Leaning_tower_of_pisa-GNU-Alkarex-Malin-gerProfessor John Burland has spent the last two decades striving to save – and understand – the Leaning Tower of Pisa. After defying gravity, Italian bureaucracy and accusations of corruption, it seems he’s finally cracked the case.

“Without our intervention, any local storm or earth tremor could have finished it off,” Burland said of the freestanding bell tower, adjacent to the cathedral of the Italian city of Pisa.

Burland, 72, an emeritus professor of soil engineering at Imperial College London, helped solve one of the most fascinating riddles in architectural history.

Two decades ago, when a committee of experts drawn from every discipline was assembled, they couldn’t even find a computer program that would accept the fact that a building tilting 4.7m could still be standing, according to the UK’s Telegraph.

Eventually after years of failure, Burland was convinced he had a solution – a process called soil extraction – and ultimately he won over the rest of the committee. Akin to microsurgery, it entailed drilling out slivers of soil from beneath the northern side of the tower – away from the lean – and allowing gravity to coax the structure back upright. It had the advantage of not touching the tower itself, so keeping the art historians happy.

Later, he even unlocked the biggest mystery of the 800 year-old building — why the tower leans south not north…

(READ the full article in the Telegraph)

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