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Mr F. C. Greenfield (F): Back in the mid-1960s I remember being impressed with a paper read by a very young Sam Thorburn to a 1-day piling conference held at the Institution of Civil Engineers, his subject being mainly piles founded on bed rock in Scotland. Whitaker & Cooke read a paper about their work on piles in London clay, the emphasis being on settlement of a single pile under the constant rate of penetration test. The subject of interaction of piles-let alone interaction of piles (or other foundations) with structure and soil-was very much in its infancy, and structural engineers and geotechnic engineers seemed to work in some sort of splendid isolation!
Building work on the French Pantheon (the Church of Sainte-Genevieve) was started in 1756, and there was a celebrated dispute, in 1770, as to whether or not the crossing piers would be strong enough to carry the projected dome. In the event, the piers were indeed found to be defective, but not for the reasons originally suggested. The technical history of this building is presented in this paper; the form of construction led effectively to a thin skin of each pier carrying the entire load. Local stress concentrations then produced the splitting and spalling observed in the piers. Similar defects may be seen in some crossing piers of medieval cathedrals; although the details of construction are different, medieval piers, as those of the Pantheon, can have weak central cores. Professor J. Heyman
Academics are frequently accused of wasting their time on ‘irrelevant’ research and directing their energies towards utopian and esoteric goals, which are far removed from ‘real-world’ problems. One would like to think that there is no need to remind hard-headed engineers of the immediate and tangible relevance to their needs of large areas of university research. R. Narayanan