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Famous Seismologists and Earthquake Detection

Who Invented the Modern Seismograph For Earthquake Detection?
John Milne was the English seismologist and geologist who invented the first modern seismograph and promoted the building of seismological stations. In 1880, Sir James Alfred Ewing, Thomas Gray and John Milne, all British scientists working in Japan, began to study earthquakes. They founded the Seismological Society of Japan and the society funded the invention of seismographs to detect and measure earthquakes. John Milne invented the horizontal pendulum seismograph in 1880.

The horizontal pendulum seismograph was improved after World War II with the Press-Ewing seismograph, developed in the United States for recording long-period waves. It is widely used throughout the world today. The Press-Ewing seismograph uses a Milne pendulum, but the pivot supporting the pendulum is replaced by an elastic wire to avoid friction.

John Milne (1850-1913)

John Milne - Biographical Sketch
John Milne was, perhaps, the greatest individual contributor to observational earthquake investigations of all time. He was an English geologist and mining engineer, but his earthquake investigations were largely, especially in early years, carried out in Japan. In the early 1890s, John Milne developed with colleagues the first accurate seismograph, an instrument used to record ground shaking, a frequent and sometimes devastating occurrence in Japan
Earthquake Milne - 1850-1913
'Earthquake' Milne' was the nickname given to Professor John Milne, the father of seismology, who, after his return from Japan in 1895, lived and worked for many years at Shide Hill House on the outskirts of Newport. The observatory he established there became the world center for earthquake science.

Sir James Alfred Ewing (1855–1935)

Professor Sir James Alfred Ewing recieved a degree in engineering at Edinburgh University and then became Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the new University of Tokyo. There that he carried out research into earthquakes, which were frequent in Japan, and devised a new type of seismometer for earthquake measurement.
Sir James Alfred Ewing
He was one of the first Europeans to study earthquakes in Japan.

Charles Richter and the Richter  Scale

Charles Richter Invented The Richter Scale
The Richter Scale was developed in 1935 by Charles Richter of the California Institute of Technology as a mathematical device to compare the sizes of earthquakes.

John Milne was the English seismologist and geologist who invented the first modern seismograph and promoted the building of seismological stations for earthquake study.

The Early History of Seismometry
This is an excellent full history of the seismograph and earthquake detection.

Websites on Earthquakes and Seismology


Places to explore the science of earthquakes from your About Guide to geology.
Strange Seismometers
A seismometer can be as simple as a rock just standing there, from your About Guide to geology.
Measuring the Big One
What is the biggest earthquake? That is not such a simple question, and earthquake scales have had a history as long as seismology itself, from your About Guide to geology.

The Men and Women of Seismology
How does a seismograph work? What is the Richter Scale?
Early seismographs only measured a small part of the broad band of wave sizes and frequencies that earthquakes emit.

©Mary Bellis

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