Royal Society Publishing

Sir Alan Marshall Muir Wood FREng FICE. 8 August 1921 — 1 February 2009

John B. Burland, Robert J. Mair


Sir Alan Muir Wood was a civil engineer who gained worldwide recognition for his pioneering and innovative tunnelling design and construction. In the early years of his career he was much concerned with coastal erosion and landslides. Later he became involved in some of the world’s major tunnelling projects, among them the Potters Bar railway tunnels, the Clyde Tunnel, the Channel Tunnel and the 50-mile water-carrying Orange–Fish Tunnel in South Africa. Each project saw him pushing forwards innovation in different aspects of design. The cargo tunnel at Heathrow Airport has been described as his most influential design and a testament to his analytical skills, his creativity in design and his vast experience in the handling of the inevitable uncertainties and risks associated with tunnelling. As might be expected for such an innovative engineer he took a keen interest in research and in engineering education. He relished robust technical debate and intellectual challenge and, even after ‘retirement’, was regularly involved in construction litigation and arbitration, for which he developed a formidable reputation for his clarity of thought and penetrating evidence. Although extremely modest, he was a natural leader in his profession and was widely respected for his absolute integrity (being elected President of the Institution of Civil Engineers).