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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.

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Ralph Brazelton Peck: Civil Engineer

Posted August 02, 2012 12:00 AM by SavvyExacta

Ralph Brazelton Peck was born in Canada on June 23, 1912. He was a civil engineer and a member the faculty of the University of Illinois for over 50 years.

The Peck family moved from Canada to the U.S. when he was six years old. After graduating from high school, Peck was a junior member of the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad signal gang where he performed trackside work He then continued on to college - both as a student and a professor.

Peck attended Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) and was given a three-year fellowship for graduate work in structures. Most of his time was spent working with structures, mathematics, and geology. He received a bachelor's degree in Civil Engineering and a doctorate of Civil Engineering in 1934 and 1937, respectively. On the day of his graduation, June 14, 1937, Peck completed his graduate work and married Marjorie Truby.

His first design was a 60-foot long girder for the Rio Grande Railroad near Aztec, New Mexico. It washed out during a flash flood a few years later. He was laid off from his first job after seven months. Peck began additional post-graduate study at Harvard University. He took a course with Arthur Casagrande and impressed him enough to become a lab assistant and field observer.

Karl Terzaghi supervised Peck's consulting work at Republic Steel. Terzaghi recommended that Peck take a faculty position that had been offered to him by the University of Illinois. Peck was a member of the faculty at the University of Illinois from 1942-1974. He authored and co-authored over 200 publications including text books.

Before his teaching career, Peck briefly worked for the American Bridge Company and on the Chicago Subway. Upon retirement from the University of Illinois he worked as a consulting engineer on over 1,045 projects until about 2005. His involvement included:

  • Lock and dam construction failures on the Ohio River
  • Dams in the James Bay project in Quebec
  • Trans-Alaska Pipeline System
  • Rapid transit systems in Chicago, San Francisco, and Washington

Peck was president of the International Society of Soil Mechanics and Foundation Engineering from 1969-1973. He received the National Medal of Science in 1975. Peck died on February 18, 2008.

Missouri University of Science and Technology has an excellent photo-bio of Peck: Ralph B. Peck: Photographic Essay of an Amazing Career.

Resources:

Engineering at Illinois - Ralph Brazelton Peck

Missouri University of Science and Technology - Ralph B. Peck: Photographic Essay of an Amazing Career

Wikipedia - Ralph Brazelton Peck

World Wide Web of Geotechnical Engineers - Hall of Fame - Ralph Brazelton Peck

http://www.rpi.edu/magazine/spring2008/classnotes/peck.jpg [image]

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Re: Ralph Brazelton Peck: Civil Engineer

08/03/2012 6:45 AM

Thank you Savvy for posting this! I had the great pleasure of attending an engineering conference back in the mid-80's where Dr. Peck spoke. This man was one of the most influential Civil Engineers of the last century, and one of my engineering heroes!

R.I.P. Dr. Peck, you are sorely missed by the CE community and the world in general.

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