NZ Geomechanics News

Obituary – Richard Z.T. Bieniawski

In memory of Richard Z.T. Bieniawski (1936-2017)

 width=Prof. Richard Z.T. Bieniawski, died on 11 December 2017 at his home. He was born in 1936, in Krakow, Poland. He was one of the most prominent and influential rock engineering personalities of the 20th century.

Prof. Bieniawski was trained as a naval architect and marine engineer in Poland, graduated in South Africa as mechanical engineer and obtained a doctorate in mining and tunnel engineering. He taught for 20 years at the Pennsylvania State University and retired on his 60th birthday to Prescott, having become Visiting Professor of Design Engineering at the University of Cambridge, England.

In the ISRM, he was chairman of the Commission on Testing Methods from 1972 to 1979 and Vice President for Africa from 1974 to 1979.

As two who have been to ISRM conferences for a long time, and therefore have known Dick Bieniawski for more than half his life, and during a bigger proportion of our own, it was with sadness we recently heard the news of his death on December 11, 2017.

His enthusiasm for life and work – seemingly at all times – was a foolproof camouflage of the fact that he had a long life, and was truly a senior and respected colleague. Starting in South Africa as a mechanical engineer, where he obtained a PhD in mining and tunnel engineering, he has been through his life a teacher and an engineer.

It is true perhaps, but misleading of his multi-faceted contributions to education, to rock mechanics and to rock engineering, that he is best known for his own RMR rock mass rating, which was a prime member of the 1972, 1973 and 1974 independently developed rock mass classification methods.

It is of interest to underline here that these classification methods miraculously developed almost simultaneously, if we look at the longer time-scale. RMR has of course provided healthy competition for Q, and gave a flying start for GSI.

Dick’s book on rock mass classification methods of 1989, Engineering Rock Mass Classifications – A Complete Manual for Engineers and Geologists in Mining, Civil, and Petroleum Engineering, is one of the most cited texts in rock engineering.

However, how could Dick’s contributions to rock mechanics and rock engineering, during his first steps in the discipline, be neglected? The invaluable PhD thesis on the Mechanism of the Brittle Fracture of Rock in compression and tension is a remarkable sign of Dick’s ability to couple theory and practice.

The precious contributions of Dick Bieniawski to rock engineering in mining and tunneling are also to be reminded, as well demonstrated with his books on Strata Control in Mineral Engineering of 1987 and on Rock Mechanics Design in Mining and Tunneling of 1989.

The use of consistent design methods in rock engineering has always been Dick’s concern. This is well demonstrated in the books on Tunnel Design by Rock Mass Classifications of 1990 and on Design Methodology in Rock Engineering of 1992, always complemented with important case histories.

Giovanni Barla and Nick Barton
Reproduced from ISRM Newsletter No. 41 – March 2018


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