Engineering Fracture Mechanics Vol. 54, No. 2, pp. 263-300, 1996 Copyright © 1996 Elsevier Science Ltd. 0013-7944(95)00178-6 Printed in Great Britain. All rights reserved 0013-7944/96 $15.00+ 0.00
A HISTORY OF FATIGUEt
WALTER SCHLITZ IABG, D-85521 Ottobrunn, Germany Abstract--The history of fatigue from 1838 to the present is described in detail, with special emphasis on the German contribution in the time period of 1920-1945. A number of distinguished scientists and engineers, and their contributions to the further development of fatigue knowledge are specifically mentioned. Copyright © 1996 Elsevier Science Ltd.
1. I N T R O D U C T I O N MANY BOOKSand papers about fatigue start with a more or less detailed account of the historical development of this branch of technology; they are, however, mostly limited to the description of results. With the present paper, the author strives for an evaluation of the importance of scientists and engineers and their work for the further development of fatigue technology and knowledge. For this evalution, two criteria were established: • Were the results of the work useful for the following generations or not? A positive example would be, for example, the Palmgren-Miner rule, still being employed the world over, 50 respectively 71 yrs after its publication. A negative example would be the "Damage Line" of French, which has only caused confusion, or the "over-" and "understressing" works of Kommers, which uselessly haunted people's minds for decades. • Does the work in question only contain results or did the researcher also draw conclusions? A positive example would be W6hler's allowable stresses for railway axles in the finite life region. Since the author obviously knows the important German fatigue efforts better than those of foreign engineers, this paper possibly has an entirely undesired nationalistic German touch. On the other hand, practically all Anglo-American historical descriptions of fatigue give a biased account as well, because they do not mention the decisive German contribution in the period of 1925-1945. In that period, however, the foundations were laid for what we know today in fatigue and fracture mechanics. This will be discussed in detail in Section 6. Out of the large number of engineers and scientists who have worked on fatigue problems, because of limited space only three are described in detail, namely W6hler, Thum and Gassner, who all three fulfill the criteria mentioned above. Of course, many other names are mentioned, albeit briefly. Some border areas of fatigue, for example non-destructive inspection, are not discussed. Others, such as metallurgy or the development of fatigue testing machines, will be mentioned only briefly and where absolutely necessary. Some earlier papers on the history of fatigue [1-3] have made the author's work much easier. When studying the old works some interesting points attract attention: • Our predecessors were, in some respects, very modern. W6hler, for example, as early as 1860 suggested design for finite fatigue life . In other respects, however, their opinions were astonishingly primitive and erroneous. • Knowledge about certain methods was highly developed in one location, while a few kilometers away it was nonexistent, for example on shot peening. • Decades after final clarification of certain problems, they continue being discussed over and over again in the literature and, what is more, they still haunt people's minds, for example the influence of testing frequency on fatigue life. "['The original German paper, published in Materialwissenschaft und Werkstofftechnik 203-232 (1993), was dedicated to Prof. J. Schijveon the occasion of his 65th birthday. The present English version is slightly modifiedand modernized, and was translated by Dr J. Lincoln, WPAFB. 263
• It takes a long time, sometimes decades, until parameters known for ages are treated...