Soil Testing Companies Background on soil testing companies

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In the late summer of 1951 Trask joined the faculty in Mineral Technology at Cal Berkeley, where he led Berkeley’s program focused on training engineering geologists for careers in industry and academia. He also taught a graduate course in engineering geology for civil engineering students. During the 1950s he took a leading role in the establishing the professional literature in engineering geology, and served as editor of the Engineering Geology Case Histories No. 1 (1957); No. 2 (1958), No. 3 (1959) and co-editor of No. 4 (issued posthumously in 1964). Trask took the title Professor of Geological Engineering in 1956 and directed the mineral technology program until his untimely death in early November 1961. His last consulting project was “Engineering geology of the proposed linear accelerator Sand Hill site, Stanford University, California.”

Lecturers in geological engineering (1961-71)

When Parker Trask died in November 1961 it left the future of the fledgling geological engineering program in doubt. In a bold move, Mineral Technology department chair Ralph Hultman hired three of the best engineering geologists in the nation, each on a quarter-time appointment: Tom Lang, Roger Rhoades, and Tommy Thompson. Lang (1909-94) had pioneered the use of rockbolt rock reinforcement techniques for the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Authority in southeastern Australia before imigrating to San Francisco in 1959 to head up Bechtel’s Hydro Division. Rhoades (1905-72) had served as Chief Geologist of the Tennessee Valley Authority and of the US Bureau of Reclamation prior to retiring from federal service. Thomas F. Thompson (1906-76) had worked for the Army Corps of Engineers, serving as Chief of the Geology Section working on the proposed Panama Canal expansion in the late 1940s. After retiring from the Corps, he consulted on numerous project s for the Ralph M. Parsons Co., Kaiser Engineers, Metropolitan Water District, and the Atomic Energy Commission.

In the fall of 1962, the department brought in engineering geologist Daniel G. Moye (1920-75) (BS Geol ‘41 Univ Sydney), former Head of the Engineering Geology Branch for the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Authority in Australia, as professional fellow for a one year term, to teach courses on applied engineering geology and the newly emerging specialty of rock mechanics. During this final year of Goodman’s academic training Moye became his professional mentor in applied rock mechanics and engineering geology (in January 1975 Dan Moye, his wife, and daughter were tragically killed in an automobile accident in their native Australia).

The new GE program also invited speakers as guest lecturers, such as retired Corps of Engineers engineering geologist Ray C. Treasher (1898-1967), who had an intimate working knowledge of the late Quaternary stratigraphy of the San Francisco Bay area from working on many of the dredging, filling, pipeline, and bridge crossings. Lang continued lecturing part-time on Saturdays for the next nine years (until 1971). Through Moye’s and Lang’s professional connections numerous field trips were taken to hydroelectric projects in the Sierras that were then under construction. These visiting lecturers and adjuncts, combined with Dick Goodman (who came aboard full-time in the fall of 1963) met the demands of the program, then housed in the Hearst Mining Building.

Richard E. Goodman (Berkeley faculty 1963-94)

Richard E. Goodman, PhD, NAE (1935-) completed undergraduate work in geology at Cornell (BA 1955), followed by a master’s in engineering science in 1958, working with aerial photography pioneer Prof. Don Belcher. Dick came to Berkeley to work on a PhD in mineral engineering with Prof. Parker Trask in 1959, but Trask died in November 1961. Goodman said he received a “battlefield commission” when, from his hospital bed, Trask asked him to take over his engineering geology class for civil engineers. Dick ended up completing his PhD under H. Bolton Seed in civil engineering in 1963 and was promptly appointed to Trask’s position. His thesis work dealt with earthquake-induced displacements in sand embankments due to liquefaction, a theme uncannily similar to that proposed by Illinois Professor Nathan Newmark a few months after touring Berkeley and being briefed on Goodman’s research.

Upon formally joining the faculty Dick began championing Berkeley’s geological engineering program, publishing timely articles about the application of geological engineering to civil works, such as the Baldwin Hills Reservoir failure in December 1963. The geological engineering program (Dick Goodman and Paul Witherspoon) was soon absorbed into the geotechnical engineering program in the Department of Civil Engineering, and moved to Davis Hall when it opened in 1968. With Harry Seed stepping in the department chair, civil engineering decided to make engineering geology a required course for their undergraduates in 1967.

