Dr Hoek was born in Zimbabwe and graduated in mechanical engineering from the University of Cape Town in South Africa
in 1955. For his post-graduate work he specialised in experimental stress analysis and obtained a master's degree for his work on three-dimensional photoelastic techniques. In 1958 he joined the South African Council for Scientific and Industrial Research and became involved in the application of stress analysis techniques to the study of rock stress problems in deep level gold mines. He was awarded a PhD in 1965 by the University of Cape Town for a thesis on brittle fracture in rock.
In 1966 he accepted an invitation from the Imperial College of Science and Technology, one of the colleges of the University of London, to establish an interdepartmental centre of research and teaching in rock mechanics. He was appointed Professor of Rock Mechanics in 1970 and awarded a DSc in Engineering by London University in 1975.
In 1975 he moved to Canada as a Principal of Golder Associates, an international geotechnical consulting firm. In 1987 he accepted the post of Industrial Research Professor of Rock Engineering in the Department of Civil Engineering at the University of Toronto.
Dr Hoek returned to a full time consulting practice in Vancouver in 1993. He is now an independent consultant and is a member of a number of consulting boards and a technical review consultant on several major civil and mining engineering projects. He has recently worked on projects in Canada, Greece, India, Venezuela, Chile, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Australia and the Philippines.
He has published numerous technical papers and three books. His most recent book on rock support for hard rock excavations, co-authored with Professors P.K. Kaiser and W.F. Bawden, was published in January 1995. Amongst the awards which he has received are the E. Burwell Award from the Geological Society of America (1979), Elected a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering, UK (1982), Rankine Lecturer, British Geotechnical Society. (1983), The Gold Medal of the Institution of Mining and Metallurgy, UK, (1985), The Mueller Award, International Society of Rock Mechanics (1991), William Smith Medal, Geological Society of London, (1993), the award of an honorary DSc in Engineering by the University of Waterloo, Canada (1994) and presentation of the Glossop Lecture to the Geological Society in London (1998).