The Geotechnics Section, formerly known as the Soil Mechanics Section was formed by Professor A. W. Skempton in 1946. A history of the section, including a discussion on the early years is given on pages 153-162 of 100 Years of Civil Engineering at South Kensington by Joyce Brown. The staff has always included internationally leading geotechnical engineers including Professors Alec Skempton, Alan Bishop, R.E. Gibson, Peter Vaughan, John Burland, Nick Ambraseys and David Potts.  Each of these former and current staff members has been invited to deliver the prestigious Rankine Lecture. A list of the titles of all the Rankine lecturers who have a link to Imperial College is given below.  There is also a strong history of excellence in Engineering Geology; three former Glossop Lecturers were members of staff here.

A one-year, postgraduate specialist degree in soil mechanics has been offered by the section since 1950, during which time  hundreds of students from all over the world have participated in this MSc. These courses remain popular. 

Many of our alumni return each year to attend our annual pre-Rankine lecture seminars, information on recent and upcoming seminars is available here.

We have prepared short biographies describing the careers of three of our most famous former staff members:

On  Wednesday March 19 2014 a half-day symposium was held at the Royal Geographical Society in London to commemorate the work of Professor Ambraseys. The presentations from that day are available to view here.

Also of potential interest are the Skempton and Bishop archives. These give overviews of the contributions of both Professors Skempton and Bishop to geotechnical engineering, and include searchable databases of their work

The Soil Mechanics section expanded and was renamed as Geotechnics in 1996 when Engineering Geology was incorporated, alongside the associated MSc programme. 

The application of Geology to Civil Engineering has been taught at Imperial College since 1910 when Dr Herbert Lapworth provided a regular course of lectures entitled "Engineering Geology". Many practising engineers will have used one or more editions of "A Geology for Engineers" written by Dr Francis Blyth, first published in 1942 and now in its 7th Edition. Dr Blyth was responsible for the subject for many years and provided the early diploma courses in Engineering Geology.

In 1964, under the guidance of the then Dr John Knill (now Sir John Knill), the Masters course in Engineering Geology was initiated. It was the first such course in the UK, recruiting from a truly international field of applicants. All graduates automatically become members of Herbert Lapworth Club (alumni club).

Rankine Lecturers who were Members of Imperial College Academic Staff at the Time of Their Lecture

Year

Lecturer

Title

 2004 Prof. N.N. Ambraseys  Engineering, seismology and soil mechanics
 2002 Prof. D.M. Potts  Numerical analysis: a virtual dream or practical reality? Géotechnique Volume 53, Issue 6
1994 Prof. P.R. Vaughan Assumption, prediction and reality in geotechnical engineering Géotechnique Volume 44, Issue 4
1990 Prof. J.B. Burland On the compressibility and shear strength of natural clays Géotechnique Volume 40, Issue 3
1966 Prof. A.W. Bishop The strength of soils as engineering materials Géotechnique Volume 16, Issue 2
1964 Prof. A.W. Skempton

Long-term stability of clay slopes Long-term stability of clay slopes Géotechnique Volume 14, Issue 2

Rankine Lecturers who have a PhD degree from Imperial College or who were members of staff at Imperial College at some time before their Rankine Lecture

Year

Lecturer

Title

 2007 Prof. A. Gens Soil-environment interactions in geotechnical engineering Géotechnique Volume 60, Issue 1
 2000 Prof. J.H Atkinson Non-linear soil stiffness in routine design Géotechnique Volume 50, Issue 5
1998 Dr D.W. Hight Soil characterisation: the importance of structure and anisotropy
1982 Dr D.J. Henkel Geology, geomorphology and geotechnics Géotechnique Volume 32, Issue 3 
1981 Prof. N.R. Morgenstern Geotechnical engineering and frontier resource development Géotechnique Volume 31, Issue 3
1974 Prof. R.E. Gibson The analytical method in soil mechanics Géotechnique Volume 24, Issue 2

Glossop Lecturers from Imperial College London

Year

Lecturer

Title

  2008 Professor Mike de Freitas Geology; its principles, practice and potential for Geotechnics  Quarterly Journal of Engineering Geology and Hydrogeology,November 2009, 42, 397-441.
 2000 Professor John Hutchinson Reading the Ground: Morphology and Geology in Site Appraisal  Quarterly Journal of Engineering Geology and Hydrogeology, February 2001, 34, 7-50.
1999 Professor Richard Chandler Clay Sediments in Depositional Basins: the Geotechnical Cycle Quarterly Journal of Engineering Geology and Hydrogeology,February 2000, 33, 7-39.