Karl von Terzaghi (October 2, 1883 – October 25, 1963)
Photograph From the World Wide Web of Geotechnical Engineering Hall of Fame (http://www.ejge.com/People/Terzaghi/Terzaghi.htm)
Yes, my geotechnical friends, another year has passed and it is again that special date in geotechnical engineering history: Karl Terzaghi’s Birthday!
Each year we pause to recognize the birth of the Father of Modern Soil Mechanics. For those of you that this is the first year you have received this message, let me welcome you to my annual tribute to Professor Terzaghi and the geotechnical engineering profession. (If you do not want this annual greeting, please let me know and I will drop you from my list!).
For this year’s reflection, I thought I would share a story from Professor Terzaghi’s biography: “Karl Terzaghi – The Engineer as Artist” by Richard E. Goodman (quotes in italics). Terzaghi was in the U.S. in the fall of 1938 working on securing an appointment at Harvard. He received a lot of invitations to speak once word spread he was in the U.S. He organized them into something like a tour. “But he did not defer the invitation from Dean Grinter, of the Armour Institute of Technology in Chicago, because Karl knew that construction of new subway tunnels through soft clay was about to start under the heart of Chicago. At Armour Institute, he wisely chose to speak about the dangers of tunneling in soft clay beneath cities.” The lecture was on December 1, 1938. Representatives of the property owners along the subway right-of-way as well as the chief engineer of the subway department were in attendance. Both parties sought out Terzaghi as consultant and made offers. He eventually chose the offer to work for the city after requiring several conditions that including hiring Professor Ralph Peck, “beginning a job that propelled the young field of soils engineering.” The rest, as they say, is history. This story illustrates how the right words (a lecture, a presentation, etc.) at the right time in front of the right audience can pay huge dividends, both professionally and financially.
Remember that every day is a great day to be in the field of geotechnical engineering and construction! Have a great Karl Terzaghi’s Birthday!