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Streamlining Science

NRC Montreal Road Campus

Julien Lacroix, Author

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The word ‘streamlined’ has its origins in describing the new, modern trains of the 1930s. Because of this it was also used technologically to describe other speedy vehicles of the day. The term came at a time when scientific research confirmed that smooth surfaces and unbroken corners offered objects the least resistance when moving through space, which in turn gave the objects the greatest potential for speed and power.[1]

 With this scientific fact in mind, streamlining had an ‘‘emphasis on sleek, smooth surfaces with clean, unbroken lines and its accompanying implications of modernity and efficiency’’.[2] This style was first being used in designs of new transportation machines that represented increased travel speed. Streamlining evolved into a style that encompassed theoretical efficiency, and not only actual efficiency. This was achieved through the use of clean lines and simplicity of form.[3]

Reed raises and interesting point that streamlining was an industrial art during the period of the rise of industrial design which attempted to ‘‘bridge the gap between pure science and pure art’’, and links streamlining’s influence to the Bauhaus.[4]  With this distinction, streamlining is invited to inform the design of much more than just aerodynamic vehicles. Therefore, the word itself took on a whole new meaning in a very short time, and ‘‘became a household word for modernity and glamour’’.[5]

[1] Reed, Robert C. Reed, The Streamline Era, (San Marino: Golden West Books, 1975), 9.
[2] Reed, The Streamline Era, 9.
[3] Reed, The Streamline Era, 9.
[4] Reed, The Streamline Era, 11.
[5] Reed, The Streamline Era, 89.
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