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Interview with Hiroo Kanamori

Kanamori, Hiroo (2000) Interview with Hiroo Kanamori. [Oral History]

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Interview in two sessions in April 1999 with Hiroo Kanamori, John E. and Hazel S. Smits Professor of Geophysics and director of the Seismological Laboratory 1990-1998. Begins by talking about what it was like to grow up in Japan during WW II; his early education and interest in engineering. University of Tokyo, BS in physics, 1959. As an undergraduate and graduate student, worked with Chuji Tsuboi on building a sea-borne gravity meter (MS 1961). Further graduate work with Hitoshi Takeuchi on geodynamics and seismological projects (PhD 1964). Charles Richter and Charles Hewitt Dix to University of Tokyo as visitors; works closely with Dix on gravity meter and geophysical problems. At Dix's invitation, comes to Caltech in summer 1965, one-year research fellowship. Spends part of it at the Seismological Laboratory, then on N. San Rafael. Back to Earthquake Research Institute (ERI) in Tokyo in 1966; 1969, goes to MIT as visiting associate professor at invitation of Frank Press; studies very large earthquakes (Chile, 1960; Alaska, 1964). Comments on differences between Caltech and MIT. Back to Tokyo; student unrest disrupts ERI. Comes to Caltech as full professor in 1972, appointed to Seismo Lab, headed by Don Anderson. Comments on life at the Seismo Lab and interaction with Richter. Recalls Lab's 1974 move to Caltech campus. Discusses work on quantifying very large earthquakes using long-period waves; work on tsunami (slow) earthquakes. Mount Saint Helens eruption in May 1980 spurs his interest in volcanology. Seismograms after eruption show it was not main event but triggered by a landslide caused by shear waves. Discusses decision to accept directorship of Seismo Lab; interest in seismic hazard reduction in Southern California; means of reducing seismic risks; 1987 TERRAscope network, joint project with the U. S. Geological Survey (USGS) to collect earthquake data. Discusses Caltech's establishment in 1950s of Earthquake Research Affiliates to fund earthquake study and its reactivation in late 1980s as CUBE [Caltech-USGS Broadcast of Earthquakes], a real-time seismic information system. Comments on interaction with USGS. Improved earthquake network (TriNet) set up in 1997, with help from Everhart administration and FEMA funds; new participant is state of California, through UC Berkeley's seismic network and California Department of Mines and Geology. He becomes PI of TriNet. Succeeded in 1998 as Seismo Lab director by Donald Helmberger. Discusses outreach efforts to inform public about seismic risks. Collaboration with people in engineering division. Comments on 1995 Kobe earthquake. Discusses his reasons for not having become U. S. citizen. Concludes with his hopes for seismology's future, including ideas of Takuji Kobori, of the Kajima Technical Research Institute, on developing an active control system to protect large urban structures against earthquake damage.

Item Type:Oral History
Keywords:Geology, geophysics, seismology
Record Number:CaltechOH:OH_Kanamori_H
Persistent URL:
Official Citation:Kanamori, Hiroo. Interview by Shirley K. Cohen. Pasadena, California, April 19 and 26, 1999. Oral History Project, California Institute of Technology Archives. Retrieved [supply date of retrieval] from the World Wide Web:
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
Subjects:Subjects > Geology
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ID Code:157
Deposited By: Oral Histories Administrator
Deposited On:22 Aug 2008
Last Modified:04 Oct 2019 15:23

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