|Harleman Lecture -
Dr. Donald R.F.
Ford Emeritus Professor of Civil & Env. Engineering
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Donald R. F. Harleman, a native of Palmerton, PA,
his B.S.C.E. degree from Penn State in 1943 and his M.S. and Sc.D.
degrees in Civil Engineering in 1947 and 1950 from the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology (MIT). He worked as a design engineer for
Curtis-Wright Corporation in Ohio during WWII. Through 1962 he held
research and faculty positions in Hydraulics at MIT, and in 1963 he
became Professor of Civil Engineering. He was appointed Ford Professor
of Environmental Engineering in 1975, and achieved Emeritus status in
1991. He currently holds the title of Senior Lecturer at MIT.
Dr. Harleman has been an active member of the National Academy of
Engineering and is an Honorary Member of the American Society of Civil
Engineers (ASCE). He has won six (6) ASCE awards, including two (2)
Hilgard Hydraulic Prizes in 1971 and 1973, and a Stevens Award in 1973.
The Boston Society of Civil Engineers has honored him with three (3)
awards with the latest being in 1990, and he has received two (2)
awards from the College of Engineering at Penn State as Outstanding
Alumnus in 1979 and as an Alumni Fellow in 1987. He has served as a
member of the Board of Editors of the international Journal of
Hydraulic Research, and was a member and Chairman of the Executive
Committee of the Hydraulics Division of ASCE in the 1960’s. He has
spent residence time overseas as a visiting engineer at the Delft
Hydraulics Laboratory in the Netherlands and at the International
Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Austria, as well as being a
Guggenheim Fellow in the Department of Applied Mathematics and
Theoretical Physics at the University of Cambridge, England. He gave
the First Hunter Rouse Hydraulic Engineering Lecture for ASCE in 1980.
For ten (10) years beginning in 1973, Don Harleman was the Director of
the Ralph M. Parsons Laboratory for Water Resources and Hydrodynamics.
During that same period, he was the Head of the Water Resources and
Environmental Engineering Division of MIT’s Department of Civil
Engineering. He has a very extensive record of research, publications,
and consulting on a national and international level. His current
consulting takes him occasionally to Mexico, Hong Kong, Italy, and
Don Harleman is a co-holder of two U.S. patents in hydraulics and
environmental engineering. He is the co-author of the 1968 textbook
Fluid Dynamics, and also the author of “Stratified Flow” in Streeter’s
1960 Handbook of Fluid Dynamics. The Donald and Martha Harleman
Professorship at MIT was established in 2000 through an endowment
raised by his friends and former students.
survival and prosperity of Venice, built on more than a hundred small
islands in the middle of a large lagoon at the head of the Adriatic,
during its thousand year history has been achieved by the solution of
a succession of engineering “problems”.
first problem was the physical conservation of the lagoon.
Venice was never successfully invaded because the one meter average
depth was too deep for armies and too shallow for navies. The lagoon
was protected from silting several hundred years ago by diverting the
three major rivers outside the lagoon.
The second problem
was the protection from Adriatic storm waves of the thin sandy
barrier on the ocean side of the lagoon. After diversion of the
rivers, sediment transported from the lagoon through the three
openings was insufficient to prevent erosion of the barrier. By the
18th century, construction of groins had stabilized the fragile
The third problem
was a result of pumping ground water in the mainland industrial area
in the 1950s. By 1975, Venice had subsided about 12 cm and pumping
was stopped. This is equivalent to 300 years of natural subsidence.
The fourth problem
is caused by global warming and accelerating sea level rise. Venice
is the most sensitive place on earth to the impact of centimeters of
tidal elevation change. Due to the combined effect of sinking and sea
level rise, tides are 25 cm higher than a 100 years ago. Therefore
there are more frequent floods and an increase in economic
dislocation and structural damage. A predicted sea level rise of 50
cm in the next 50 to 100 years means that the City would become
flood of 1966 in which all of Venice was under a meter of water for
15 hours, the Consorzio Venezia Nuova (CVN) was formed and charged
with protecting the city.
CVN’s proposed Venice gates are
unique in that they are raised and lowered by buoyancy. Each gate
module is a hollow steel box 20 m wide and long. A total of 80 gates
are needed to close the three barrier openings. Normally the gates,
filled with water rest horizontally on the bottom and are hinged at
the seaward end. They can be raised by expelling the water by
compressed air there
the early days of
planning for the protection of Venice against flooding there has been
a vocal opposition to the movable gates by those who insist that more
passive defenses are possible. These include permanently narrowing
the width and depth of the 3 inlets and raising the level of
pavements in the city—however, repeated studies have shown that
these interventions cannot protect Venice against the increasing
number of storm tide flooding events.
In 1996 CVN appointed an
International Panel (of which I am a member) to oversee the
development of an Environmental Impact Assessment for the movable
gates. The Panel also strongly recommended the gates as the only
viable solution. Construction cost is estimated at about 3 billion
euros and construction time at 8 years.
Ultimately the Venice
flood gates will have to be built, as they have been in the
Netherlands and London. The Italian government has recently completed
the stabilization of the foundation of the leaning tower of
Pisa—Venice is incomparably more important and deserves no less.