Learning from Engineering Failures
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Who discovered buckling?


Problem statement

In a quiet morning at work, you receive this mail that will keep you busy for the next few hours

Dear you:

Congratulations! The prestigious Trivalley Foundation for the History of Mechanics (TFHM) has now agreed at your petition of exploratory funding to investigate the contributions of Petrus van Musschenbroek (PvM) to the field of column buckling.

As you argued in your presentation, a controversy has reached the open literature regarding the origins of the studies of buckling of columns. Most textbooks coincide in stating that the first work in this field was due to Leonhard Euler in 1744. However, other researchers state that much was known before Euler.

As a first step, and according to your previous proposal, we need from you a two page paper in which you should argue why PvM should be considered as the father of buckling studies instead of Euler.

You have one week to hand in your paper to the mail address indicated under “Report”. Because you have such a limited space, please be careful to avoid superfluous material. Based on the strength of your argumentation, the TFHM will decide on further funding of your research. Remember that you should place the contributions of PvM in his own time and context.

Again, congratulations from the board of the TFHM and we wish you a most productive exploratory research.

John Torque, Ph.D., Secretary, TFHM

TFHM is a (fictitious) non-government institution to promote the understanding of mechanics from a historical perspective