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The bulbous bow is the most visible technological artifact of contemporary naval architecture. The modern underwater bulb that projects from the front of the ship partially cancels out waves formed at the stem, thereby reducing resistance and improving efficiency. But the use of projecting bulbs dates back to antiquity, to the famous ram bows of Greek and Roman war galleys that were the very emblem of naval might. The purpose and popular conception of the bulbous bow has waxed and waned over the years. First seen as the primary weapon of oared galleys, its utility faded with the rise of gun-carrying sailing warships. Reborn as the weapon of choice for early ironclads which had limited firepower compared with ships of the line, it was a fixture of warship design in spite of grave doubts as to its effectiveness and remained long after those ships had acquired the improved gunnery and fire control that made ramming an anachronism. It was resurrected in the 20th century as a wave-reducing appendage, becoming the ubiquitous symbol of scientific advancement in modern shipbuilding, despite the fact that the bulbous bow is still capable of wreaking severe underwater damage when one ship accidentally rams another. This talk examines the social context in which the bulbous bow has evolved over the course of three millennia.Speaker
Dr. Larrie D. Ferreiro
Dr. Larrie D. Ferreiro is a naval architect and historian. He is the 2017 Pulitzer finalist for History, for his book Brothers at Arms: American Independence and the Men of France and Spain Who Saved It. He has received numerous awards for his other works, which include Ships and Science: The Birth of Naval Architecture in the Scientific Revolution, 1600–1800 and Bridging the Seas: The Rise of Naval Architecture in the Industrial Age, 1800-2000. He received his BA in Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering from the University of Michigan (1980), his MSc in Naval Architecture from the University College London RCNC program (1986), and his Ph.D. in the History of Science, Technology, and Engineering from Imperial College London (2004). He teaches history and engineering at George Mason University in Virginia, Georgetown University in Washington DC, and the Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey. He has served for over forty years in the US Navy, US Coast Guard, and Department of Defense, and was an exchange engineer in the French Navy. He lives with his wife and their sons in Virginia.