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Peter Rowe Archive

Date range: 1940-1997

Medium: Archive

Professor Peter Rowe (1922–1997) was one of Britain’s most distinguished civil engineers.

He studied civil engineering at Bristol University, and after working for the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough and Sir Robert McAlpine & Sons, in 1947 he took up his first academic post, at the University of St Andrews.

In 1952 he was appointed a lecturer at the University of Manchester, where from 1963 until his retirement in 1982 he was Professor of Soil Mechanics. His research activities focused on three areas: anchored sheet pile walls; the inter-relationship between effective stress and strain rate ratios for frictional materials (which resulted in the Rowe stress-dilatancy equation), and the measurement of the coefficients of consolidation and permeability of natural clays.

Rowe combined a brilliant academic career with a successful private consultancy. He advised on several hundred civil engineering projects in Britain and abroad, including the Derwent, Grimwith and Kielder reservoirs, Torness and Oldbury nuclear power stations, the Oosterschelde Barrage in Holland, the foundations of North Sea oil and gas platforms, grain silos in Saudi Arabia, and the settlement of Venice. In 1968 he received a Telford Gold Medal, the highest award of the Institution of Civil Engineers.

Peter Rowe left a very substantial archive that documents every aspect of his career, as an academic and research scientist, a consulting geotechnical engineer, and an expert witness in many legal cases. It constitutes a major source for the history of geotechnical science and civil engineering in the second half of the 20th century.

The bulk of the archive comprises files relating to some five hundred projects and cases with which Rowe was involved as a consulting geotechnical engineer or expert witness. The majority of these projects were located in Britain.

Besides Rowe’s long-term work for the Manchester Ship Canal Company, the archive contains detailed information on the design and construction of reservoirs and dams,sea closures and docks, power station foundations, roads, sewerage and sewage schemes,offshore structures such as oil and gas platforms, and a wide variety of other civil engineering projects.

The archive is also an important source for major international construction projects such as the two eight-mile crossings of the Jamuna River in Bangladesh, the Hat Creek Thermal Power Project in Canada, the construction of grain silos in Jeddah and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, as well as for Rowe’s participation in international efforts to prevent the sinking of Venice.

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Further information:

Catalogue available online via ELGAR.


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