Dick had hoped to co-author a book on geological engineering with Dan Moye and Tor Brekke, using Moye’s lecture notes as the original catalyst. Dick began writing in earnest during his Guggenheim Fellowship to the Royal School of Mines in 1973, where he worked with Evert Hoek, John Boyd, and John Bray. Moye’s tragic death in January 1975 precluded his involvement with the project. Dick’s textbook was released in June 1976, titled “Methods of Geological Engineering in Discontinuous Rocks,” and dedicated to Dan Moye. This was followed in 1980 by “Introduction to Rock Mechanics” (with a second edition in 1989), followed by “Block Theory and its Application to Rock Engineering” (with Shi Gen-hua) in 1984, “Engineering Geology: rock in engineering construction” in 1993, and “Karl Terzaghi: The Engineer as Artist” in 1998. Dick was elected to the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) in 1991, and served as ICE’s Rankine Lecturer in 1995, Norwegian Geotechnical Institute’s Terzaghi Fellow for 1995/1996, the Los Angeles ASCE Section’s Queen Mary Lecturer in 1997, the Sowers Lecturer in 2000, ASCE’s Civil Engineering History and Heritage Award in 2000, ASCE Seed Lecturer in 2001, the Kenneth L. Lee Lecturer on the Queen Mary in 2010, Keynote Speaker at the 2013 GeoCongress, and the G. A. Leonards Lecturer in 2015.

Prominent professors and consultants with whom Dick worked closely included Don Belcher, of Cornell, Harry Seed at Berkeley, Dan Moye from Australia, Tom Lang of Leeds Hill & Jewett, Roger Rhoades from the TVA and Bureau of Reclamation, Tommy Thompson from the Army Corps of Engineers, Pierre Londe of Coyne & Bellier, Sid Green of Terra Tek, Evert Hoek, John Bray and E. Ted Brown at Imperial College, Fred Kulhawy at Cornell, Wolfgang Roth and Art Darrow of Dames & Moore, Gilles Bureau of Woodward Clyde, Larry James of the California Dept of Water Resources, Ralph Peck and Don Deere from the University of Illinois, Neville Cook from Berkeley’s mining program, Dale Marcum, Bill Cotton and Pat Shires of Cotton-Shires, and Brian Greene of the Corps of Engineers. Dick also enjoyed affable relations with just about everyone working in the rock mechanics field between the late 1960s and early 1990s.

Some of his notable students included: Hans Ewoldsen, Richard Appuhn, Yuzo Ohnishi, Francois Heuze, Gilles J. Bureau, Quentin Gorton, Rudy de la Cruz, Ashraf Mahtab, Jacques Dubois, Alain de Rouvray, John Cadman, Jeff Dunn, Dick Thorpe, P.N. Sundaram, Paul Visca, Gerry Wieczorek, Rudy Sancio, Sr., Marc Hittinger, J. David Rogers, Bernard Amadei, Duncan Wyllie, Rick Nolting, Tarcisio Celestino, Tom Brunsing, Lap Yan Chan, Joe Ratigan, Marie Schauer, Nancy Tannaci, Doug Blankenship, Bill Boyle, Dale Marcum, Joel Kuszmaul, Anders Bro, Shi Gen-hua, Ron Yeung, Jesse Yow, John Tinucci, Bhaskar Thapa, Rick Sisson, Derek Ellsworth, Matt Mauldon, Yossef Hatzor, Eric Lindquist, Ed Medley, and Scott Kieffer.
Paul Witherspoon (Berkeley faculty 1957-77)

Paul A. Witherspoon, PhD, NAE (1919-2012) (BS PetE ’41 Pittsburgh; MS ’51 Kansas; PhD ’57 Illinois) came to Berkeley as a Professor of Petroleum Engineering in the Mineral Technology Department in 1957. In 1965 Paul was absorbed into the geological engineering program within civil engineering. He served as the group’s expert in hydrogeology and, in the 1970s, began working with the Energy and Environment Program established at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory (LBL) in 1971. In 1977 he became Director of the newly formed Earth Sciences Group at LBL, where he championed research on nuclear waste isolation, among other subjects. In 1989 he was elected to the National Academy of Engineering shortly before retiring from LBL. He continued working as one of the principal consultants to the Department of Energy on their Yucca Mountain Project at the Nevada Test Site. Some of his more notable students included Professors David T. Snow, R. Allen Freeze, Shlomo Neuman, Donald Helm, Iraj Javendel, Don McEdwards, T.N. ‘Nari’ Narasimhan, and Y.N.T. Maini.
Tor L. Brekke (Berkeley faculty 1970-93)

