Application of Geology to Engineering Practice

Application of Geology to Engineering Practice

Application of Geology to Engineering Practice

Application of Geology to Engineering Practice


Some years ago a group of geologists led by Professor C. R. Longwell of Yale University and Professor A. I. Levorsen of Stanford University proposed to honor Dr. Charles Peter Berkey, Newberry Professor Emeritus of Columbia University, for his life-long contributions in the field of engineering geology, by assembling and publishing a number of original papers each of which would deal with a special facet of the subject.

The Geological Society of America, through its President Dr. N. L. Bowen, appointed a committee to carry out this proposal and agreed to publish the symposium. Dr. W. O. Hotchkiss was duly appointed Chairman of a working group, among whom were Sidney Paige, W. S. Mead, J. P. Buwalda, and B. C. Moneymaker.

The authors, each selected for his particular knowledge in the field, have given generously of their time. It was agreed that broad principles, rather than engineering or geologic detail, should be emphasized, but aside from this broad consideration each author was to prepare his material independently. To them all our thanks are due.

It is doubtful whether these papers need further introduction. Each is addressd to a technically trained audience and is planned to emphasize principles, rather than the minutiae of engineering and geologic practice. The title of the boor--The Application of Geology to Engineering Practice--is self-explanatory and is well understood by engineers and geologists.

No single individual of our generation has done more than Doctor Berkey to stimulate the application of geology to the art of engineering. That the two professions are mutually supporting should be obvious.

Yet, error, obvious today, was the accepted wisdom of yesterday, and there will always remain in the relations of men to each other, or of groups to one another, attitudes that appear somewhat contrary to common sense. Thus there is always the danger of "ingrown" thinking, emphasized by over-specialization, and hence the ever- present, and increasing, need of encouraging understanding among related groups in order that advances in knowledge in one field may be applied steadily and usefully in another. It is equally important to distinguish motives and objectives from the tools one employs to fulfill them. Not that the fashioning of tools is per se unimportant; but in one's immersion in the job of perfecting tools one should not lose sight of the ends for which they were fashioned in the first place.

William Smith, for example--a canal engineer, born nearly two hundred years ago--was concerned chiefly with practical matters. While he was a builder and a land agent we may feel sure that, for the best of reasons, he was not concerned with the relative value of engineering and geology. Unconsciously he laid the foundation of stratigraphy while at the same time he pursued his engineering activities. Since the economy and safety of the structures he planned were affected by the natural characteristics of the terrain on which he built them, he made it his business systematically to study this terrain, understand its nature and the processes concerned with its evolution, and even to map it. So successful was he that he was awarded . . .

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