Geoffrey Eustace Blight, Leading Geotechnical Engineer, Dies at 79

BY 
December 3, 2013

Geoffrey Eustace Blight, Ph.D., P.E., M.ASCE, an A-rated researcher who held 5 doctoral degrees and was considered one of the world’s leading thinkers in geotechnical engineering, passed away on November 7, at the age of 79. A recipient in 1975 of ASCE’s J. James R. Croes Gold Medal for innovation in research, Blight, who spent most of his working life at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg (Wits University), in South Africa, was professor emeritus of civil and environmental engineering in the field of geotechnical engineering and construction materials. Born July 30, 1934, Blight earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Wits University. He completed his Ph.D. in soil mechanics and geotechnical engineering at London University, before returning to Wits University. In 1985 he obtained a Ph.D. in materials engineering from Wits University and another doctoral degree from the University of Cape Town. In 2001, he obtained a doctorate from Wits University focusing on the application of research in practice. With over 330 papers published in accredited journals, Blight was internationally renowned as a researcher of the highest standing around the world. He was well published internationally and the author or co-author of several books, including Geotechnical Engineering for Mine Waste Storage Facilities, Assessing Loads on Silos and Other Bulk Storage Structures: Research Applied to Practice, and Unsaturated Soil Mechanics in Geotechnical Practice. A recipient of numerous awards, Blight was also the only South African chosen as a Cross Canada Lecturer by the Canadian Geotechnical Society. He was selected by the British Geotechnical Society as a “Rankine” lecturer in 1997 and by Nanyang University, in Singapore, as a “GRC Lecturer” in 1997. One of the highlights of his distinguished career was being commended in 2003 by the Italian National Group for the Prevention of Hydrogeologic Hazards for research on flow failures of tailings dams. Blight was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of South Africa, and was a founding member of the South African Academy of Science and the South African Engineering Academy. In 2002 Blight received the President’s Award for Exceptional Service to the Waste Management Profession by the Institute of Waste Management of Southern Africa.

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