Tor Langfeldt Brekke, DIng, Lic.Tech. (1934-2009) completed his master’s degree in mining engineering at the Norwegian Institute of Technology in Trondheim in 1958, then spent three years in the Norwegian Army Engineers. In 1961 he returned to Trondheim and completed his Dr Ingenior degree in geological engineering in 1963, working on methods of abating the impacts swelling clay seams in tunnels, under Prof. R. Selmer-Olsen. He then served as a senior lecturer at the Norwegian Institute of Technology from 1963-69, which included a six-month stint as visiting research associate at Berkeley in 1967. In 1970 he joined the Berkeley faculty in geological engineering, after turning down a similar offer from the University of Illinois. He was promoted to full professor in 1976 and taught the basic engineering geology course, intro to geological engineering, geological engineering of underground openings, and co-taught a course with P.K. Mehta on concrete aggregates. He chaired the U.S. Committee on Tunneling Technology for many years in the late 1970s and early 1980s. He also chaired the Expert Panel of the NRC’s Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board. Tor served on the board of consultants of every major tunneling job in the United States from about 1977 until a few years before his death, in 2009. Some of his notable graduate students included: Norbert Tracy, Terry Howard, Gregg Korbin, Randy Essex, Ian Brown, Peter Lukins, Bob McManus, Brenda Myers-Bohlke, Glenn Boyce, Victor Romero, Mike McRae, and several others.
The civil engineering program at Berkeley

Berkeley’s civil and irrigation engineering programs garnered considerable respect in the late 19th and earth 20th Century because of their pioneering role in irrigation work, made possible by passage of the Wright Act by the state legislature in 1884. The university’s first doctorate degree was awarded to civil engineer Marsden Manson (1850-1931) (BSE 1870 VMI) in 1880 for his research work studying the transport of hydraulic mining debris down the Feather and Sacramento Rivers from the Sierras. Manson later served as City Engineer for San Francisco and was the moving force behind that city’s securing of the water rights to the Tuolumne River, resulting in the Hetch Hetchy Project.

In the early 20th Century, the San Francisco earthquake and fires, the provision of water supplies for San Francisco and Los Angeles, dominated municipal and statewide expenditures. Between 1907-1938 California suffered through some of the most devastating floods, which impacted much of the civil infrastructure that had recently been built. After the First World War California took a leading role in transportation and water resources engineering, and the rapid development of dams, aqueducts, highways, bridges, and port facilities combined to make California the most diverse and challenging state for civil works construction and infrastructure development.

Berkeley Civil Engineering Dean Professor Charles Derleth (BS 1894 CCNY; CE degree 1896 Columbia) began teaching at Berkeley in 1903. He taught the first course on foundation engineering in the San Francisco Bay Area, summarized in “Notes on Foundations and Masonry Structures” for Senior Courses in Civil Engineering, dated October 1921.

A few months later the San Francisco Section of ASCE set up a Subsoil Committee to investigate and report on “Foundation problems in the Filled-in Area of San Francisco.” The committee made regular reports at the b-monthly meetings of the San Francisco Section, and issued a report dated February 20, 1923. One of the key members of the ASCE SF Section Subsoil Committee was San Francisco structural engineer Leon H. Nishkian (BSCE ’06 Berkeley). Between 1929-31 his committee compiled an impressive 107 page document titled “Subsidence and the foundation problem in San Francisco.” The volume was edited by George F. Whitworth (whose May 1924 senior thesis at Berkeley under Professor Derleth was titled “The Subsoil Conditions in the Filled-In Districts of San Francisco”).

The Subsidence and Foundation Problems of San Francisco volume was released in September 1932. It contained 25 plates (several in color), including every historic map of San Francisco (to 1775), extensive records of the City’s seawalls, ground subsidence isopleth maps, and the logs of every soil boring drilled in the city up thru 1931. It also contained quotes from Karl Terzaghi’s article “The Science of Foundations, Its Present and Future,” which appeared in the ASCE Proceedings in 1927.

