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Robert V. Whitman and John Lowe III, Geotechnical Pioneers, Are Dead

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Robert V. "Bob" Whitman, who pioneered geotechnical research in soil dynamics and earthquake engineering beginning in the early 1960s, died in Lexington, Mass., on Feb. 25, at age 84. The cause of death was not released by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, from which he retired as professor emeritus in 1993.


"Bob's technical and policy contributions lie at the very foundation of much that is now state of knowledge and state of practice in earthquake engineering," observed James K. Mitchell, a University of California engineering professor emeritus, in a 2009 oral history for the West Coast-based Earthquake Engineering Research Institute. Mitchell noted Whitman's pioneering work in studying soil interractions affecting nuclear powerplants and earthen structures during earthquakes, developing risk-based engineering and seismic codes and proposing methods for estimating losses from quakes and other disasters. Whitman was the first non-Californian to be EERI president and the only one from the U.S. to be profiled in its oral-history series of innovators.


John Lowe III, an early innovator in the use of roller-compacted concrete in dams, died in Seattle in January at age 95. The cause was heart failure, according to his family. Lowe was involved in RCC placements in dams in the 1960s and 1970s, including Shihmen in Taiwan and the record-setting Tarbela in Pakistan. He reportedly made 80 trips to the Tarbela site through 1995. A partner at New York City engineer TAMS until he retired in 1983, Lowe also was chairman of the U.S. Commission on Large Dams and the American Society of Civil Engineers' geotechnical engineering division.


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