Alexander Golli (May 17th, 1939 – February 1st, 2011)

Alexander Golli

The Russian and Kazakhstan geotechnical branches of ISSMGE are deeply saddened by the news that one of its members, Professor Alexander Golli, Ph.D., passed away on the 1st of February, 2011 in Hartford, Connecticut, USA. Born in Leningrad, USSR, on May 17th, 1939, Alexander Golli was for many years an Associate Professor in the Department of Foundations Engineering and Soil Mechanics at the Saint Petersburg State University of Architecture and Civil Engineering (SPbGASU), formerly named the Leningrad Institute of Civil Engineering (LICI). 

Alexander Golli was destined by birth to be a civil engineer. His mother, Alexandra Grigorieva, was the first woman in Russia to become Vice Rector of the Leningrad Institute of Civil Engineering (LICI) and his father, Valentin Golli, was a Chief Architect of the Russian Federation and MosEngProekt (Moscow Engineering and Project Design Company, USSR). 

As a child, Alexander Golli lived through the horrific siege of Leningrad (USSR) during the 2nd World War. After graduating from High School #206 in 1956, he entered the Leningrad Institute of Civil Engineering, LICI (now SPbGASU), USSR and graduated in 1961 as a specialist in Industrial and Civil Engineering. After graduation he worked as a design-engineer at the Leningrad Institute of Industrial Construction Design. Then he taught as Assistant Professor in the Department of Theoretical Mechanics of the Leningrad Institute of Civil Engineering, LICI (now SPbGASU). 

In 1969 he entered the PhD program at the Leningrad Institute of Civil Engineering in the Department of Soil Mechanics and Foundation Engineering (directed by great Russian Scientist, Professor B. I. Dalmatov). After completing his PhD dissertation in 1972, Alexander Golli worked as Associate Professor in this Department until his retirement in 2005.

Over the course of his many years in the Department, his most important role was his teaching and research with Bachelors Students, doctoral PhD Students, fellows and attendees of the Course for the Advanced Continuing Education of the Faculty (FPKP), who came not only from the countries of the former Soviet Union, but also from Vietnam, Iraq, Syria, Bulgaria, Israel, Poland, Mongolia and other countries. In addition, Alexander Golli supervised the dissertation work of more than 20 PhD Students, and was official advisor to the scientific heads of other departments in the Institute in the areas of technical support of experiments, methods for measuring the stress and deformation of soils, characteristics of filtration and lateral pressure, and, in general, repeatedly developing new methods and approaches for research in the field of Geotechnical Engineering. 

An extremely kind person, he greatly cared for his own students – undergraduates and PhD Students alike. He taught them to see the world, to think freely, to invent! Together with his PhD Students, he was always creating new instruments and equipment needed in their actual work and specific research geotechnical projects. Also, being a stalwart “defender” of the scientific honor of the Department of Soil Mechanics and Foundation Engineering of the Saint Petersburg State University of Architecture and Civil Engineering, Dr. Alexander Golli always devoted much time to his foreign PhD Students, helping them describe their scientific achievements in Russian. 

He had the ability to lead a group of 5 - 6 doctoral students to all work together in the same experimental field site without any conflicts - yet each of them pursuing their own research projects, with their own set of geotechnical instruments and newly developed equipment and methodology. His PhD Students all defended their doctoral dissertations quite successfully and went on to distinguish themselves in their fields of scientific work. 

Alexander Golli had 136 scientific publications, including those published in the conference proceedings in Great Britain, Czechoslovakia, and Hungary and 40 patented inventions for which he was awarded the Medal “Inventor of Russian Federation”. Also he published 19 methodological works, brochures and books for undergraduate and PhD Students and post-doctoral fellows of the Advanced Continuing Education of the Faculty (FPKP) 

The scientific developments, methods and inventions of Professor Alexander Golli involved the completion of the foundation design work of major research geotechnical Mega projects in the Russian Federation and Kazakhstan, such as the Toliatti Automobile Factory, dams for the Saint Petersburg Flood Prevention Facility Complex and his research and implementation of pyramid-shaped pilings adapted to the problematic soil conditions of Kzyl-Orda and Karaganda regions of Kazakhstan for the construction of industrial buildings. Among his other achievements were marks with load-strain cell gauges and instruments for their placement in the soil, instruments for measuring the stress and deformations, lateral pressure, and filtration characteristics as well as more precise methods for calculation of soil settlement.

Dr. Alexander Golli also developed a method for fibrous reinforcement of the piling heads to prevent them from being destroyed during pile driving, as well as a method of improving the mechanical properties of very soft soils by reinforcing them with synthetic fibers. 

By the time he retired in 2005 for health reasons, Professor Alexander Golli had made major contributions to the development of the science of soil mechanics and foundation engineering in Russia and Kazakhstan and to the integration of Russian and Kazakhstan Geotechnical Societies into the ISSMGE community. Even after he retired and had emigrated to the USA with his wife, Dr. Olga Rostislavovna (an geotechnical expert in permafrost and freezing soil ground) to help their daughter, Marina, raise their grandchildren, Eric, Anna, and Andrei, Dr. A. Golli continued to think of and greatly missed his doctoral students and research work in the Department of Foundation Engineering and Soil Mechanics at SPbGASU. But in the end, it was Dr. Alexander Golli’s bold approach to teaching, innovative thinking and working with his doctoral students that will stand as his most important contribution to the field of soil mechanics and geotechnical engineering.