He studied mechanical engineering at the Technical University in Graz , graduating in , then worked as an engineer for several years; he was awarded a doctorate in engineering by the same institution in When the war was over, he took a post —25 with Robert College, a U. Much research had been done on foundations, earth pressure, and stability of slopes, but Terzaghi set out to organize the results and, through research, to provide unifying concepts. The results were published in his most noted work, Erdbaumechanik ; Introduction to Soil Mechanics, — In he went to the United States, where—as a member of the faculty of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology , Cambridge—he worked unceasingly for the acceptance of his ideas, serving also as consulting engineer for many construction projects. In he accepted the newly created chair of soil mechanics at Vienna Technical University.
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At 10, Terzaghi was sent to a military boarding school, where he developed an interest in astronomy and geography. At age fourteen, Terzaghi entered a different military school, in Hranice , the Crown of Bohemia. He was an excellent student, especially in geometry and mathematics, and graduated with honors at He was nearly expelled at one point but ended up graduating with honors in While fulfilling his military obligations, Terzaghi translated and greatly expanded a popular English geology field manual to German.
He returned to the university for one year and combined the study of geology with courses on subjects such as highway and railway engineering. Shortly afterward, he published his first academic paper on the geology of terraces in southern Styria. The firm was becoming more involved in the relatively new field of hydroelectric power generation, and Karl became involved in the geological problems the firm faced.
His responsibilities quickly increased, and by , he was managing a construction site, workers, and the design and construction of steel-reinforced structures. He embarked on a project to construct a hydroelectric dam in Croatia. For six months in Russia , he developed some novel graphical methods for the design of industrial tanks, which he submitted as a thesis for his PhD at the university.
He emigrated to the United States in In the United States, on his own, he undertook an engineering tour of major dam construction sites in the West. He used the opportunity to gather reports and firsthand knowledge of the problems of many different projects, and he returned to Austria in December When World War I broke out, he found himself drafted into the army as an officer directing a man engineering battalion.
He eventually led 1, men, faced combat in Serbia, and witnessed the fall of Belgrade. There, he began a rigorous study of the properties of soils in an engineering context. Both his measurements and his analysis of the force on retaining walls were first published in English in , and they were quickly recognized as an important new contribution to the scientific understanding of the fundamental behavior of soils. He began studying experimental and quantitative aspects of the permeability of soils to water and produced theories to explain the observations.
He invented novel equipment as part of the work. Later years[ edit ] One of his first tasks in the United States was to bring his work to the attention of engineers.
Then, he proceeded to do by writing a series of articles for the Engineering News Record, which were published in winter , then as a small book in He found the facilities at MIT abominable and had to deal with obstruction from the administration. Brushing the obstacles aside, he once more set up a new laboratory geared towards making measurements on soils with instruments of his own devising. He entered a new phase of prolific publication and a rapidly growing and lucrative involvement as an engineering consultant on many large-scale projects.
In , Aurelia Schober Plath, who would become the mother of the poet Sylvia Plath , worked as a secretary for Terzaghi. She was of Austrian descent and worked for him by translating a handwritten manuscript in German, dealing with new principles of soil mechanics. She claims the experience affected her for the rest of her life and that she "realized how narrow my world had been and that self-education could be and should be an exciting lifelong adventure.
It was the beginning of my dream for the ideal education of the children I hoped some day to have. Terzaghi was much in demand as a dinner companion and was a fascinating conversationalist. His striking good looks and evident power was very attractive to women. In , he met the young Harvard doctoral student in geology, Ruth Dogget , and fell deeply in love.
That year, Terzaghi was finally fed up with MIT and its president and determined to return to Europe. He accepted a chair at the Vienna Technische Hochshule in the winter of He married Ruth, who became his editor and collaborator as well. A short consulting trip to the Soviet Union before taking up his post horrified him, and he came to oppose the communist system there, as a regime exemplified by its brutality and chaos.
His teaching workload was now relatively light so he continued his experimental investigations and became especially interested in the problems of the settling of foundations , and of grouting. He began writing the manuscript for a much updated and expanded version of Erdbaumechanik, now set for two volumes. However, the political turmoil in Austria began to interfere with his work, and in , he decided to take a leave from Vienna from to That led to a conflict over the best way to lay a sound foundation, which led to a discussion with Hitler himself, who took an intense interest in all details of the architecture.
He returned to Vienna in September , shortly after the birth of his first son Eric. In Vienna, he returned to a nasty professional and political controversy including an acrimonious dispute with Paul Fillunger , which he overcame only with some difficulty. Certainly only one of the three could be right, and that one is the Bolsheviks. In , he emigrated to the United States and took up a post at Harvard University.
By the end of the war, he had consulted on the Chicago subway system, Newport News Shipways construction, and raising the Normandie , among others. He became an American citizen in March Brown Medal in He remained as a part-timer at Harvard University until his retirement in , at the mandatory age of He resigned that post in after coming into conflict with the Soviet engineers in charge of the project but continued to consult on various hydroelectric projects, especially in British Columbia.
Legacy[ edit ] The American Society of Civil Engineers established in the Karl Terzaghi Award to an "author of outstanding contributions to knowledge in the fields of soil mechanics, subsurface and earthwork engineering, and subsurface and earthwork construction.
As Professor Goodman describes him, Karl Terzaghi was a remarkable man and an impassioned engineer. As he put it himself, "All the modest achievements which I have to my credit can be described by a simple formula… Guided by common sense and casual observations, I recognized weak points in traditional procedures and tried to make them less weak. Sometimes I failed, but usually I succeeded.
At 10, Terzaghi was sent to a military boarding school, where he developed an interest in astronomy and geography. At age fourteen, Terzaghi entered a different military school, in Hranice , the Crown of Bohemia. He was an excellent student, especially in geometry and mathematics, and graduated with honors at He was nearly expelled at one point but ended up graduating with honors in While fulfilling his military obligations, Terzaghi translated and greatly expanded a popular English geology field manual to German. He returned to the university for one year and combined the study of geology with courses on subjects such as highway and railway engineering. Shortly afterward, he published his first academic paper on the geology of terraces in southern Styria.
Karl von Terzaghi
Soil Mechanics in Engineering Practice