Elected in 1975
“For contributions to soils and foundation engineering through research,
teaching, practice and professional leadership.”
BY RAYMOND J. KRIZEK
JORJ O. OSTERBERG passed away on June 1, 2008, in Denver, Colorado, at the age of 93. The son of Swedish immigrants, Jorj was raised in the Bronx borough of New York City. In 1931, at the age of 16, he entered Columbia University, where he befriended Professor Donald Burmister. While at Columbia his interest was piqued by the new field of soil mechanics, and he attended the first undergraduate and graduate courses given on the subject. After completing his B.S. in 1935 and his C.E. in 1936, Jorj’s interest in soil mechanics led him to graduate school at Harvard University to study with a young professor by the name of Arthur Casagrande. After earning his M.S. at Harvard in 1937, Jorj enrolled in the Ph.D. program at Cornell University, from which he graduated in 1940.
From Cornell, Jorj went to work at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Waterways Experiment Station (WES) in Vicksburg, Mississippi. It was there that he met and married Ruth Embree, a Virginian, who was working in Vicksburg as a nurse. While at WES, Jorj invented and patented the WES soil pressure cell and worked with many of the researchers who were instrumental in the development of soil mechanics during World War II. During the 1942–1943 academic year, he taught at the University of Illinois, and in 1943 he joined the civil engineering faculty at Northwestern University.