The global geotechnical engineering field has lost a champion and friend. Prof. Masami Fukuoka passed away on 27 January 2016. He was a founding member of the International Geosynthetics Society (IGS) and helped establish the IGS’s first chapter (Japanese Chapter of IGS). He was awarded Honorary Member status by the IGS in 1989, becoming the first member to achieve the honor.
News of Prof. Fukuoka passing at age 98 was shared by Jiro Kuwano, Secretary for the Japanese Chapter of the IGS.
Born in 1917, Prof. Fukuoka was witness to tremendous changes in the world and the field of civil engineering. He entered the engineering work force in 1941, following completion of his studies at the University of Tokyo. He took up a post as a civil engineer with the Public Works Research Institute. He made the first of his many contributions to the larger geotechnical engineering community in 1953 at the 3rd International Conference on Soil Mechanics and Foundation Engineering.
In the 1970s, he re-entered academia, returning to the University of Tokyo for six years, before transitioning to what became 20 years at the Tokyo University of Science. Along the way, he served as president of the International Society for Soil Mechanics and Geotechnical Engineering (ISSMGE) from 1977 – 1981.
“A method for engineering judgment is worth being reported,” he said in a 2006 interview with Prof. Osamu Kusakabe and Dr. Pongsakorn Punrattanasin.
He reflected on his approach to leading ISSMGE, outlining a patient but constantly driving vision that also helped him take part in the founding of the IGS only a couple years after his ISSMGE presidency:
Soil mechanics and foundation engineering is an immature discipline. All of us have to cooperate to find out problems and solve them. There are regional meetings and symposiums besides the main conference itself. We have to submit an honest paper and discuss [problems] in a sincere manner…. We have to accept criticism for the result and carry on the research. We have to introduce the research outcomes to other people in an easy-to understand manner. Then, we put it into practical use. We use it on an actual site and disclose the outcomes…. When we release the information to the public and make it useful, for the first time it can be called a technology.
When the IGS recognized its 25th Anniversary in 2008, former IGS Secretary Peter Stevenson recalled Prof. Fukuoka as a “standout personality” on the first IGS Council. He noted the friendship that he and his wife Rosemary had developed with Prof. Fukuoka, one that extended over the years, one which included Prof. Fukuoka cultivating a love of sumo wrestling for the Stevensons.
Prof. Masami Fukuoka was an avid fan of fitness and health, who dedicated himself as fully to those endeavors as he did to engineering and leadership. At various stages of his life, he cycled, swam, played rugby and tennis, and golfed. (In his 40s and 50s, he said he golfed 120 days each year.) He believed strongly in walking and yoga, and he enjoyed cooking with an almost academic sense of nutritional balance.
His humor and energy will be missed, but his mark on the profession will still be felt.
The March 2016 issue of IGS News will include additional reflection on Prof. Masami Fukuoka’s life and work.