In the late 1930s and early 1940s, Ralph B. Peck worked with Karl Terzaghi on the Chicago Subway Project. Out of this relationship great strides were taken in the observation of the behavior of earth and rock during construction and under stress. This was one of the first applications in geotechnical engineering for what is now known as the observational method.

Peck joined the Civil Engineering Staff at the University of Illinois in 1972 and helped to build a nucleus of soil mechanics people. He remained there for thirty-six years using his consulting practice to provide information for case history lectures. Many of the present day practicing engineers have been students, or students of students, who attended these lectures.

From 1975 until 2004, Peck continued to consult on projects worldwide, the final one being the Rion-Antirion bridge in Greece. This project was the recipient of ASCE's Opal Outstanding Civil Engineering Achievement Award for 2005.

On May 8, 2008, the Norwegian Geotechnical Institute in Oslo, Norway opened the Ralph B. Peck Library. This Library is next to the Karl Terzaghi Library, also at NGI. Correspondence between these two men are part of the two working libraries. The Karl Terzaghi Library tells about the birth and growth of soil mechanics. The Ralph B. Peck Library tells about the practice of foundation engineering, and how one engineer exercised his art and science for more than sixty years. Diaries from between 1939-1941 containing Peck's work with the Chicago Subway are included along with papers and reports on many of his subsequent jobs.

Professor Peck has contributed to his profession through his services as a consulting engineer on numerous projects. Not only were the projects themselves important but the literature that resulted from the work has greatly benefited the profession. The following is a partial list of his undertakings.

Foundations and stability conditions of ore docks and other heavily loaded structures for:

  • U.S. Steel Corporation;
  • Republic Steel Corporation;
  • Jones & Laughlin Steel Corporation;
  • Weirton Steel Company;
  • Youngstown Sheet and Tube Company;
  • American Steel and Wire Company;
  • Bethlehem Steel Company;
  • Nuclear reactors in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, Michigan and California;
  • Raft foundations for North and South Grant Park Underground Garages, Chicago;
  • Over-water runway extensions, LaGuardia Airport, New York.

Investigations of stability conditions for the:

  • Northern Pacific, Great Northern, Milwaukee, Penn-Central, Louisville and Nashville,
  • Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroads;
  • Climax Molybdenum Company;
  • New York Thruway;
  • Cities Service Oil Company;
  • Wyandotte Chemicals Company;
  • Marquette Cement Company;
  • Port Authority of New York and New Jersey;
  • City and Country of Honolulu;
  • Seattle Freeway;
  • Trans-Alaska Pipeline;
  • Member of Corps of Engineers Board of Consultants on Landslides induced by the 1964 Alaska Earthquake.

Investigations of tunneling including:

  • Wilson and H-3 Trans-Koolau Vehicular Tunnels, Honolulu;
  • Mt. Baker Ridge Vehicular Tunnel, Seattle;
  • Subway tunnels for:
  • The City of Chicago;
  • Bay Area Rapid Transit District San Francisco;
  • Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority;
  • New York Second Avenue Line;
  • Niagara Frontier Transit Authority;
  • Baltimore Regional Rapid Transit System.

Investigations of bracing systems for open cuts for subways and deep excavations including:

  • Inland Steel Building, Chicago;
  • Harris Trust Building, Chicago;
  • Rapid Transit Station structures, San Francisco, Baltimore, and Washington D.C.;
  • Embarcadero Plaza, San Francisco.

Studies for dams including:

  • Rocky Reach Dam, Wenatchee, Washington;
  • Waimea Reservoir, Hawaii;
  • Cabin Creek project, Colorado;
  • Cannelton, Uniontown, Smithland and Mound City Locks and Dams, Ohio River;
  • New Alton Lock and Dam, Mississippi;
  • Bath Country Pumped Storage Project, Virginia;
  • Member, Independent Panel to Review Cause of the Teton Dam Failure, 1976.

Many dam projects were outside the United States. In some cases, several of the dams directly affect the water flow in the Northwestern United States. The information obtained from these worldwide projects has been the subject of numerous articles, papers, case histories and lectures which have resulted in increased knowledge about dam foundations and control of rivers which also pertains to undertakings in this country.
Some of these projects were:

  • Peace River Project, British Columbia;
  • Mactaquac project, New Brunswick;
  • Mica Creek Project, British Columbia;
  • Kremasta Dam, Greece;
  • Churchill Falls Project, Labrador;
  • James Bay Project, Quebec;
  • Lower Notch Dam, Ontario;
  • Aslantas Dam, Turkey;
  • Dead Sea Dikes, Israel;
  • Sabaneta Dam, Dominican Republic;
  • Arnprior Hydroelectric Development, Ontario;
  • Itezhitezhi Dam, Zambia;
  • Neusa Dam, Bogata, Columbia;
  • Rio Macho Project, Costa Rica;
  • The Rion-Antirion Bridge in Greece (which received the ASCE OPAL
  • Outstanding Civil Engineering Achievement Award in 2005).

Member of advisory boards:

    Office of Chief of Engineers, Corps of Engineers, Department of the Army; Corps of Engineers including: Garrison Dam Test Tunnel; Foundations for Savannah River Project, Cape Kennedy Saturn Causeway.

Various defense projects for:

  • Rand Corporation;
  • Space Technology Laboratories;
  • Aerospace Corporation.