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The focal area of research at the Institute of Flow Sciences (Institut für Strömungswissenschaften) is the question of what quality is — what makes good and enlivening water in all its connections with life. The aim is to understand water as a mediator for life. The work is based on scientific principles necessary for developing a responsible attitude to water.
Situated in Herrischried in the Black Forest of Germany, the Institute was founded in 1961 by Theodor Schwenk, a fluid mechanical engineer, who was its first director. In the 1950s. Theodor Schwenk and the mathematicians Georg Unger and George Adams had begun working together. Investigating the dimension of flow, Theodor Schwenk soon realized the importance of a projective geometrical approach, a method particularly suited for investigating organic forms. The mathematical geometrical approach to the treatment of the motion of water could not be continued due to the early death of George Adams in 1963.


Drop pictures: good drinking water (left), polluted water (right) 
Through Alexandre Leroi, George Adams, Theodor Schwenk and Georg Unger obtained generous funding from Hanns Voith to found the Institute, and the Weleda Company in Schwäbisch Gmünd, Germany, freed their longstanding co-worker Schwenk for this new task. The Weleda Company supported the Institute for many years. Schwenk, together with Helga Brasch (physician and eurythmist), were the primary developers of the Institute.
In the 1960s, the Institute became known through Theodor Schwenk’s book Sensitive Chaos, in which he describes his water research. He developed the drop picture method, an approach designed to show the more subtle qualities of water expressed by its flow dynamics. The research method focuses on water quality, and complements analytical methods with a more holistic concept of quality. The approach is image generating rather than analytic, and is based on Goethean science principles. It brings the formative and renewing activity of water into images.


Since the 1980s, the drop picture method has been further developed in order better to understand its fundamentals as well as its predictive powers. We are interested in practical applications and especially in developing criteria of what good drinking water can be. Past research of the Institute on drinking water, groundwater, spring water and river water show that the par­ticular mobility of each kind of water leads to different images. Nevertheless we are also interested in understanding technical influences on the mobility of various kinds of water — influences such as industrial processing, water treatment, and so on. We also research basic ques­tions, for example, concerning rhythm research.




a drop falls into water














The Institute`s Work
The Institute is a private, independent and non-profit charitable organization supported by donations and grants. Presently there are honorary, part time and full time co-workers at the institute (see staff members). Its work focus on three fields:


Basic research:
– development of research methods especially suitable for water
– role of water in all realms of life
– characterization of positive properties of a health sustaining water


Applied research:
– influence of water treatment by physical or technical devices
– influence of materials on water quality
– analysis and characterization of water, sources and water samples from the most unusual sources


Teaching and public relations:
– development of experiments suitable to demonstrate the specific properties of water
– publication of research results and explanations focussing on water quality
– workshops and lectures on the specific properties of water, often life-supporting and sustaining


Our research methods
In our research we mainly use the following methods:
– Drop Picture Method (fluid dynamics): Investigation of water´s formative dynamics
This research instrument pictorially records the richness of water`s ability to create differentiated forms of flow. These are then compared to those of pure spring water as a standard of natural, healthy, activating water. As a way of expressing one of water’s main activities this method shows the inner flow dynamics of a water sample. A water’s chemical composition cannot be determined using his method.
– Investigation Using Algae: The influence of water quality on simple life-forms, using algae
This standard of investigation is already well established in toxicology. Broadened by us, it now allows for exploring the constitution of a water sample by means of changes in metabolism, reproductive capability and morphogenesis of water algae.
– Extended Sensory Analysis: Exploring the immediate effects of water and water quality
From the assessment of food by sensory analysis it is known that trained and experienced researcher can detect by sensory analysis a whole array of additional features beside the qualities of sweet, sour, salty or bitter. A few examples of them are full, rounded, hard, soft, heavy or sparkling. Such terms indicate that especially experienced tasters can describe the effects on their organism that they experience from the food. In the approach of extended sensory analysis, water is examined by trained observers who, through intense awareness, are able to receive perceptions concerning the immediate effects of a particular water sample on the human constitution. These can be described or expressed in symbols and compared with the characteristics found when examining a known reference water such as pure spring water. In this way approved scientific practice of examination can be fulfilled.