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Sergei Alekseevich Chaplygin

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5 April 1869

Ranenburg (now Chaplygin), Russia

8 Oct 1942

Moscow, USSR

Sergei Chaplygin's father was a shop assistant who died of cholora when Chaplygin was only two years of age. This meant that he was brought up in somewhat poor circumstances. He attended Voronezh gymnasium graduating in 1890 and, in the same year, entered the University of Moscow.

There he was much influenced by Zhukovsky who persuaded him to continue to study for his university teacher's qualification after graduating with a first degree. He taught in Moscow from 1894 at the University, where he was an assistant professor, and several different colleges.

Chaplygin wrote first on hydrodynamics under Zhukovsky 's influence; in particular on the mechanics of liquids and gases, studying jet stream flow in the 1890s. In 1893 he received the Brashman Prize for a long article on the movement of a solid body in a liquid. His Master's dissertation, submitted in 1897, was on this same topic.

Earlier work on this topic of a purely analytic nature by Clebsch , Kirchhoff and Steklov on the movement of a solid body in a liquid was given a geometrical interpretation by Chaplygin in both his award winning paper and his dissertation. Zhukovsky wrote concerning this work saying:

Chaplygin has demonstrated in his two excellent papers what strength the cleverly conceived geometrical method of investigation can possess.

From 1896 until 1906 Chaplygin taught mechanics at Moscow Technical College. In 1899 he was awarded the Gold Medal of the St Petersburg Academy of Sciences . From 1901 he was professor at Moscow Women's College and, from 1905 until 1918 he was Head of the Women's College.

He published a famous paper On gas streams in 1902 giving exact solutions to many cases of noncontinuous flow of a compressible gas. This paper opened the way for a study of high velocity aeromechanics.

Chaplygin also developed methods of approximation for solving differential equations . From 1910 he studied the theory of the aeroplane wing. Together with Zhukovsky he set up the Central Aerohydrodynamic Institute in 1918. On the death of Zhukovsky in 1921, Chaplygin became Director of the Institute.

Chaplygin received many awards. He was elected to the USSR Academy of Sciences in 1924, then five years later he received the title of Honoured Scientist.

Source:School of Mathematics and Statistics University of St Andrews, Scotland