While reading about different aspects of Johann Heinrich Lambert's life and work, I found many interesting side remarks about Lambert's work by different authors, though it is very hard to find modern articles about them. Already in Lambert's book Photometria there are many examples of very interesting points (mentioned in its Wikipedia article) that have not received enough attention yet.

However, the book "Photometria" is not the issue here. On p.240 of the book "Discovering the Principles of Mechanics 1600-1800: Essays by David Speiser", the author of the chapter on Lambert writes:

To illustrate his originality as a physicist we can mention his contributions to studies of the resistence of fluids and friction as well as his work on the fluidity of sand, topics that physicists and mathematical physicists of the 1760s mostly (and happily) left aside.

I found this topic very interesting and truly original for a 18th century researcher. Searching a bit more, I found the title and abstract of this memoir of Lambert: "Concerning the fluidity of sand, earth, and other soft bodies, as far as it relates to the laws of hydrodynamics".

So I'd like to know where I can look at this memoir (I did not succeed in finding it on Google), and also if there is any modern assessment of this aspect of his work. I hardly believe that there is any such assessment in the English literature, so I have no problem if any one can provide a link to such an article in a different language (I will use Google translate).


1 Answer 1


Johann Heinrich Lambert was Swiss and published in French, German, and Latin. One way of finding the relevant paper is therefore to translate the title's English translation back to those languages and perform an approximate search for that. One finds:

Johann Heinrich Lambert, "Sur la fluidité du sable, de la terre et d'autres corps mous, relativement aux loix de l'hydrodynamique." In Nouveaux Mémoires de l'Académie Royale des Sciences et Belles-Lettres. Année MDCCLXXII. Berlin: Christian Friedrich Voss 1774. In section "Classe de philosophie experimentale", pp. 33-64 (Google scan). There is a handy PDF of it here.

As often happens with society proceedings from the 18th century, the paper dates to a different year than the published volume. In this case the paper itself dates to 1772.

Google Scholar currently lists only three publications that reference this paper by Lambert.

  • $\begingroup$ [+1] - thank you very much! Lambert's paper looks very interesting as it contains many equations that I don't know to what problems they refer (it is interesting problem how to describe the fluidity of sand quantitively). $\endgroup$
    – user2554
    Jul 20, 2022 at 7:31
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @user2554 My knowledge of French is very rudimentary. From a quick perusal I think this paper deals with hammering wooden posts into the ground. These are modeled as parallelepipeds. This has obvious real-life applicability to pile foundations (think Venice), marine construction (building quays) and military construction (building of field fortifications). The paper appeared in the section of the proceedings dealing with the experimental sciences, but I cannot readily tell whether the tables in the paper represent measured experimental data or model output (possibly both). $\endgroup$
    – njuffa
    Jul 20, 2022 at 7:53
  • $\begingroup$ I must comment and mention a website that gives access to all of Lambert's works - kuttaka.org/~JHL/WerkeThem.html. It may be very useful for future discussions on Lambert's works. $\endgroup$
    – user2554
    Jul 21, 2022 at 17:25
  • $\begingroup$ My reading is that he loaded the parallelepiped with various weights and then measured how far it sank into the sand. I only read as far as the first table though. $\endgroup$
    – mdewey
    Jan 24 at 16:54

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