Professor T. W. “Bill” Lambe November 28, 1920 – March 6, 2017

T. William Lambe — 1982

This outstanding alumnus, who earned his B.S. degree in Civil Engineering in 1942, has made major contributions to the knowledge of earth structures, settlement control, foundation performances, and soil structure and behavior.

He is Edmund K. Turner Professor of Civil Engineering, Emeritus, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a consultant in geotechnical engineering. He retired from MIT last year, after 36 years on the faculty.

During his tenure he served as Director of the Soil Stabilization Laboratory, Head of the Geotechnical Division, and Professor of Geotechnical Engineering. He developed the Integrated Civil Engineering project concept, combining applied research with engineering practice to improve design and to advance research. He has conducted pioneering research in soil mechanics and is author of Soil Testing for Engineers.

NASA has twice recognized his contributions to the Apollo Program for which he shaped the exploration project of the surface of the moon. He has also received the Norman Medal, the highest honor bestowed by the American Society of Civil Engineers, and the Society’s Terzaghi Award for his geotechnical engineering contributions. He has been honored with election to the National Academy of Engineering.

Professor T. W. “Bill” Lambe November 28, 1920 – March 6, 2017

T. William “Bill” Lambe, 96, of Sarasota died peacefully Monday, March 6, 2017. He was born on November 28, 1920 in Raleigh, NC; son of Claude Milton and Mary Habel Lambe. He was preceded in death by his brother Claude Lambe, and his wife of 59 years, Catharine “Kit” Cadbury Lambe.

Professor Lambe graduated from North Carolina State University in 1942 with a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering and following graduation held several engineering jobs before beginning graduate study at MIT in 1943 where he received a Masters degree in Civil Engineering in 1944 and a Doctor of Science degree in 1948.  In July 1945 he started working at MIT as an instructor reaching the rank of full Professor on July 1959. In June 1969 he was chosen as the first Edmund K. Turner Professor of Civil Engineering which he held until his retirement from teaching in June 1981.   His contributions as an academic were fundamental and far reaching.  His textbooks “Soil Testing for Engineers”, published in 1951, and “Soil Mechanics”, co-authored with Robert Whitman and published in 1969, were path-breaking.  Of the many important contributions, also including soil chemistry, soil stabilization and freezing, the stress path method and the formalizing of geotechnical prediction stand out.  The predictive approaches are very typical of Professor Lambe’s research, having a close relation to engineering practice.  Many of us will remember the workshops in which colleagues from all over the world were asked to make performance predictions, which were then compared to the results of major field experiments that were conducted after the predictions were “in”.  Another remarkable example of Professor Lambe’s ability to have research and practical engineering benefit from each other was the instrumentation of foundation work on multiple MIT buildings constructed during the building boom of the 1960’s and for Boston area subway construction.  MIT geotechnical students were educated to become engineers through practice oriented research and direct or indirect involvement in Professor Lambe’s consulting projects.  As a consultant, Professor Lambe worked for clients from Japan, the Netherlands, Turkey, Egypt, Libya, Venezuela,Jamaica, Qatar, Puerto Rico, as well as clients in many parts of the U.S.  The projects included landslides; earth dams for storage of oil, mining waster, and water; building foundations; foundations for an off-shore storm surge barrier; hydraulic reclamation projects; and many other project types.  He remained active as a consultant until his early 90’s.

Dr. Lambe was a member of the National Academy of Engineering, an Honorary Member of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), a Fellow of the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE), an Honorary Member of the Southeast Asian Society of Geotechnical Engineering and an Honorary Member of the Venezuelan Society of Soil mechanics and Foundation Engineering.  His more than 100 publications earned him many awards including the ASCE’s highest award, the Norman Medal, in 1964, the ASCE Terzaghi Award in 1975, and the N.C. State University Distinguished Engineering Alumnus Award in 1982. In addition to being a prolific and effective writer, Dr. Lambe was an excellent lecturer presenting the ASCE Terzaghi Lecture in 1970, the ICE Rankine Lecture in 1973, as well as many other honorary lectures.

He is survived by five children-Philip and wife Catherine, Virginia and husband Robert Guaraldi, Richard and wife Michele, Robert and wife Judith, and Susan and husband Scott Clary; who live in North Carolina, New Hampshire, Washington, Massachusetts, and Virginia.  His growing family now includes 14 grandchildren and their 6 spouses, and 7 great grandchildren.  Professor Lambe led an active life participating in tennis, golf, badminton, skiing, riding and jumping horses, cattle ranching, boating, and fishing.  A man of numbers, he lived in 21 residences located in 7 different states.  Starting shortly after retirement from MIT he participated in 14 reunions of his growing family in 6 different US states and 2 Canadian Provinces.  He also participated in the Longview Society that met monthly to discuss a wide range of national, international, and societal subjects.

A memorial service was held on, March 26, 2017 at All Angels Episcopal Church, in Longboat Key, Florida.