The petroleum industry, and particularly that part of it that is concerned with the production of oil and natural gas, depends upon the ability of these fluids to flow through the porous rocks of the subterranean reservoirs in which they are imprisoned. The ability of fluids to flow through porous rock is expressed in the language of mathematics by Darcy's law, and this mathematical statement is the basis of many petroleum engineering computations. Petroleum engineers have found it the most useful, fruitful, and dependable expression of the pertinent factors which govern the ability of reservoirs to produce oil, gas, and water and of wells to yield these fluids. Consequently, it is not too much to say that Darcy's law is the very basis of the modern petroleum industry.

Darcy's law was stated and published just 100 years ago, when Henri Philibert Gaspard Darcy published his classic paper on the flow of water through sand filter beds. It is fitting that this important anniversary be commemorated by the petroleum industry, although no one would be more surprised than Henry Darcy himself that the work to which he devoted his comparatively brief professional career should provide the basis for a gigantic industry which is the bulwark of modern civilization, an industry which began just three years after the first published statement of Darcy's law. Although petroleum engineers make use of Darcy's law daily in the preparation of professional analyses and reports, and executives of the oil industry, bankers and business men, public officials, politicians, and heads of state arrive at decisions on the basis of these analyses and reports the details of the life and work of this humble Frenchman and public servant, Henry Darcy, are known to few.

Early Life of Darcy

Henri Philibert Gaspard Darcy was born June 10, 1803, in the city of Dijon, chief town in the Department of Cote d'Or and former capital of the old Duchy of Burgundy. Dijon is situated at the confluence of the rivers Ouche and Saone, some 210 miles southeast of Paris by rail (about 160 miles by air line). It is a city of order and discipline, a city of old forts, palaces, bridges, public buildings and worksfactors no doubt of some importance in shaping and molding the lives of its citizens. Deprived at 14 of his father, who was Collector of the Registry and well thought of by his superiors and fellow citizens, Henry Darcy was reared by his mother, a woman of rare merit who, although left a widow at an early age, devoted her energy to the rearing of her two sons and who was responsible for their education.

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