following biography was found
typewritten in the personal effects of
The author is unknown.
It was written in 1948.
Mr. Baumann lived until 1983.
Paul Baumann, Sr. is the father of Hanns
U. Baumann, SE, of Baumann Research and
Recently, we received correspondence from Prof. David Rogers, who serves as the Karl F. Hasselmann Chair in Geological Engineering in the Department of Geological Sciences & Engineering at the University of Missouri-Rolla. In addition to his role as an educator, he is a historian focusing on dams and geological engineering, and was kind enough to modify the bio with information from his personal file on Paul Baumann. We have highlighted Prof. Rogers' additions to the biography.
Baumann was born in Bern, Switzerland,
on January 30, 1892; the son of
Friedrich Baumann, Architect, and Marie
Louise (Baumann), nee Bigler.
His early youth was spent on the
family estate on the Breitenrain, which
formerly was owned by the old Bernese
patricians, von Greyerz.
The death of his father in 1910
was the hardest of the early blows of
completed the public schools in Bern
with the Maturitas of the Realgymnasium
(High School) in 1911, he entered the
Federal Institute of Technology (E.T.H.)
in Zurich in the fall of that year as a
student in Civil Engineering.
He soon joined the Utonia, a
dueling, gymnastic fraternity, members
of which remained his life-long friends.
1912, he reported for his basic military
training, the school of recruits, as a
Sapper (Corps of Engineers) and in 1913,
he decided to skip a year at the Federal
Institute to complete the corporal and
officer’s training schools and to gain
practical experience in engineering.
The outbreak of World War I,
however, completely altered the
curriculum so far as the return to the
Institute was concerned in that the
services of the army engineers were in
great demand, particularly those of the
sappers, in connection with
fortifications, strategic roads, flood
As a result, the return to the
studies did not take place until the
winter semester of 1915/1916 and
interruptions thereof occurred also
after that but not of sufficient
duration to prevent his graduation
(Diploma) in Civil Engineering in July
Among the most interesting
military experiences as an officer
during World War I were his assignment
to the Chief of Engineers (Armeestab) in
Bern on the planning and design of
permanent fortifications; the
engineering and construction by the
sappers of the strategic
Schelttenstrasse between Mervellier in
the Jura with Balsthal in the valley of
the Aare which included bridges, stream
corrections and flood control; and the
survey of and intelligence on, the
Italian fortifications along the border
in the Canton Ticino by the Information
Office of the South Front in Lugano
thesis attendant on the Diploma was in
connection with a hydro-electric power
plant in the Bernese Oberland which was
to form the initial development for the
now well-known Oberhasliwerke in the
headwaters of the River Aare and along
the world famous Grimselpass highway.
It led, immediately after
graduation to a job in the planning
office of the Bernese Power Company (Bernische
Kraftwerke) and subsequently to
preliminary topographic surveys in the
After completion of preliminary
plans he left the power company and
worked as a designer, especially on
reinforced concrete with a construction
firm in Bern and subsequently entered
Army service again in connection with
the liquidation of materials and the
obliteration of temporary
This lasted until the Spring of
1920 at which time he decided to join
the Second Swiss Mission to America for
economic and technical studies, which
arrived in May of that year.
However, upon reaching
Washington, D.C., a telegram from a
student friend advised him that a job
was waiting with the Fargo Engineering
Co. in Jackson, Michigan.
This was too good to turn down.
Hence, after brief farewells he
was on his way to Jackson and was soon
hard at work.
This consisted first of tracing
as usual in America, then detailing and
drafting and finally hydrologic studies
and design, structural and hydraulic, in
connection with steam and hydro-electric
before the end of the year he left
Jackson for Phoenix, Arizona, in
response to a call from his old friend,
the late Dr. Fred Noetzli from the
Federal Institute in Zurich and arrived
from the Nordic blizzards of Michigan in
the warm and dazzling sunshine of
Arizona on New Year’s Day, 1921.
