The Royal Academy of Engineering is to award its 2006 Public Promotion of Engineering Medal to the man who helped stop the famous leaning Tower of Pisa crashing to the ground, Professor John Burland CBE FREng FRS.
As a renowned expert in geotechnical engineering at Imperial College, Professor Burland has been consultant on many high profile projects. However, his public profile - and that of the relatively unknown discipline he represented - soared when he was enlisted to the international committee formed in 1990 to save the Pisa Tower, which was slowly toppling over. The project lasted eleven years, and involved the carefully calculated excavation of 30 tonnes of soil from the foundations under the northern side of the tower, overseen by Professor Burland who produced a day-by-day analysis of the tower's subsequent position.
Professor Burland explained: "At the angle it was, we couldn't even get the tower to stand up on our computer model. That shows just how close to falling over it really was."
The Pisa Tower now stands at a 5.0 degree tilt - straightened by a full 45 centimetres - and should remain standing for another 400 years. In recognition of his services, he was awarded Knight Commander of the Royal Order of Francis I Italy, an extremely rare honour for a UK national. This accolade sits alongside a raft of other eminent awards including Gold Medals
from the World Federation of Engineering Organisations, the Institution of Structural Engineers and the Institution of Civil Engineers.
Professor Burland has always been in high demand on the lecture circuit and has given some of the most prestigious lectures in his discipline, including the 9th Laurits Bjerrum Memorial Lecture in 1986 and the British Geotechnical Society Rankine Lecture in 1990. Throughout the 1990s he gave Civil Engineers Christmas Lectures, regularly participated in the annual meetings of the British Association, for which he was President of the Engineers Section in 2002, and has given Institution of Structural Engineers Easter lectures to schoolchildren, with whom he has a natural affinity.
Professor Burland retired from full-time teaching in 2004, however he continues to teach on the MSc course and assists in current research in soil mechanics and geotechnical engineering in his position as Emeritus Professor at Imperial College. He continues his exceptional contribution to engaging the public's understanding of science, devoting significant time to publiclecturing, particularly to young audiences.
Professor Burland will be presented with the Public Promotion of Engineering Medal at The Royal Academy of Engineering Awards Dinner on 05 June in London.