Alec Skempton bigraphy, stories - Civil engineer

Alec Skempton : biography

4 June 1914 - 9 August 2001

Sir Alec Wesley Skempton FRS FREng (4 June 1914 – 9 August 2001) was a leader in and founding father of soil mechanics. As a founding member of the Institution of Civil Engineers' Soil Mechanics and Foundations committees he studied at City and Guilds College London and established the Soil Mechanics course at Imperial College London, where the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department's building is named after him.

International recognition

Sir Alec Skempton was a member of the Links Club of the City and Guilds College whilst at Imperial College. He delivered the 4th Rankine Lecture titled Long-term stability of clay slopes. In recognition of his contribution to the science of Soil Mechanics, in 2004, shortly after his death, the building where the department of Civil & Environmental Engineering at Imperial College is located and which he passed most of his life was named after him: The Skempton Building.


Skempton worked on many high profile projects through his life as well as occupying important positions within the ICE; notably the back analysis of the Chingford reservoir failure and other embankment dams, including that at Chew Valley Lake, for which he designed an array of sand-drains to accelerate consolidation of the weak alluvial foundations, the first such in the UK. He was the chair of the civil engineers archive panel at ICE where he edited work on John Smeaton, regarded as the founder of civil engineering.

In situ behaviour of natural clays was of great interest to Skempton, who wrote two papers published by the Geological Society on the geological compaction of natural clays. Amongst other academic writings, he formulated concepts such as that of A and B pore water pressure coefficient which is still widely used today.


Other accolades to his name include Fellow of the Royal Society, Founding Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering and the second president of the International Society of Soil Mechanics and Foundation Engineering, following Terzaghi. Skempton also accumulated medals from the ICE, the Geological Society, Newcomen Society, the Terzaghi award from the American Society of Civil Engineers and a gold medal from the Institution of Structural Engineers (IStructE).

Living octopus

Living octopus

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