The irrigation and power project
of which Dr. Noetzli was Chief Engineer
consisted of a number of major dams and
power plants along the Verde River; of a
main canal with tunnels, flumes, siphons
and bridges across the McDowell Apache
Indian Reservation and some 300,000
acres of irrigable land in the so-called
Paradise Valley. While the first three
months were spent on field surveys the
next six months were spent on the design
of dams, power plants, canals and
distribution systems during which time
Baumann served as Principal Assistant to
It is here that the Hollow
Buttress Multiple Arch dam and the
Forked Abutment for arched dams were
originated, designed and statically
When in early fall Dr. Noetzli
left for Switzerland, Baumann took over
as Chief Engineer and carried the work
to completion shortly before the end of
It was this job that prompted him
to specialize in dams.
the meantime he had heard of a project
of an entirely different nature, namely
the transformation of a wilderness of
virgin forest around the mile-high
Little Bear Lake (now Lake Arrowhead) in
the San Bernardino Mountains of Southern
California into a year round resort.
The project was financed by a
group of Los Angeles capitalists.
It comprised some 6000 acres of
The lake had been created around
the turn of the century by means of an
earth-fill dam of novel design and
construction known as
The reservoir was to serve for
storage and regulation in connection
with a gigantic power and water supply
project, which, however, had to be
abandoned for financial reasons.
The dam had not been completed
but had attracted attention in
engineering circles beyond the United
States and in fact was put to Baumann as
a ‘quiz’ in his final examination in
Zurich long before he had reached this
continent. He, therefore, could
not help but feel like (he was) seeing
an old friend when in December (of)
1921, he arrived there as Design
Engineer for the Arrowhead Lake Co.
The project included the
completion of the dam and the spillway;
installation of hydro-electric stand-by
plant; construction of a village, which
was named Lake Arrowhead, in the Old
Norman style together with all modern,
sanitary installations as well as
wharfs, docks and shore protection;
road, sewer, water, telephone and power
systems extending over the entire area
and the surveying, mapping and
the winter the snow reached several feet
in depth, which enabled Baumann,
together with another Swiss Engineer,
Karl Erni from Lucerne, to introduce the
Ski jumping made a special hit
and moving picture cameramen as well as
“stars” from Hollywood soon appeared
on the scene in spite of grave
In the summer of 1922 Baumann was
promoted to Chief Designer; in the fall
of that year to Resident Engineer and in
the spring of 1923 to Chief Engineer,
which he remained until the completion
of the project in the summer of 1925.
to this date, namely on June 9, 1924, he
was married to Miss Miriam M. May from
Hollywood and originally from Bristol,
England, in the first wedding ceremony
to be held in Lake Arrowhead.
Upon completion of the project in
summer of 1925 he and his wife undertook
a trip via Canada to England, France and
Switzerland and also traveled through
Germany, Austria, and Italy in
connection with a study of and report
on, automatic weirs for an American
Subsequently this firm placed
orders for the engineering of automatic
weirs in the U.S.A. with a Swiss firm,
which amounted to many millions of
dollars in investment.
May, 1926, Baumann returned to
California and took a position as Design
Engineer with the consulting firm of
Quinton, Code and Hill and soon
thereafter became Principal Assistant to
the late Louis C. Hill, one of the most
prominent engineers anon dams and
hydro-electric plants in the United
States and beyond.
Few major dams in (the) U.S.A.
were designed and constructed or
improved during Baumann’s association
with Mr. Hill with which he had no
It was also in the course of this
association that Baumann was able to
secure for a Swiss firm the engineering
of the automatic gates for the spillway
of Coolidge Dam on the Gila River in
(the first application of the
double-curved dome structure to buttress dams).
This dam was designed and built
by the U.S. Indian Services.
the summer of 1930 the firm of Quinton,
Code and Hill combined with Leeds and
Barnard and simultaneously Baumann
became Chief Design Engineer of the new
His work now also included harbor
developments and particularly the design
This prompted him to develop a
new design method which, in 1935, was
published in Transactions for the
American Society of Civil Engineers
under the title “Analysis of
In 1936, this paper was awarded
the James Laurie Prize for the Society.
Following a series of tragic embarrassments within the Los Angeles County Flood
Control District over corruption and collusion involving the ill-fated San
Gabriel Dam at the Forks Site in San Gabriel Canyon, Chief Engineer E. Cortland
Eaton was forced to step down.
