Ralph Alger Bagnold

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Ralph Alger Bagnold , FRS (born April 3, 1896 in Plymouth , England - † May 28, 1990 ), was the founder and first commander of the Long Range Desert Group of the British Army during World War II . He is considered a pioneer of desert research because of his activities in the 1930s. These include the first east-west crossing of the Libyan desert by a European. He was not only participants of the Second World War, but also a veteran of the First World War .

Bagnold was an engineer by trade. In his influential book The Physics of Blown Sand and Desert Dunes from 1941, he laid the foundations for research into sand transport by wind. The book is still one of the most important reference books in this field. For example, it was used by NASA when studying sand dunes on Mars. Since 1944 he was a member of the Royal Society .

Early life

Bagnold was the son of an officer in the British Royal Engineers . His father took part in the rescue operation for General Gordon in Khartoum in 1884/85 . His sister was the writer and playwright Enid Bagnold . In 1915, the younger Bagnold followed in his father's footsteps and became a member of the Royal Engineers. During the First World War he spent three years in the trench warfare in France .

After the war, he studied at the University of Cambridge before returning to active military service in 1921. He served in Cairo and India , where he spent much of his free time in the respective deserts. In 1929, equipped with a Ford Model Ts , he went on an expedition to search for the mythical city ​​of Zerzura in the desert west of the Nile . In 1935 he left the army.

Desert research

Bagnold developed a solar compass , the display of which is not falsified by large ore deposits or cars like that of the magnetic compass . In the 1930s, his group began reducing tire pressure when driving over loose sand. In addition, he is credited with discovering a method for overcoming the great dunes in the sandy seas of the Libyan desert. He wrote, “I increased the speed ... a huge, glistening wall shot up into the sky. The truck tipped violently backwards - and we climbed up like a lift, smoothly and without vibrations. We floated up in a yellow cloud. All the usual car movements had stopped, only the speedometer showed us that we were still moving fast. It was incredible… ”Still, Fitzroy Maclean noted ,“… racing too fast resulted in penalties. Many of the dunes fell abruptly on the far side, and if you got to the top at full speed, it was likely that you fell head first into the abyss ... and ended up with the car upside down on you. "

Second World War

Bagnold wrote: “During our peacetime travels we never imagined that war could reach the vast empty solitudes of the inner desert, separated by sheer distance, lack of water and impassable oceans from sand dunes. We could hardly have dreamed that the equipment and techniques that we had developed for very long distances and for navigation would one day be put to serious use. "

When Italy declared war on England , Bagnold happened to be in Cairo because of the wreck of a troop transport. He requested a meeting with General Wavell and asked permission to set up a mobile reconnaissance force. Wavell asked him what he would do if the Italians weren't planning any ventures in the desert, and Bagnold suggested that if they did, they could go pirate. He was given six weeks to set up the force, on the condition that any request he made "be met immediately and without hesitation." That force was the Long Range Desert Group .

Bagnold left the Long Range Unit on July 1, 1941 to serve as a Colonel in Cairo .

Next life

In 1969 he was awarded the GK Warren Prize of the National Academy of Sciences for his scientific merits . In 1970 he received the Penrose Medal of the Geological Society of America and in 1971 the Wollaston Medal , the highest award of the Geological Society of London . In 1974 he was accepted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences .

The headland of Bagnold Point in Antarctica has been named after him since 1960 . In 1981 he received the David Linton Award from the British Geomorphological Research Group .

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ GK Warren Prize . In: Awards . National Academy of Sciences. Retrieved January 14, 2016.
  2. Penrose Medal . In: Award winners since 1927 . Geological Society of America. Retrieved October 26, 2008.
  3. Wollaston Medal . The Geological Society of London , archived from the original on August 19, 2010 ; accessed on January 23, 2016 (English, original website no longer available).
  4. ^ A. Warren: Obituary: Brigadier RA Bagnold 1896–1990. In: Geographical Journal . Volume 156, No. 3, pp. 353-354, 1990