The 1932 compilation figured prominently in the teaching at Cal Berkeley up through 1946, when Arnie Olitt, Ned Clyde, and Dick Woodward began lecturing on soil mechanics at Berkeley, prior to starting their own form in January 1950 (described below). In 1950 Professor Harmer E. Davis and Dick Woodward collaborated on a laboratory manual titled Some laboratory studies of factors pertaining to the bearing capacity of soils, published by Berkeley’s Institute of Transportation and Traffic Engineering ITEE). This was based on a paper of the same title that the two men had presented at the 1949 annual meeting of the Highway Research Board (HRB).
Berkeley geotechnical engineering program (under construction)

H. Bolton Seed, PhD, NAE (1924-89) was the first tenure track faculty member hired by Berkeley specifically to teach soil mechanics and foundation engineering; in the fall of 1950 (he was elected to NAE in 1970). Clarence K. Chan, PE (BSCE ’52; MS ’54 Berkeley) joined the program as a research engineer in 1956, later becoming a lecturer. James K Mitchell, PhD, GE, NAE, NAS served as a professor from 1958-93 (elected to NAE in 1976 and the NAS in 1998), J. Michael Duncan, PhD, PE, NAE as a professor from 1965-84 (elected to NAE in 1985), William N. Houston, PhD, PE, PLS as a professor from 1968-85 (moved to Arizona State), John Lysmer, PhD (1931-99) as a professor from 1965-91, Nicholas Sitar PhD, PEng, as a professor beginning in 1981, Patrick C. Lucia, PhD, GE as a lecturer in 1984-86, Raymond B. Seed, PhD as a professor beginning in 1987, Jonathan D. Bray, PhD, PE as a professor beginning in 1993, Mike Riemer, PhD as adjunct associate professor beginning in 1993, J. David Rogers, PhD, GE, CEG, CHG as a lecturer from 1994-2001, Norman A. Abrahamson, PhD, PGP as a lecturer from 1996 onward, Juan Pestana, PhD, PE as a professor beginning in 1994, and Steve Glaser PhD as a professor of rock mechanics, beginning in 1997.

A few Berkeley faculty enjoyed joint appointments with the geotechnical program over the years. These included Professors Ben C. Gerwick, Jr., PE, SE, NAE (1919-2006) from construction management; Bruce A. Bolt, PhD, RG, RGP, NAE (1930-2005) Director of Berkeley’s Seismographic Laboratory from 1963-93, Carl L. Monismith, PE, NAE of transportation engineering (pavement design), and Robert G. Bea, PhD, SE, GE, NAE from construction management.

Charles H. Lee threadline
Charles H. Lee Consulting Engineer (1921-60); Pacific Hydrologic Laboratory (1926-60)

Charles Hamilton Lee, PE (1883-1967) graduated from U.C. Berkeley’s engineering program in 1905 and went to work for the U.S. Geological Survey as a hydrologist. He made the first credible studies of groundwater resources of San Diego County. In 1906 he was hired by William Mulholland of the City of Los Angeles Bureau of Waterworks & Supply to assess the water resources of the Owens River watershed, writing a comprehensive report that was published as USGS Water Supply Paper 294, and included as an appendix to the final report on the Los Angeles Aqueduct (published in 1916). He became Assistant Engineer for the Los Angeles Aqueduct (Owens River), with primary responsibility for the design of the various embankment dams appurtenant to that project (built on force account by city crews).

It was while working on the Los Angeles Aqueduct in 1912 that he began a life-long association with Karl Terzaghi (1883-1963), an Austrian engineer of the same age (29) who was visiting the United States to view its monumental construction projects, before the First World War. Terzaghi became the father of soil mechanics and foundation engineering, teaching at Robert College in Istanbul (1919-25), where he authored the textbook Erdbaumechanik in 1925 and Ingenieurgeologie in 1929 (with K. A. Redlich and R. Kampe).

Lee left the City’s employ in 1912 to work for the State Conservation Commission, investigating water resources in San Diego County (along with geologist A. J. Ellis), followed by four years in private practice in Los Angeles (beginning in April 1913), consulting in irrigation, public water supply, and developing hydroelectric power.  During the First World War (1917-19) Lee served as an Army Engineer officer in France, rising to the rank of captain. After the war he served as President of the California State Water Commission, and later as Chief of Division of Water Rights (1919-1921), which proved useful in his subsequent consultations as an expert witness on hydrology issues.

In 1921 Lee moved to Berkeley and opened an office in San Francisco specializing in sanitation and water supply consultations. He also taught courses in water supply engineering at Berkeley in 1923. During the early 1920s he was regularly engaged by the City of Los Angeles as their expert witness in the many lawsuits involving matters of hydrology in the Owens Valley, where the city had purchased water rights along the Owens River.

In March 1928 the St. Francis Dam failed and the City of Los Angeles employed Lee as their expert in the defense of numerous wrongful deaths lawsuits brought by the relatives of 450 odd victims. Given the volume of work in Los Angeles, Lee maintained a separate “satellite” office in Los Angeles throughout the 1920s. Other clients included the City of San Francisco Water Department and the East Bay Municipal Utility District, developing the resources of the Mokelumne River. He also worked for the State Department of Public Works in connection with the proposed salt water barrier in Upper San Francisco Bay in the late 1920s-early 1930s.