October of 1934 Baumann was appointed
Assistant Chief Designer of the Los
Angeles County Flood Control District in
charge of design, construction,
operation and maintenance of dams,
debris basins, spreading grounds,
pumping plants, hydraulic research and
computations, engineering materials,
physical and chemical testing, radio and
telephone communications and electrical
His primary task was the
direction of the $20 million
San Gabriel project as Project
Engineer comprising the revision of
design and construction of the No. 1
(now called San Gabriel Dam), which at 376 feet high, was the highest embankment
dam in the world at the time. He also supervised revision and completion of the
280 ft. high San Gabriel Dam No. 2 (later renamed Cogswell Dam), a rockfill dam
on the West Fork of the San Gabriel River which had suffered settlement problems
and destruction of the wood planking intended to seal the upstream face.
Besides this work, he worked in
his spare time on a number of technical
problems for his former boss, Louis C.
1941, he was called in by Raymond R.
Hill as consultant on the design of the
Camp San Luis Obispo Dam (later renamed Salinas Dam)
of the U.S. Corps of
Engineers which was to secure the supply of water
for Camp San Luis Obispo, for the 40th
Division, which had been reactivated in March 1941 from National Guard units in
California, Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah.
This was a hush-hush
job and extremely urgent.
The design of the dam, which is
of an unusual structural type
in that it was the first arch dam constructed with thrust blocks on both
abutments, and the plan was to install much larger flood gates at some later
date to double the storage capacity of the reservoir (which never happened).
The design began in June; the contract was let in
September and the job was completed by
Christmas – all in 1941. The attack on Pearl
Harbor had definitely an accelerating
The dam is 165’ high, 600 feet
long at the crest and stores 50,000 acre
feet of water, all in round figures.
1943, he published a paper in
Transactions of the American Society of
Civil Engineers entitled “Design and
Construction of the San Gabriel Dam No.
1” which was awarded the Society’s
Thomas Fitch Rowland Prize for that
Only four authors have been
awarded both of these prizes (James Laurie Prize and Thomas Fitch Rowland Prize) in the past
Of those there is one alive today
technical papers and publications by him
appeared in Southwest Builder and
Contractor; Western Construction News;
Engineering News-Record; Schweizerische
Bauzeitung; Proceedings of the Second
International Conference of Soil
Mechanics in Holland, 1948
(about San Gabriel Dam); Civil
Engineering; and in the Journal of the
American Concrete Institute besides many
discussions of papers in Transactions,
Am. Soc. Of Civ. Enginrs.
1946 Baumann visited Switzerland for the
first time since 1926.
His wife with the two sons born
in 1928 and 1930 had visited his family
in 1936, a year before the death of his
Unfortunately the San Gabriel
project prevented his participation in
In 1947 Baumann paid Europe
another visit, this time in connection
with new American construction methods
for concrete dams and in June of this
year (1948), he attended the Second
International Conference on Soil
Mechanics and Foundation Engineering in
Holland with subsequent visit to the
Federal Institute of Technology in
Zurich and his relatives and friends in
all parts of Switzerland.
In 1946, upon his return from
Switzerland, Baumann was called as a
consultant for the raising of Gibraltar
in the Santa Inez Mountains for the City of Santa Barbara. .
This dam was originally designed
by the firm of Quinton, Code and Hill
back in 1926 and was the first arch dam to employ an artificial thrust block
(similar to the Salinas Dam)..
The reservoir had lost half of
its capacity in 25 years
due to siltation from the upper Santa Inez River.
The raising of the dam which is
now in progress reestablished the
original capacity of the reservoir.
The above biography was dated Oct. 24, 1948, San Marino California. Baumann continued with the LA County Flood Control District until his retirement in 1959. He then worked as a consultant and continued with Committee work for various engineering organizations. Some of the projects found in his files include Puddingstone Dam, Little Santa Anita Canyon Dam, and Eaton Canyon Dam. Baumann moved to a 2-acre hillside property in Sierra Madre in the 1950s, where he lived until his death in 1983.
"The Blue Book - Leaders of the English Speaking World, 1973-1974" published by St. James Press, London, England included this entry for Paul Baumann. The book is published annually and lists persons in the United Kingdom, Ireland, New Zealand, Canada and the USA who have achieved distinction in the arts and sciences, business or the professions.
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