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Almost 80 years ago (in 1937) a major failure occurred during the construction of a new reservoir embankment at Chingford, north of London. The investigation into that failure is widely regarded as the birth of soil mechanics in the United Kingdom.
Cooling and Skempton at the Building Research Station (BRS) were the leading figures in the investigation and Terzaghi was engaged to review their findings. World War II brought work on the project to a standstill, and the reservoir was not completed until 1951.
In 1943 Alan Bishop joined the soil mechanics group at BRS and took up the challenge of establishing a rational basis for the design of safe slopes, especially of embankment dams. The name Bishop is very widely known in geotechnical engineering because of his method for assessing slope stability, but his contributions to soil mechanics went far beyond that.
Skempton's tribute to Bishop that: "he had one of the finest intellects in our subject" was well deserved. This talk describes the man and his achievements in relation to the early development of soil mechanics in England.
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Laurie Wesley is now retired, but most recently was a senior lecturer at the University of Auckland. His early career included 8 years working with the Indonesian Public Works Department, mainly in Bandung, where he developed an early interest in tropical residual soils. Following a PhD under Professor Bishop at Imperial College, London, Laurie was involved in many projects in New Zealand, Indonesia and Malaysia, where he continued to develop his special interest in volcanic and residual soils.
Recently he has published two soil mechanics text books, and the first one Fundamentals of soil mechanics for sedimentary and residual soils (John Wiley & Sons, 2009) is now available in Indonesian. Laurie has spoken to the ICE Jakarta Local Association on three previous occasions, and we are very pleased that he is able to talk to us again.