To the Editor of the Scientific American:

Although not a naval engineer, I wish to reply to some arguments advanced by Capt. Giles, and published in the SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN of Jan. 2, 1886, in regard to high speed on the ocean.

Capt. Giles argues that because quadrupeds and birds do not in propelling themselves exert their force in a direct line with the plane of their motion, but at an angle to it, the same principle would, if applied to a steamship, increase its speed. But let us look at the subject from another standpoint. The quadruped has to support the weight of his body, and propel himself forward, with the same force. If the force be applied perpendicularly, the body is elevated, but not moved forward. If the force is applied horizontally, the body moves forward, but soon falls to the ground, because it is not supported. But when the force is applied at the proper angle, the body is moved forward and at the same time supported. Directly contrary to Capt. Giles' theory, the greater the speed of the quadruped, the nearer in a direct line with his motion does he apply the propulsive force, and vice versa. This may easily be seen by any one watching the motions of the horse, hound, deer, rabbit, etc., when in rapid motion. The water birds and animals, whose weight is supported by the water, do not exert the propulsive force in a downward direction, but in a direct line with the plane of their motion.

The man who swims does not increase his motion by kicking out at an angle, but by drawing the feet together with the legs straight, thus using the water between them as a double inclined plane, on which his feet and legs slide and thus increase his motion. The weight of the steamship is already supported by the water, and all that is required of the propeller is to push her forward. If set so as to act in a direct line with the plane of motion, it will use all its force to push her forward; if set so as to use its force in a perpendicular direction, it will use all its force to raise her out of the water. If placed at an angle of 45° with the plane of motion, half the force will be used in raising the ship out of the water, and only half will be left to push her forward.


Park Rapids, Minn., Jan. 23, 1886.