Dr. Ralph Brazelton Peck was an eminent civil engineer specializing in soil mechanics. He died on February 18, 2008 from congestive heart failure. He was awarded the National Medal of Science in 1975 "for his development of the science and art of subsurface engineering, combining the contributions of the sciences of geology and soil mechanics with the practical art of foundation design."
Peck was born in Winnipeg to O.K. and Ethel Peck, and moved to the United States at age six. In 1934 he received his Civil Engineer degree from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and was given a three year fellowship for graduate work in structures. On June 14, 1937 he married Marjorie Truby and obtained a Doctor of Civil Engineering degree.
After receiving his degree, he worked briefly for the American Bridge Company, then on the Chicago Subway, but Peck spent the majority of his teaching career at the University of Illinois, initially in structures but later focused on civil engineering under the influence of Karl Terzaghi, ultimately retiring in 1974. He continued to work until 2005 and was highly influential as a consulting engineer, with some 1,045 consulting projects in foundations, ore storage facilities, tunnel projects, dams, and dikes, including the Cannelton and Uniontown lock and dam construction failures on the Ohio River, the dams in the James Bay project, the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System, the Dead Sea dikes and the Rion-Antirion Bridge in Greece.