The study of complex, interconnected mechanical systems with rigid and flexible articulated components is of growing interest to both engineers and mathematicians. Recent work in this area reveals a rich geometry underlying the mathematical models used in this context. In particular, Lie groups of symmetries, reduction, and Poisson structures play a significant role in explicating the qualitative properties of multibody systems. In engineering applications, it is important to exploit the special structures of mechanical systems. For example, certain mechanical problems involving control of interconnected rigid bodies can be formulated as Lie-Poisson systems. The dynamics and control of robotic, aeronautic, and space structures involve difficulties in modeling, mathematical analysis, and numerical implementation. For example, a new generation of spacecraft with large, flexible components are presenting new challenges to the accurate modeling and prediction of the dynamic behavior of such structures. Recent developments in Hamiltonian dynamics and coupling of systems with symmetries has shed new light on some of these issues, while engineering questions have suggested new mathematical structures.
These kinds of considerations motivated the organization of the AMS-IMS-SIAM Joint Summer Research Conference on Control Theory and Multibody Systems, held at Bowdoin College in August, 1988. This volume contains the proceedings of that conference. The papers presented here cover a range of topics, all of which could be viewed as applications of geometrical methods to problems arising in dynamics and control. The volume contains contributions from some of the top researchers and provides an excellent overview of the frontiers of research in this burgeoning area.