Victor de Mello

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Victor Froilano Bachmann de Mello, also cited V. F. B. de Mello (b. May 14, 1926 in Goa; † January 1, 2009 in São Paulo), was a leading Brazilian civil geotechnical engineer.


De Mello was born in Goa, India, to a Portuguese medical professor and a Swiss-German mother, and attended English school there. From 1944 he studied civil engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, graduating with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in 1946 (with a thesis on the measurement of the shear resistance of clay) and receiving his doctorate under Donald Wood Taylor in 1948. Having a Portuguese cultural background due to his origins in Goa, he emigrated to Brazil in 1949. Here he first worked on hydroelectric projects for a power company in São Paulo and from 1951 for the engineering firm Geotecnica. Soon after, however, he worked independently as a consulting engineer with his own engineering office in São Paulo. In 1966/67 he was a visiting professor at MIT and later also a part-time professor of soil mechanics at the University of São Paulo. He was involved in numerous large dam projects (in Brazil and also worldwide, for example in Africa and China), in foundations for large industrial plants, airports, ports, tunnels, road and rail links, offshore foundations, but also deep inner-city excavations, high-rise buildings and large open-cast mining projects in Brazil.

In 1977 he was Rankine Lecturer (Reflections on design decisions of practical significance to embankment dams, Geotechnique, vol. 27, pp. 279-355). As a scientist, he was interested in issues related to the statistical probability of failure of foundation structures[1], landslides, and the stability analysis of dams.

He was one of the founders of the Brazilian Geotechnical Society (ABMS) in 1950, of which he was President from 1964 to 1966, and of which he received the Terzaghi Award twice (1966, 1978). In addition, he was a Fellow of the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) and of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), a member of the National Academy of Engineering of the USA, of the Brazilian, Portuguese and Argentine Academies of Engineering, of the Third World Academy of Sciences and of the Argentine Academy of Sciences. From 1970 to 1974 he was vice president of the International Society of Rock Mechanics (ISRM). From 1973 to 1977 he was vice president and from 1981 to 1985 president of the International Society of Soil Mechanics and Foundation Engineering (ISSMFE). In 1985 he delivered the second Manuel Rocha Lecture in Portugal and in 2000 the fourth Pacheca da Silva Lecture in Brazil

In 2009, the Brazilian and Portuguese Geotechnical Societies launched the Victor de Mello Lecture, first delivered by John Burland.

He was married, had a daughter and a son. His last illness was amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

Web links

Individual references

  1. At the 2nd International Conference on Applications of Statistics and Probability, ICASP, Aachen 1975, vol. 3, pp. 85-138, he presented a paper The Philosophy of Statistics and Probability applied to Soil Engineering