Konrad Zuse und die Baustatik - Zur Vorgeschichte der Computerstatik [Teil 1]

Medium: journal article
Language(s): de 
Published in: Bautechnik, , n. 11, v. 87
Page(s): 676-699
DOI: 10.1002/bate.201010046

Konrad Zuse and the theory of structures — a prologue to computational mechanics (part 1).

The pioneering role of Konrad Zuse (1910—1995) in the development of the computer has been covered comprehensively in the historical study of informatics in recent years ([1] to [4]). However, the relationship between his computer development work and the situation in theory of structures at the time has so far been given only a rudimentary analysis ([5] to [11]). Those computer scientists and construction engineers interested in the history of their professions have seemingly been happy just to know that the need for extensive statically indeterminate computations around 1930 were Zuse's main motivation. Furthermore, popular accounts of his life's work and many of the tributes paid to him exploit the fact that there was a widespread aversion to calculations in general and structural calculations in particular. Thus, on the 100th anniversary of Zuse's birth, some contemporaries could be heard joining in with the "he was too lazy to calculate" chorus, and quickly coming to the conclusion that this was the reason why he invented the computer.
The influence of the Berlin school of structural theory (s. [9, S. 389— 404]) on Zuse's notions surrounding the automation of computa tions up until 1935 is shown here against the background of the introduction of formalised theory into structural analysis plus the rationalisation and schematisation of structural calculations in the first 30 or so years of the 20th century. Zuse's project concerning the calculation of a system with nine degrees of static indeter minacy, which was completed in 1934 while he was a student, can be regarded as a preface to his later computer development. Looked at from the perspective of the practical use of symbols during the consolidation period of theory of structures (1900—1950), the history of structural analysis over these years seems to be a prologue to computational mechanics.

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