It was serendipitous that Jean-Louis Briaud, Geotechnical and Geoenvironmental Program manager at the Texas A&M Transportation Institute, found himself presenting the prestigious Louis Menard Lecture in Paris, France, September 2. The annual lecture is part of the International Conference of Soil Mechanics and Geotechnical Engineering.
Forty years ago, as a young civil engineering lecturer at the University of New Brunswick in Canada, Briaud came up with a concept for measuring the strength and deformability of soil. He took his drawings to the library and quickly discovered that a device called the pressuremeter — allowing engineers to design stable foundations based on those soil conditions — had already been invented. The inventor was none other than Louis Menard, who (also as a student) came up with the idea 17 years before Briaud.
Menard quickly became well known in geotechnical engineering, Briaud says, and was at the height of his career when he died from cancer in 1978 at the age of 45.
Briaud, who was also born in France, went on to get his master’s and doctoral degrees in geotechnical engineering. In 1992, he wrote a book, entitled The Pressuremeter, about Menard’s invention that formed the topic of Briaud’s lecture before 2,300 geotechnical engineers from around the world.
Briaud has recently authored another book, Geotechnical Engineering: Saturated and Unsaturated Soils, which Briaud says is the culmination of his life’s work. It was designed to be the only textbook needed by students studying soil mechanics.
“It was certainly an honor to be selected to present the Menard Lecture, in part because I was such a fan of his,” Briaud says. “I can’t help but think of all the additional contributions and innovations he likely would have come up with if not for his death at such a young age.”