The core theme of Karl von Terzaghi’s (1883-1963) life work was to integrate theory with practice. “Theory is the language by means of which lessons can be clearly expressed,” Terzaghi wrote. A leading civil engineer of the 20th century and widely known as the father of soil mechanics, Terzaghi was not the first engineer to observe the arching phenomena in soils...

Around the turn of the century, engineers observed that loads on tunnels and underground conduits were less than the overburden pressure. Earlier experiments in the 1800s to investigate the behavior of grain and other particulate materials within silos led engineers to observe that an “arch” forms, which affects load distribution at the base of the silos. Terzaghi is the engineer, however, who is credited with providing the language — or theory — that supports the observed arching phenomena in soils. 

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