Academy of Distinguished Alumni

Harmer E. Davis

Harmer E. Davis B.S., M.S., N.A.E.

Inducted to the Academy of Distinguished Alumni on

Harmer Davis received his B.S. degree (1928) and M.S. degree (1930), both in Civil Engineering from the University of California, Berkeley. For 43 years, Professor Davis served as a distinguished member of the Berkeley Civil Engineering faculty where he was the founding Director of the Institute of Transportation and Traffic Engineering (ITTE), now the Institute of Transportation Studies (ITS). Professor Davis died in December 1998, at the age of 93.

Professor Davis’ early research focused on the engineering properties of concrete, soils, and asphalt paving materials. In addition to fundamental research on these materials, he led test programs for numerous iconic infrastructure projects, including structural models for the proposed San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge; and concrete testing, including thermal stress generation and plastic flow, for the construction of Boulder Dam, Bonneville Dam, and other massive concrete structures. During World War II, he conducted research on the resistance of materials to shell impact and the brittle failure of ship plate.

In 1947, when the California legislature established the ITTE at Berkeley, Professor Davis was chosen to create and head it. He served as the Institute’s Director from 1948 to 1973. From 1949 to 1954, he developed and chaired the graduate teaching program of the Division of Transportation Engineering. From 1954 to 1959, he served as chairman of the Department of Civil Engineering.

Professor Davis was of great service to the National Research Council's Highway Research Board (now its Transportation Research Board), serving on its Executive Committee from 1956 to 1967, and from 1969 to 1971. He received the Board's Roy W. Crum Award in 1959 and its George S. Bartlett Award in 1970. As another notable service activity, in 1960, he chaired an extensive study of national transportation research needs, sponsored by the National Academy of Sciences. He also served as a member of the engineering division of the Academy's National Research Council from 1961 to 1966, and as a member of its Executive Committee from 1961 to 1965. His service to other organizations such as the American Concrete Institute, the American Society of Civil Engineers, and the American Public Works Association was equally distinguished.


Over the years Professor Davis received many honors. In addition to being elected to the National Academy of Engineering (1967), he was the recipient of numerous awards from ASCE, including Honorary membership and the James Laurie Prize. He was elected to Honorary membership in the American Public Works Association, and an Honorary Life Member of the County Engineers Association of California. He is a recipient of the Berkeley Citation and he received the Distinguished Alumnus Award from the U.C. Berkeley College of Engineering.