ISSMGE Bulletin: Volume 7, Issue 5


H. Brandl
Vienna University of Technology, Austria


This paper is a modification of the author‟s oral presentation at the 15th ECSMGE in Athens in 2011. It focuses on the European history of ISSMGE and underlines the interaction with other related societies. Presidents/chairpersons and founding data of the European Member Societies are listed, and several details to conferences are given. Though focusing on the Past, the paper illustrates also the links to the Present. A tribute to the late pioneers of soil mechanics and geotechnical engineering will be given within an extended version of this paper (available at ISSMGE).


Cet article est une modification de la présentation faite par l’auteur présent à la 15e ECSMGE à Athènes en 2011. Il se concentre sur l’histoire européenne de la SIMSG et souligne l’interaction avec d’autres sociétés. Les présidents et fondateurs de données des sociétés membres de l’UE sont présentés, et plusieurs détails concernant les conférences sont aussi introduits. Bien que mettant l’accent sur le passé, le document illustre aussi les liens avec le présent. Un hommage aux récents pionniers de la mécanique des sols et de l’ingénierie géotechnique sera donné dans une version étendue de ce document (disponible auprès de la SIMSG).


The history of ISSMGE was formed by outstanding personalities, by international committees and conferences, by particular member societies, and by the worldwide rise of soil mechanics and geotechnical engineering since the 1930/1940ies. Nearly all early work was done by engineers rather than by geologists, for the simple reason that they were in every-day contact with engineering problems, and its value was obvious to them (R. Glossop in [6]). This situation has hardly changed during the decades, but the number of geotechnical engineers and scientists more interested in the solution of theoretical problems has clearly increased. This, on the other hand, has widened the gap between geotechnical practice and the academics.

In 2011 the 75th Anniversary of ISSMGE was celebrated at all Regional Conferences of ISSMGE. Consequently, this paper considers only the European Region, though close links and interactions have existed worldwide since the continental “ISSMGE Regions”, were set up. Moreover, many personalities changed from one continent to another, mainly from Europe to North America (e.g. K. Terzaghi, A. Casagrande, J. Hvorslev, G.G. Meyerhof, G.P. Tschebotarioff).


The publication of Karl Terzaghi‟s fundamental book “Erdbaumechanik” with the addendum “aufbodenphysikalischer Grundlage” (Mechanics of Earthwork based on Soils Physics) published in Vienna, 1925, is considered worldwide as the birth of modern Science of “Soil Mechanics”. In 1929 K. Terzaghi (Fig. 1) was appointed full professor at the Technische Hochschule Wien (now Vienna University of Technology, i.e. TU Vienna), where he founded the Institute for Soil Mechanics and Ground Engineering as a new branch of the Department of Hydro Engineering. Hence, it was University-internally also called “Hydro-Engineering II”, and this underlined from the very beginning the close link and interaction between soil and water, or soil mechanics, hydrogeology and hydro engineering, respectively. Moreover, Arthur Casagrande (1902 – 1981) – Fig. 2, also Austrian citizen, had studied civil engineering at the TU Vienna, and he was assistant at the Institute for Hydro Engineering I. Road engineering was another topic of common interest of K. Terzaghi and A. Casagrande.

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