In 1926 Lee established the Pacific Hydrologic Laboratory, which came to include the first soils engineering laboratory on the West Coast. Lee was the first engineer in California to offer consultations in the emerging field of soils and foundation engineering, building on the increasing notoriety of Terzaghi, who lectured at MIT in 1925-29, and then, at Harvard between 1938-56 (Terzaghi also corresponded with R.V. Labarre and Fred Converse in Los Angeles during the 1930s). Lee’s appreciation of seismic hazards and associated geohazards are evident in his writings of the period, such as: “The future development of the metropolitan area surrounding San Francisco Bay,” published in the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America in 1926. From 1936-1939 Lee served as Chief of Water Supply and Sanitation for the Golden Gate International Exposition on Treasure Island. Other soil engineering work included slide repairs, foundation engineering, tunnels, and earth dams. He was a recipient of the 1939 Norman Medal awarded by ASCE for his research on materials for embankment dams.

Lee’s work files (through 1955) are maintained by the University of California Water Resources Center Archives (now in Riverside and San Bernardino). His pioneering work on predicting long term settlement and risk from earthquakes to the hydraulic fill comprising Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay proved remarkably accurate and prophetic. Increasingly petulant with age (he refused to pay employees for vacation or sick time), he died in his Berkeley home at the age of 84 on May 4, 1967.
Lee and Praszker (1960-1996)

A partnership between Charles H. Lee (1883-1967) and Michael Praszker (1917-99) was formed around 1960. Of Polish birth and heritage, Michael Praszker served in the Royal Air Force during WWII and subsequently received a degree in Applied Mathematics from the Imperial College in London. He immigrated to California in 1950 and earned a second bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Cal Berkeley in 1953. After graduation, Praszker briefly worked as a structural engineer for PG&E, then joined Charles H. Lee Consulting Engineers, in early 1954. Praszker was registered as RCE 10641 in July 1956 and became Lee’s partner in 1960, when Lee was 77 and Praszker was 43. Both men were stellar engineers with colorful reputations for becoming increasingly cantankerous with age.

Lee and Praszker’s office was originally at 58 Sutter Street in San Francisco. After the death of Charles Lee in 1967, Praszker moved the office 147 Natomas Street, in a former city fire station. Praszker abandoned much of Charles Lee’s groundwater hydrology clients, preferring to concentrate on foundation engineering for high-rise buildings, bridges and large industrial projects, as well as earth embankments and landslides. Praszker lived in Marin County and served as a Marin County Planning Commissioner in the 1960s.

Mike Praszker liked to brag that he and Charles Lee “wrote the book on Bay Mud,” referring to Lee’s pioneering work on predicting settlements on Treasure Island in the 1930s, and culminating with their article “Bay mud developments and related structural foundation,“ in the seminal volume “Geologic and Engineering Aspects of San Francisco Bay Fill,” published by the California Division of Mines & Geology as Special Report 97 in 1969. Praszker continued working till 1992, when he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and the firm was dissolved in 1996. He died in 1999.

Some notable engineers who worked for Lee and/or Lee & Praszker included: Jack W. Rolston, PE (1953), Arthur T. Knutson, PE Ben J. Lennert, PE, Richard Appuhn, PE, CEG (1963-67), J. P. Singh (1965), Will A. Thomas, Don Hillebrandt, PE, Richard Rodgers, PE (later Treadwell & Rollo), Michael F. Majchrzak, GE (BSCE ’75 Loyola Marymount; MS ’77 Stanford; went onto Kleinfelder), John Gouchon (Treadwell & Rollo), Paul Lai, GE (Berlogar), Craig Shields, GE (Rockridge Geotechnical), Ed Becker PhD, GE (left the firm in 1969 to pursue his PhD at Berkeley), John Hovland, PhD, GE (PhD ’70 Berkeley; became Chief Geotech Eng’r of PG&E), David T. Hsu, GE (became Senior Geotech Eng’r for City of Los Angeles), John M. Raney, GE (MSCE ’73 Berkeley; owner of Raney Geotechnical of Sacramento), Chuck Graves, Tom A. Tobin, GE (BSCE ’78; MS ’79 Berkeley), Barry Milstone GE (1980-83), and many others.
Derivative firms of Lee & Praszker

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