Osborne Reynolds – 1842-1912

Osborne Reynolds’ father was also called Osbourne Reynolds (born in Debach, Suffolk, England, about 1814; died in 1890) and was a priest in the Anglican church. However, he had an academic background having graduated from Cambridge in 1837, being elected to a fellowship at Queens’ College, and being headmaster of first Belfast Collegiate School and then Dedham School in Essex. In fact it was a family with a tradition of the Church and three generations of Osborne’s father’s family had been the rector of Debach-with-Boulge. Osborne Reynolds’ mother was Jane Bryce (born about 1815). She was a widow, the daughter of Edward Hickman. He had a younger brother Edward (1844-1907) who became a priest. Osborne was born in Belfast (was born at Belfast on Aug. 23, 1842) when his father was Principal of the Collegiate School there, but began his schooling at Dedham when his father was headmaster of the school in that Essex town. English engineer and physicist, best known for his work in the field of hydraulics and hydrodynamics,. gaining early workshop experience and graduating at Queens College Cambridge in 1867, he became the first professor of engineering in the Owens College, Manchester in 1868. He was elected a fellow of the Royal Society in 1877 and a Royal Medallist in 1888. Reynolds’ studies of condensation and the transfer of heat between solids and fluids brought radical revision in boiler and condenser design, while his work on turbine pumps laid the foundation of their rapid development. A fundamentalist among engineers, he formulated the theory of lubrication (1886), and in his classical paper on the law of resistance in parallel channels (1883) investigated the transition from smooth, or laminar, to turbulent flow, later (1889) developing the mathematical framework which became standard in turbulence work. His name is perpetuated in the “Reynolds Number”, which provides a criterion for dynamic similarity and hence for correct modelling in many fluid flow experiments. Among his other work was the explanation of the radiometer and an early absolute determination of the mechanical equivalent of heat. Reynolds retired in 1905 and died at Watchet, Somerset, on Feb. 21, 1912.

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