Motivated by what Peter Day calls curiosity, he followed a career in geotechnical engineering practice during which he contributed extensively to the advancement of the field. The exceptional nature of his contributions was recognised by the University of Stellenbosch when Peter was awarded the senior doctorate degree DEng in March this year. The degree is based on a compilation of his extensive set of publications into a dissertation Contributions to the Advancement of Geotechnical Engineering in South Africa.

In the assessment of the dissertation it is stated that the most striking impression is the wide range of geotechnical topics … including problem soils, lateral support of excavations, settlement of mine backfill, limit state design methods, as well as contributing to a wide range of geotechnical codes. Another unique feature of the dissertation is that the objective to demonstrate that original research and creative work is not limited to those who pursue an academic career, but can also be undertaken by professionals in engineering practice is achieved without any doubt. In the review it is noted specifically that the physical research was mainly carried out in the field, motivated by the needs of construction projects and taking advantage of opportunities to initiate and carry out large-scale field experiments, confirming unique characteristic of the special nature of the contribution by Peter. It is concluded that few South African geotechnical engineers, whether in academia or private practice, can lay claim to such a broad contribution in the field of geotechnical engineering.

An interesting review of geotechnical engineering practice in South Africa is provided by way of an introduction, including a historical perspective. The review of the various investigations in which Peter had been involved provides a perspective of progress and an assessment of the present state of the field. At the same time acknowledgement is given to the extensive group of geotechnical engineers involved in the advancement of the field over several decades. The group includes the large number of colleagues with whom Peter cooperated during this process. In addition to organising the sixty odd publications of various formats in which he had been involved, an extensive bibliography of references of particular interest to South African geotechnical practice is cited and reviewed. In conclusion the remaining and emerging needs are identified and reviewed.

True to character Peter’s endeavours that have led to earning him a DEng degree are but part of his busy programme, which includes being a full-time practitioner and chairman of Jones & Wagener Consulting Civil Engineers, and performing a wide range of professional responsibilities and duties, such as chairing the SABS Technical Committee TC98 Basis of design and actions for structural and geotechnical design, amongst others.

The dissertation is available at the following website address:

The complete set of publications is available on a separate compact disk.


NOTE: A DEng degree is a senior degree awarded for significant and outstanding contributions to the enrichment of knowledge in the engineering sciences.


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