The description and the physical understanding of three-dimensional separated flows are challenging problems mainly because of the use of inappropriate terms linked to the consideration of two-dimensional flows. This fact was realized in the early 1950s by Robert Legendre, who introduced the basic concepts of the Critical Point Theory to provide a rational definition of separation in three-dimensional flows. In parallel, demonstrative experiments were executed by Henri Werlé in the Onera water tunnel laboratory. From the close cooperation between these two scientists resulted the construction of a powerful theoretical tool allowing the elucidation of the structure of largely separated three-dimensional fields. The importance of their contribution to fluid mechanics is illustrated here by the consideration of basic configurations: flow past wings or elongated bodies, in front of obstacles, and behind a base. For each case, the flow organization is discussed by considering representative water tunnel visualizations and corresponding topological interpretations.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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