that reducing, or even containing, the vulnerabilities to future earthquakes as urbanization of earthquake-prone regions increases, constitutes a major and continuing challenge for earthquake science and engineering.



A general historical account is given by B.A. Bolt, Earthquakes and Geological Discovery, W.H. Freeman, New York, 229 pp., 1993. For a history of Japanese seismology, see T. Utsu, Seismological evidence for anomalous structure of island arcs, Rev. Geophys. Space Phys., 9, 839-890, 1971.


W. Whiston, translator, The New Complete Works of Josephus, Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, 1143 pp., 1999.


The Aristotelian theory is the root of folkloric notions about “earthquake weather.” In describing a series of earthquakes felt in London during 1750, Stephen Hales, a preacher, scientist, and follower of Isaac Newton, echoed Aristotle: “We find in the late earthquakes in London, that before they happen there is usually a calm air with a black sulfurous cloud which would probably be dispersed like a fog if there were a wind; which dispersion would prevent the earthquake which is probably caused by the explosive lightning of this sulfurous cloud; being both near the Earth and coming at a time when sulfurous vapors are rising from the Earth in greater quantity than usual which is often occasioned by a long period of hot and dry weather. Ascending sulfurous vapors in the Earth may probably take fire, and thereby cause Earth lightning which is first kindled at the surface and not at great depths as has been thought whose explosion is the immediate cause of an earthquake.”


R. Mallet, Neapolitan Earthquake of 1857. The First Principles of Observational Seismology, Chapman and Hall, London, 2 vols., 831 pp., 1862. He also introduced the term hypocenter for the focus of the earthquake, which he presumed was a volcanic explosion, and deduced its location from the observed directions of ground motions, assumed to be excited by pure compressional waves. Despite the crudeness of his method, his estimate of the focal depth, about 10 kilometers, was probably not far off.


Much earlier than Lyell’s text was the Book of Zachariah (14:4-5), which details a future scenario for a surface-faulting earthquake: “And his feet shall stand on that day upon the Mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east. And the Mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof towards the east and towards the west. And there shall be a great valley and half of the mountain shall remove towards the north and half of it towards the south. And ye shall flee to the valley of the mountain as ye fled from before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah, King of Juda.”


Darwin’s observations were not actually new. In a report to the London Geographical Society (An account of some effects of the late earthquakes in Chili: Extracted from a letter to Henry Warburton, Trans. Geol. Soc. London, Ser. 2, 1, 413-415, 1824), Maria Graham, an English travel writer, documented coastal uplift during an earlier earthquake near Valparaiso, Chile, in 1822: “I found the ancient bed of the sea laid bare and dry, with beds of oysters, mussels, and other shells adhering to the rocks on which they grew, the fish all being dead, and exhaling the most offensive effluvia.”


Although Gilbert emphasized the normal component of faulting, it is now recognized that the 1872 event included a significant component of strike-slip.


G.K. Gilbert, Lake Bonneville, U.S. Geological Survey Monograph 1, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C., 340 pp., 1890.


R.D. Oldham, Report on the Great Earthquake of the 12th June, 1897, Geological Survey of India, Memoir 29, Calcutta, 379 pp., 1899; C.S. Middlemiss, The Kangra Earthquake of 4th April, 1905, Geological Survey of India, Memoir 37, Calcutta, 409 pp., 1910. Middlemiss’

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement