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Karl von Terzaghi
The Father of Soil Mechanics


He who said "Erdbaumechanik" in 1923

KvT in a nutshell:

Born: October 2, 1883 in Prague
Died: October 25, 1963 in Winchester, Massachusetts
He was married to Ruth D. Terzaghi, a geologist.
He won the Norman Medal of ASCE four times (1930, 1943, 1946, and 1955).
He was given nine honorary doctorate degrees from universities in eight different countries.
He started modern soil mechanics with his theories of consolidation, lateral earth pressures, bearing capacity, and stability.

KvT's Publications

The following is a brief list of his major publications, a complete list has not yet been compiled. A list of his first 256 papers and reports can be found in From Theory to Practice in Soil Mechanics - Karl Terzaghi by Bjerrum, et al., John Wiley and Sons, 1960. An update was published by Geotechnique, March 1964. Recently a private compilation of Terzaghi's works has been uncovered---see the Terzaghi Libraries and Museums.

Terzaghi, K., 1925, Erdbaumechanik, Franz Deuticke, Vienna
This is where he presented to the world the new science, Soil Mechanics, that he developed mainly while working at ITU and Bogazici University (then known as Robert College) in Istanbul (then known by some as Constantinople). We have a picture of that campus --The birth place of Soil Mechanics-- People who see this photo say "if you worked there you were bound to invent something." The exact birth place is at the top of the hill, in that photo, just above the left tower of the castle-- the castle, by the way, was built by Fatih in 1453. It may be worthwhile to record here that KvT has done his consolidation tests --the first in history--in cigarette boxes For the benefit of the younger generations who may not know what a cigarette box is, here is the background information about cigarette boxes.

Terzaghi, K., 1934, "Large Retaining Wall Tests," Engineering News Record Feb.1, March 8, April 19
This is where he presents his experimental side. He invented very ingenious tools for measurement of forces and displacements. He apparently designed, constructed, and performed all his tests himself.

Terzaghi, K., 1943, Theoretical Soil Mechanics, John Wiley and Sons, New York
In this monumental work he lays it all out: consolidation theory, settlement calculations, bearing capacity theory, lateral earth pressures and retaining walls, shear strength and slope stability. In all cases he makes it clear that he is doing all that to be able to solve real world problems. He always gives design/analysis charts to make it easier for the engineer to apply the theories he developed or reorganized and perfected for practical use.

Terzaghi, K., and Ralph B. Peck, 1948, Soil Mechanics in Engineering Practice, John Wiley and Sons, New York
The second edition by Ralph B. Peck, 1967
The third edition by Ralph B. Peck and Gholamreza Mesri, 1996

Stories about Terzaghi

KvT's famous Court Appearence story.
Story contributed by Cameran Mirza, P.E.

KvT was the advisor of one of the earliest doctoral theses awarded at MIT, Boston, MA, in all engineering fields. It is also said that at the time, it was believed that engineers were not capable of such things as a doctoral study.

The grand master's "Home Page" is not complete, as you see. We will accept any information, advice, and opinion contributed by our readers until 113th birthday of the Father of Soil Mechanics.

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