Great Engineers & Scientists Blog

Great Engineers & Scientists

In 1676, Sir Isaac Newton wrote "If I have seen further it is by standing on ye shoulders of Giants." In this blog, we take Newton's words to heart, and recognize the many great engineers and scientists upon whose shoulders we stand.

So who do you think of when you hear "Great Engineer"? Let us know! Submit a few paragraphs about that person and we'll add him or her to the pantheon. Please provide a citation for the material that you submit so that we can verify it. Please note - it has to be original material. We cannot publish copywritten material or bulk text taken from books or other sites (including Wikipedia).

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Arthur Casagrande: Early Geotechnical Engineer (1902-1981)

Posted January 23, 2012 12:00 AM by SavvyExacta

Arthur Casagrande moved from Austria to the U.S. in 1926 at age 24. He was a professor of soil mechanics who started the Soil Mechanics program at Harvard University and conducted research on soil classification, seepage through the earth, and shear strength. It's likely that the "A-Line" on the plasticity chart is named after him.

Casagrande earned a civil engineering degree from the Technische Hochschule in Vienna, Austria in 1924. He continued to work there after graduation as a full-time assistant in the hydraulics laboratory.


Casagrande's first American appointment was to Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1926. He was a research assistant with the U.S. Bureau of public roads. His work focused on improving apparatus and techniques for soil testing. In 1929 he worked again in Vienna, Austria helping to set up a soil mechanics laboratory.

He made several fundamental contributions to the understanding of soil mechanics:

  • Point pressure is induced during undrained shearing
  • Significant differences in mechanical characteristics between undisturbed and remodeled clay
  • Procedures for identifying the preconsolidation pressure in an overconsolidated soil
  • Worked on Atterberg limits (it's possible the "A-line" on plasticity charts is named for Arthur)


The Soil Mechanics program at Harvard University was started by Casagrande in 1932. It served as a model for other programs because it emphasized laboratory courses and included seepage as an inherent part of the curriculum. Casagrande was promoted to chief of soil mechanics and foundation engineering at Harvard in 1946.

Other Work

Casagrande consulted for the Army Corp of Engineers, helping them to understand soil mechanics for airfield construction. He trained about 400 army officers in the program.

He also participated in the design and construction of earth dams around the world. This was related to his research on seepage and soil liquefaction.

Casagrande organized the first International Conference on Soil Mechanics and Foundation Engineering in 1936. It helped legitimize his work in soil mechanics as an essential part of civil engineering.


New York Times - Arthur Casagrande, Teacher And Innovator in Dam Design

Wikipedia - Arthur Casagrande

World Wide Web of Geotechnical Engineers - Arthur Casagrande [image]


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