Happy Soil Mechanics Fathers Day: Celebrating Karl Terzaghi’s Birthday

Sergei Terzaghi

About 140 years ago on 2nd of October, Karl Terzaghi, widely known as the father of soil mechanics, was born. His perspective and his work gave the world a different concept on geotechnical engineering.

Karl Terzaghi (1883-1963) was the great professor of geotechnical engineering of his day, with regular appointments first in Istanbul, then at MIT, Vienna, and Harvard, as well as courses of lectures in Berlin, Texas and Illinois. He was the first to elaborate a comprehensive mechanics of soils with his publication of Erdbaumechanik in 1925. His recognition and formulation of the effective stress principle and its influence on settlement analysis, strength, permeability and erosion of soils was his most prodigious contribution.

Terzaghi also pioneered a great range of methods and procedures for investigation, analysis, testing, instrumentation, and practice that defined much of the field we currently know as geotechnical engineering, which influenced the entire civil engineering world.

This year, the Victoria Chapter of the Australian Geomechanics Society has decided to celebrate Karl Terzaghi’ s birthday to honour his contributions to our profession, in collaboration with American Society of Civil Engineering (ASCE)-Australia Section. Terzaghi’s fame as a master engineer is well known, but the story of his development, both personal and professional, has remained unexplored by most people.

We have decided to celebrate this day in a unique way by hosting Karl Terzaghi’ s grandson, Sergei Terzaghi, from Arup. Sergei will talk about how his experience and Grandfather’s work in Geotechnics has influenced his Engineering Design Philosophy, with respect to real issues, risk assessment and economic design.

About the speakers

Sergei Terzaghi Principal Geotechnical Engineer, Arup

Born 1962 in Eugene Oregon. Moved in short order to Kobe, Geneva, Santa Cruz Ca, before settling in New Zealand, where I completed most of high schooling (baring one year in Austria). Trained At University of Canterbury graduating with BE (Hons) in 1986.

I started work in Auckland, New Zealand with a small local firm called Murray North, working on a wide range of engineering projects throughout New Zealand and indeed the South pacific and Singapore. This proved to be an ideal training for a geotechnical engineer given the range geotechnical materials present and hence range of complex problems to resolve. Murray North was acquired by Woodward-Clyde in 1993. This expanded range of operations to include western USA.

I moved to Sinclair Knight Merz in 2000 seeking wider opportunities. This added Australia to sphere of operations and resulted with moving to Australia in 2005. Ended up moving to Arup in 2009. Had a spell based in Los Angeles between 2017 and 2019. Currently based in Sydney, with discussions on projects around the Globe.

Engineers Australia members participating in AGS technical sessions can record attendance on their personal CPD logs. Members should refer to Engineers Australia CPD policy for details on CPD types, requirements and auditing guidelines.