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A knighthood for soil mechanics pioneer and leading civil engineering historian Professor Alec Skempton topped the industry's awards in the UK'S New Year Honours. The 85 year old said he was 'very surprised, but delighted'.

Skempton, a former ICE vice president, lectured at London's Imperial College until two years ago. He began the university's soil mechanics course and latterly has run a popular series of lectures on the history of civil engineering.

His work on the properties of London Clay was instrumental in making possible the construction of tall buildings in the UK capital.

He is now editing a biographical dictionary of civil engineers with ICE head librarian Mike Chrimes.

The first volume, covering 400 personalities from 1500 to 1830, is to be published at the end of the year.

Among other members of the profession honoured was Douglas Oakervee, former project director for Hong Kong International Airport who received the CBE for services to civil engineering overseas.

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