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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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