaching of both engineering and history needs narratives like this one to give students a sense of the value of individual intellectual curiosity and direct experience. Sean F. Johnston, University of Glasgow and author of Techno-Fixers: Origins and Implications of Technological Faith

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