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Two new book reviews


Rudolph Glossop and the Rise of Geotechnology

Geoscientist 21.11 December 2011/January 2012

Rudolph 'Silas' Glossop (1902-1993) is a legend among engineering geologists and geotechnical engineers, and is remembered by the Society's Engineering Group each year in the prestigious Glossop Lecture. I confess to initial disappointment at finding within the first words of Professor Burland's Foreword that “this book is not a biography”, which thus remains to be written; though there have been some excellent short accounts - notably Professor Skempton's 1993 obituary of Glossop in Géotechnique. However, one is soon enchanted by the book’s real purpose, which is to celebrate Glossop's “unique contribution” to the development of ‘geotechnology' in the UK, by providing a treasure chest of his ‘selected journals, diaries and letters' - a subtitle that should have appeared on the cover.

There is a tantalisingly short introduction by the editor. We learn that Glossop trained and started his professional life as a mining engineer, but fortunately for us a crisis in mining caused him to move to civil engineering and he joined John Mowlem in 1937 - staying until retirement in 1967. Thereafter, the editor lets the story be told through Glossop's own words, presenting journals (118 pp), diaries (37 pp), letters (24 pp) and writings (94 pp) - including two early papers, one with Hugh Golder (1944) and the other with Alec Skempton (1945). These selections are illustrated with interesting contemporary B&W photographs and drawings. The book is completed by a 'Directory of people mentioned in the diary', a bibliography of Glossop's publications, references and an index of names (but curiously, no general index).

This is a book for dipping into, and increasingly for reading the sections that grab your fancy. Not dry reading at all, he writes in his journal: "As far as I know, only one of my people died of witchcraft..." (Ghana, 1933); "Golder and I began our investigation into the cause of runway failures from scratch..." (1939); "I left for Normandy as a member of a small team under Brigadier Sir Bruce White, which was sent out to prepare a private report for Churchill..." (Mulberry harbours, Normandy, 1944); "I took another day off, and spent it in the Rift Valley with Dr Leakey..." (Kenya, 1952). Similarly from the (regrettably limited) diaries: "This was the first time that I met Terzaghi and the evening was a tremendous success..." (1960). Letters are also engaging, including fascinating exchanges with such famous friends as Laurits Bjerrum, Karl Terzaghi and Alec Skempton. Further writings are selected to demonstrate both Glossop’s pivotal role and the "profound effect" of Karl Terzaghi in developing geotechnology in the UK.

I have no hesitation in recommending this anthology as a fascinating insight into the life and works of Glossop and a catalogue of famous geotechnologists. Enjoy this book.

Reviewed by Ian Sims
RSK STATS Limited, Hemel Hempstead

RONALD E WILLIAMS (ed) Published by: Whittles Publishing, Caithness. Publication date: 2011. ISBN: 978-1-84995-021-3 284 pp.
List price: £50.00


Geological Disposal of Carbon Dioxide and Radioactive Waste

Anyone interested in the environment, the consequences of human interaction with planet Earth, world affairs, the economy, human and ecological health, and in particular who has had their eyes and ears open since the Fukushima disaster, cannot fail to recognise the significance of this timely publication. It must be noted, however, that this book is predominantly a scientific reference text, and will no doubt become one of the most cited in further publications on geological disposal.

Readers are left in no doubt as to what to expect, as every contributing author sets the scene for their chapters with clear and concisely written plain English. This has been summarised to great effect by Ferenc Toth, who brings together an enormous wealth of international expertise to produce a structured text comprising chapters ranging from ‘Thematic Assessments’ (e.g. environmental issues, engineering challenges and public acceptance) to ‘Regional Assessments’ (e.g. North America, Central Europe and Japan).

For readers new to the field, general concepts are introduced so as to be easily understandable, while ensuring that their significance and the importance of the underlying science, policies and implications are not ‘dumbed down’. Each chapter follows a similar format of ‘contrast and compare’, contextualising the material by providing relevant information on the state of research and technological application across selected geographic regions.

I do not know if it is my particular background and training, or what appears to be the collective authors’ greater experience, or indeed the more mature status of radioactive waste disposal, but reading of this part of the text was (dare I say it!) enjoyable - indeed fascinating, and by no means dry. That is not to say that other sections (on CO2 disposal) are any less informative or relevant; they were merely less familiar to this reviewer. My main criticism is a shortage of figures to assist in the explanations of the scientific text.

This is an extremely useful and robust reference book that will be of interest and value to many institutions across the globe.

Reviewed by Joanna Wragg
British Geological Survey, Keyworth

FERENC L TOTH (Ed.) Published by: Springer. Publication date: 2011. ISBN 978-90-481-8711-9. 621 pp.
List price: £153. 00, www. springer. com