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This is the 22nd Volume in the series Memorial Tributes compiled by the National Academy of Engineering as a personal remembrance of the lives and outstanding achievements of its members and international members. These volumes are intended to stand as an enduring record of the many contributions of engineers and engineering to the benefit of humankind. In most cases, the authors of the tributes are contemporaries or colleagues who had personal knowledge of the interests and the engineering accomplishments of the deceased. Through its members and international members, the ...
This is the 22nd Volume in the series Memorial Tributes compiled by the National Academy of Engineering as a personal remembrance of the lives and outstanding achievements of its members and international members. These volumes are intended to stand as an enduring record of the many contributions of engineers and engineering to the benefit of humankind. In most cases, the authors of the tributes are contemporaries or colleagues who had personal knowledge of the interests and the engineering accomplishments of the deceased. Through its members and international members, the Academy carries out the responsibilities for which it was established in 1964.
Under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering was formed as a parallel organization of outstanding engineers. Members are elected on the basis of significant contributions to engineering theory and practice and to the literature of engineering or on the basis of demonstrated unusual accomplishments in the pioneering of new and developing fields of technology. The National Academies share a responsibility to advise the federal government on matters of science and technology. The expertise and credibility that the National Academy of Engineering brings to that task stem directly from the abilities, interests, and achievements of our members and international members, our colleagues and friends, whose special gifts we remember in this book.
BY JOHN SCHMERTMANN
ELIO D’APPOLONIA died December 30, 2015, after a long career that made him known around the world for his pioneering work in the area of dams and tailings disposal, heavily loaded foundations for industrial facilities, and the best ways to accomplish such work.
Born April 14, 1918, to Italian immigrants in Crow’s Nest Pass near Coleman, Alberta, Canada, D’App, as he was called, developed a lifelong passion for hockey and hoped to play professionally. But his father wisely put him to work in his construction company and then encouraged him to enter college. D’App received bachelor’s (1942) and master’s degrees (1946) in civil engineering from the University of Alberta. During the summers in 1942–46, he worked for the US Army Corps of Engineers on the engineering and construction of foundations, airfields, and highways on permafrost in northern Canada and Alaska.
In January 1939 he met his future wife, Violet Mary (nicknamed Tina), in Edmonton. They married May 2, 1942, and went on to have five children.
In the summer of 1946 D’App moved his young family to Illinois, where he completed his doctorate (1948) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, working with an early version of the finite element analysis method. They then moved to Pittsburgh, where he devoted the next eight years to teaching and research at the Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon University, CMU). His interest and training, primarily in structural engineering and applied mechanics, expanded to soil mechanics and foundation engineering when he was asked to fill this void in the CMU curriculum. This came to dominate his professional interests for the remainder of his life.
In 1950 he started a part-time consultancy on projects involving structural and soil mechanics problems. But after several heart attacks and his doctor’s orders to pick the least stressful between teaching and consulting, in 1956 D’App stepped down as a full professor to start the consulting engineering practice that became Elio D’Appolonia Consulting Engineers (EDCE).
EDCE grew and flourished to become an internationally renowned leader in geotechnical engineering, a multifaceted group of companies providing geotechnical engineering, construction, and related environmental and Earth science services to both private industry and government agencies. D’App embraced challenging and difficult clients and projects and found creative solutions for them. His many projects included the foundation, design, and construction for the New Bethlehem Steel Manufacturing Facility in Burns Harbor, Indiana; the construction of a nuclear power plant on a deep fill in Italy for Enel; and resolution of unexpected foundation movements that affected construction of the velodrome for the 1976 Olympics in Montreal. He was also a member of the Board of Construction during the construction of the Merrill Creek Dam in northwestern New Jersey.
D’App made seminal contributions to the fields of geotechnical and foundation engineering. He authored numerous technical papers and served on many committees in professional societies, often as chair. Honors in recognition of his achievements include the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Thomas A. Middlebrooks Award (1969, shared with his son David) and 24th Karl Terzaghi Lecture (1988), election to the NAE in 1977, and honorary doctorates from CMU and the University of Genoa, Italy. He was also a driving force and founding member of ASFE (now the Geoprofessional Business Association).
His Terzaghi Lecture, “Monitored Decisions,” argued for the complete integration of the geotechnical engineer in the design, construction, and monitoring performance during and after construction. He ended his abstract for the lecture paper1 with these words:
"A monitored-decision process provides a means to gain knowledge, be innovative, and mitigate adverse relationships between parties involved in the ownership, construction, and operation of a facility. "
This thinking, and putting it into practice as illustrated by the case histories in the Terzaghi Lecture, inspired his students, colleagues, and clients. One interesting result of his efforts: In 1974 ASCE changed the name of the “Soil Mechanics and Foundations Division” to the “Geotechnical Engineering Division,” which ultimately led to the present Geo-Institute.
Upon learning of his passing, former ASCE president Bill Marcuson said, “May we all have such a long, significant, and impactful life.”
D’App is survived by Tina; children Kenneth (Kathleen), Michael (Elizabeth), Linda (Timothy Knecht), and Mark (Deborah); daughter-in-law Eileen D’Appolonia; sister Elsie Whetstone; 11 grandchildren; and 27 great-grandchildren. Son David died in 2006.