Elected in 1976
“For leadership in the study and practice of geotechnical engineering.”
BY T. WILLIAM LAMBE
PROFESSOR ALEC W. SKEMPTON, one of the most influential British civil engineers of the 20th century and a world-renowned civil engineer, died on August 9, 2001, at the age of 87.
Alec studied civil engineering at Imperial College in London, where he developed an interest in geology and an ambition to conduct research. In 1937, he became interested in soil mechanics, the application of engineering science to geotechnical problems, when he participated in the investigation of the collapse of the embankment of the Chingford Reservoir, directed by Karl Terzaghi, the acknowledged “father” of soil mechanics.
Alec Skempton was an unusual man. An academic and scholar who considered research his first priority, he believed that firstrate research required an intimate association with practical engineering and real structures in the field. Not surprisingly, therefore, most of his research originated from problems that arose in the field, such as bearing capacity; slope stability; engineering geology; pore pressures and effective stresses in soil, rock, and concrete; and foundation engineering. His work on the fundamentals of soil mechanics and geotechnical engineering are still widely used as a basis for many design methods. For example, his work on settlements is the basis for current criteria for allow-