Geotechnical Engineering is a generic term for various single disciplines in civil engineering dealing with the building during construction on, in or with soil or rock.

Emergence of the concept

The term " geotechnical engineering " was introduced by a Swedish committee, which had been used in 1913 by the State Railway Administration to investigate cases of failure of slopes. The first chairman of the commission was Wolmar Fellenius. The term geotechnical engineering consists in Germany due to its international understanding more and more.

The term " geotechnical engineering " for some years also carry some chairs and institutes at universities and colleges in their name. These were formerly called only according to their individual disciplines: soil and foundation engineering, soil mechanics, rock mechanics, rock engineering and tunneling, etc.

Content of the discipline

The primary individual disciplines are to be mentioned in particular: Earthwork and foundation engineering, soil mechanics, foundation engineering, rock mechanics, rock engineering and tunneling, mining geotechnical problems occur secondary to in hydraulic engineering and transportation infrastructure construction.


As part of field of civil engineering geotechnical engineering is a specialty in structural engineering. In the training ground engineering is usually offered as a specialization in civil engineering. Graduate engineers of Geotechnical Engineering are also trained in the natural sciences and geosciences disciplines at undergraduate level except in engineering subjects. You get special expertise in the sub-disciplines of soil mechanics, ground and rock, Erdstatik, engineering geology, rock and rock mechanics.

Likewise, graduate geologists working in the field of geotechnical engineering and complement their more scientific training through the disciplines mentioned above.

Areas of Practice

Geotechnical Engineering is a young interdisciplinary engineering science that has essentially developed from the civil engineering and combines elements of civil engineering, earth sciences, above all, the geology, and the mining industry in itself. It deals with the mutual influence of buildings and the ground.

  • When building in the ground, the Geotechnical Engineering is concerned with the interaction of forces and deformations, for example between a tunnel structure and the surrounding rock, between the building and the buildings standing on it as well as their influence by technical measures.
  • When building with the building of this is used as a building material, such as levees or dams. Here the Geotechnical Engineering is concerned among other things with their densities and the calculation of their stabilities.

This leads to the following core tasks:

  • Investigation and assessment of the ground ( ground survey ) and the groundwater conditions
  • Establishment of structures, such as buildings, bridges, tunnels and roads, that is, with the introduction of forces from the building into the ground, identifying and improving its sustainability, impact ( deformations) in the area and the effects of deformation in the subsurface on a building.
  • Foundation of hydraulic structures such as sluices, weirs, culverts
  • Assurance of terrain jumps, such as pits and quay walls
  • Stability of embankments and slopes, embankments and dams
  • Production and structural safety of buildings from the ground, such as dams, dikes and landfills
  • Examination and evaluation of sealed, sealing or perfused earthworks such as channel side dams
  • Measurement, monitoring, assessment and prediction of dynamic loads such as Rammerschütterungen, blasting and traffic loads
  • Soil and groundwater protection ( environmental geotechnics )

Significant geotechnical engineer

Significant geotechnical engineers are or were:

  • Agatz Arnold (1891-1980)
  • Albert Atterberg (1846-1916)
  • Alan Wilfred Bishop (1920-1988)
  • Laurits Bjerrum (1918-1973)
  • Hubert Borowicka (1910-1999)
  • Heinz Brandl ( b. 1940 )
  • Albert Caquot (1881-1976)
  • Arthur Casagrande (1902-1981)
  • Alexandre Collin (1808-1890)
  • Charles Augustin de Coulomb (1736-1806)
  • Wolmar Fellenius (1876-1957)
  • Otto Karl Fröhlich (1885-1964)
  • Gerd Gudehus ( b. 1938 )
  • Jørgen Brinch Hansen (1909-1969)
  • Sven Hultin (1889-1952)
  • Mikael Juul Hvorslev (1895-1989)
  • Nilmar Janbu (1921-2013)
  • Jean Kerisel (1908-2005)
  • Árpád Kézdi (1919-1983)
  • Hans -Detlef Krey (1866-1928)
  • T. William Lambe (* 1920)
  • Gerald A. Leonards (1921-1997)
  • Hans Lorenz (1905-1996)
  • George Geoffrey Meyerhof (1916 2003)
  • Heinz Muhs (1911-1990)
  • Heinrich Müller -Breslau (1851-1925)
  • Ralph Brazelton Peck (1912-2008)
  • Ralph R. Proctor (1894-1962)
  • Osborne Reynolds (1842-1912)
  • Kenneth Harry Roscoe (1914-1970)
  • Peter Rowe (1922-1997)
  • Andrew Noel Schofield ( b. 1930 )
  • Edgar Schultze (1905-1986)
  • Harry Bolton Seed (1922-1989)
  • Alec Skempton (1914-2001)
  • Ulrich Smoltczyk ( b. 1928 )
  • George F. Sowers (1921-1996)
  • Donald Wood Taylor (1900-1955)
  • Karl von Terzaghi (1883-1963)
  • Christian Veder (1907-1984)
  • Anton Weissbach (* 1929)
  • Walter Wittke ( b. 1934 )
  • Charles Peter Wroth (1929-1991)


  • National Societies are: In Germany, the German Geotechnical Society ( DGGT )
  • In Switzerland, the geotechnical Switzerland