A heavyweight in the world of hydrodynamics

A heavyweight in the world of hydrodynamics

Emeritus Professor Lawrence Doctors’ recent book - Hydrodynamics of High-Performance Marine VesselsProfessor Lawrence Doctors’ book on high performance marine vessels draws on his amazing 50 years of experience from boyhood tinkerer to world-renowned expert.

Coming in at two volumes and almost 900 pages, Emeritus Professor Lawrence Doctors’ recent book - Hydrodynamics of High-Performance Marine Vessels – is, quite literally, a heavyweight in the world of hydrodynamics. 

The book is an investigation of the range of high-speed ships from the monohull through to the catamaran, trimaran, hovercraft and a vehicle called the surface-effect ship – a combination of hovercraft and catamaran.

It is a lifetime achievement for Professor Doctors, from UNSW’s Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering, who officially retired in 2005 but still has an office at UNSW. “Some of the information and photographs in my book I collected while I was studying for my first degree, so I could argue it has taken over 50 years to write!” Professor Doctors says.

“I’ve been interested in engineering and transport vehicles since I was a child, when I would build working model ships and aircraft fitted with engines. Later, I became fascinated by hovercraft, which eventually led to my PhD studies. I’m very grateful that my whole career has actually been an extension of my hobbies,” he continues. “If they had not paid me to do it, I would have done it anyway!”

Hydrodynamics is the study of water flow and in the context of high performance marine vessels is concerned with how water flows past the ship. Professor Doctors says this is of great interest to ship designers for three key reasons. Firstly, and fundamentally, it is important to be able to predict the amount of power required to drive the vessel through the water. Secondly it is critical to be able predict how a ship will heave, pitch and roll in rough water. A third, and more recent, matter of interest concerns wave generation and whether a ship’s wake will damage the shores of a river.

“Australia was one of the first countries to design a passenger ferry that minimised wave generation to reduce shoreline damage when the first RiverCat was commissioned for service on the Parramatta River in Sydney. That was a big research effort in the 1990s and many people are still working in this area. I have included a whole chapter dedicated to that subject in the book,” Professor Doctors says.

A colleague at the University of Michigan’s Department of Naval Architecture, where Professor Doctors has connections going back many years, had some years ago initiated a series of high-level collaborative research projects with him. The resulting professional contacts eventually led to the US Office of Naval Research (ONR) wanting to consolidate all his expertise into one book. One of the program managers of the ONR said, as delicately as she could, “Look Lawry, you’re not getting any younger. It would be a shame to lose all the information you have accumulated over the years. I would like to commission you to write a book drawing on all your knowledge of high-speed ships.”

Realising how much work was involved – a mammoth 2.5 years of effort on a full-time basis, according to his calculations – Professor Doctors hesitated for a while, but in the end accepted the challenge. “I haven’t regretted it,” he says. “It was a major task, but now I am very grateful that my program manager suggested it to me. It is certainly a pleasing thing to finish a piece of work like a book and I am very grateful for the sponsorship by the ONR.”

Professor Lawrence Doctors’ book is available from Amazon.

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