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John Franklin

John Franklin

President of the ISRM, 1987 - 1991

Curriculum Vitae

JOHN ALAN FRANKLIN served as an Army officer at the Military Academy Sandhurst and the Royal Engineers (1958-1963), before completing his B.Sc. in Civil Engineering (1964). He obtained a masters degree in Engineering Geology (1965) while a Lecturer in Rock Mechanics at the Royal School of Mines (Imperial College); then his Ph.D. in Rock Mechanics (1970).

He then worked as a consulting rock mechanics engineer in the USA, MEXICO, and UK, before moving to CANADA (1975), where he founded his consulting firm Franklin Geotechnical Ltd. In 1982, he began to teach again at the University of Waterloo in Ontario as a part-time research professor in the Department of Earth Sciences. He is a Certified Professional Engineer and Professional Geological Scientist and speaks English, and gets by in French and Spanish.

John has participated in all ISRM Congresses and many of the ISRM Symposia. He worked as a member of ISRM Commissions on Rock Mass Classification and on Swelling Rock, and during a twelve-year period as member, then President of the ISRM Commission on Testing Methods, which at its peak had 30 active Working Groups each consisting of some 15 to 30 people. While ISRM President, he introduced many innovations including the use of the computer for the first time in the Secretariat, the ISRM letterhead that is still used to the present day, and the LAP and CAP programs to assist the newly emerging countries of Eastern Europe. He redrafted the ISRM Statutes and By-laws to include many new provisions such as a more rational set of guidelines for ISRM News and a new structure for ISRM conferences.

As an executive member of CARMA (the ISRM NG CANADA), he proposed, and then served on the organizing committee of the ISRM Montreal Congress (1987). As chairman of the Subcommittee on Mine Monitoring he edited and wrote many of the papers in the Canadian Mine Monitoring Manual and subsequently a similar compendium on Blast Fragmentation for the ISRM Commission on Blasting. He has published more than 100 articles in the professional and academic literature, as well as two textbooks on “Rock Engineering” edited by McGraw Hill Book Co. He is currently writing an autobiography, a novel, and a textbook on tunnelling.

His career as a professional rock engineer as well as his main research interests have focused on rock characterization and empirical design of structures in and on rock. Seeing a need for practical portable testing machines, he designed and built the slake-durability and point-load devices that became standard for rock classification, also the Hoek-Franklin triaxial cell; another large-scale direct shear tester, and a device for measuring three-dimensional swelling. From measurements of intact rock properties he then turned his attentions to characterization of rock joints, and with his “rock video” group at the University of Waterloo developed methods measuring the spacing, orientation and roughness of fracture surfaces at all scales from microscopic to measurements of blast fragmentation and tunnel overbreak to mapping of large-scale features visible from satellite imagery.

As consulting rock mechanics engineer, John has been responsible for several hundred geomechanics investigations. His more interesting consulting projects have included:

Site investigation to design of footings, blast design, monitoring and control of construction at “Science North”, a partly underground museum with superb architecture built across a major regional fault through the brittles meta-sediments of the Canadian Shield;
The Clarendon Plains Irrigation project in Jamaica; a feasibility and preliminary design study that included a large earth and rock-fill dam and several kilometres of tunnel, with open channel; borrow areas and quarry sites in deeply weathed volcanics and karstic limestone. This job took him to Jamaica four times in one Canadian winter!
Quality Control of rubble and armour stone construction materials for a marine breakwater in Tierra del Fuego, South America, infamous for its rough seas and shipwrecks;
A feasibility study for a tunnel between New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island in Canada. Although this “fixed link” tunnel was never built (a bridge alternative was selected) this project offered unlimited possibilities and an unlimited budget to investigate them.

His recent research has focused on collaborative work with Massoud Palassi, colleague, in the design of “expert systems” to reduce costs and improve the reliability of design. Applications have thus far included Classex (with Tony Butler) for classifying and characterizing rock in situ rock; and (with Massoud Palassi), Tunnex, for design of tunnel excavation and support measures, and Sepex (with William Haight) for classification of soils and design of domestic septic systems on soil foundations.

His work has hardly slowed since he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 1991, towards the end of his term of office as ISRM President. He was engaged recently to consult on two hydroelectric tunnels in British Columbia and one in Quebec, and proposes to restart his teaching activities with a distance Education project, team-taught with professors and students from around the world. For the last several years he has been busy as co-proprietor of a Bed and Breakfast inn with his lovely wife Dr. Kerstine Franklin in the beautiful Hockley Valley, Ontario.