1921 – 1996
George F. Sowers, a Georgia Tech professor and Chairman of the Law Companies Consulting Group, was a prominent teacher and consultant for 50 years. From dam projects in India to sinkholes near the Georgia Tech campus, Sowers was one of the most sought-after experts in geotechnical engineering.
During his career Sowers authored over 130 technical papers and eight books, including the well-known textbook Introductory Soil Mechanics and Foundations. George Sowers was born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1921. Following in the footsteps of his engineer father, George received his bachelor's degree in civil engineering from Case Western Reserve University in 1942. During his studies he worked part time as an engineering aide at his father's consulting firm and briefly as an assistant hydraulic engineer for the Tennessee Valley Authority, where he met and married a fellow hydrologist named Frances Lott.
In 1944 Sowers entered the military and served as an instructor in Electronic Servicing for the U.S. Navy. Following the Navy, Sowers became a student under Karl Terzaghi and Arthur Casagrande at Harvard University, where he completed his M.S. in civil engineering in 1947. Having been educated by the premier authorities in the field of soil mechanics, Sowers' skills was recruited by universities and engineering firms alike. He eventually agreed to a joint position at the Georgia Institute of Technology and Thomas C. Law's engineering and consulting firm.
For the next 50 years Sowers found success in two careers: as Regents Professor of Civil Engineering at Georgia Tech and Vice President, Senior Vice President, and Chairman of the Board at the Law consulting firm. As a teacher and consultant, Sowers was a talented storyteller, and could expound on a variety of case studies, practical examples, and empirical learning that were relevant to the issue at hand. He had the ability to make mundane subjects come to life, and in 1971 he was honored as the Georgia Tech teacher of the year. Furthermore, his textbook, Introductory Soil Mechanics and Foundations, became standard reading material for a generation of civil engineers.
His expertise extended far beyond the classroom, and he became internationally known for his knowledge of earthen and rock-fill dam engineering, highway engineering, and the construction of buildings on sinkholes. He was also a pioneer as an expert witness for construction lawsuits. George Sowers participated in the leadership of many professional societies, including the Chairman of the ASCE Geotechnical Engineering Division, President of the Georgia chapter of the ASCE, and Vice President of the International Society of Soil Mechanics and Foundation Engineering.