WeatherBug® Your Weather Just Got Better™

Change Units: °F  | °C

Hurricane News


Ohio Hopes To Save Richter Scale Developer Legacy

April 25, 2013

By Lisa Cornwell, The Associated Press


CINCINNATI - Fans of the Ohio native credited with developing the Richter scale of rating earthquake magnitude want to be sure that Charles Richter`s name and legacy remain prominent in history.

They are concerned because many reports about earthquakes no longer mention the scale developed in the early 1930s and just refer to magnitudes in general, as newer measurement scales have been developed.

"Younger generations may never know about his contributions," said Anne Jantzen, a co-founder of the Friends of Charles F. Richter Society.

The group of historians and Richter supporters, joined by local government and parks officials, has established an annual celebration of his life near his southwest Ohio birthplace. This year`s celebration of Charles F. Richter Day will be held Friday on his birthday at the site of an Ohio Historical Marker previously dedicated to him in Butler County, about 25 miles north of Cincinnati. A county road roundabout there will be dedicated as the Richter Roundabout.

"We want to be sure future generations know who he was and what he accomplished," Jantzen said, adding that Richter supporters hope to eventually get the day recognized statewide.

Richter, with input from colleagues including Beno Gutenberg and Harry Wood, has been credited with developing the method of rating earthquake magnitude through measuring the shock waves produced. The physicist and seismologist published the mathematical calculation in 1935 while at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

Other scales measuring earthquakes in various ways have since been developed, but Richter`s idea of a magnitude scale brought the study of earthquakes a big step forward, said Michael Blanpied, associate coordinator for earthquake hazards at the U.S. Geological Survey.

"Providing a means by which to measure, classify, compare and even discuss earthquakes among scientists led to great improvements in our understanding of their origins," Blanpied said.

He said that within the seismology field, Richter`s contributions "will never fade."

Richter, who died in 1985, was born in the village of Overpeck in 1900. The great-great-grandson of Amish pioneers spent his early life there before moving with his mother, sister and grandfather to Los Angeles. He was born Charles Kinsinger, but his father left when he was a child and Richter later took his mother`s maiden name.

Susan Hough, a California seismologist and author of the 2007 biography "Richter`s Scale: Measure of an Earthquake, Measure of a Man," describes Richter as a "character" who had difficulty interacting socially and may have had Asperger`s syndrome. The developmental disorder affects the ability to communicate and socialize, among other things.

"He wrote that `living` was a natural skill for most people, but for him it was a learned one," Hough said.

She said Richter was very complex and "more of an outside-the-box thinker who didn`t fit the mold" of most scientists. He wrote poetry and he and his wife were avid nudists who often attended nudist camps.

He also worked extensively to promote earthquake safety, trying to ensure that buildings were as safe from earthquakes as possible.

Richter never had children to help preserve his legacy, "so now we`re his family," said Jantzen, adding that the need to ensure he is not forgotten goes beyond just preserving his place in history.

"His ability to overcome difficulties and achieve greatness can be an inspiration to others," she said.


Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.


Story image: In this 1963 file photo, American seismologist Charles Francis Richter, who developed the first widely used seismic magnitude scale in 1935, studies earthquake tremors in his laboratory in Pasadena, Ca., in 1963. AP Photo, File

What do you think of this story?
Click here for comments or suggestions.

Recent Stories:

Hurricane Learning Center

Hurricane Center

View maps and learn about hurricanes.

Hurricane Tracker

Follow the path of past major storms and hurricanes.

Hurricane Facts

What is a hurricane? How is it formed? Learn the facts.

Hurricane Safety

Do you have a disaster plan? Tips so you can be prepared.

Hurricane Names

Find out what Hurricane names are planned for this year.

Satellite Images

Watch time-lapse satellite images of recent storm activity around the world.

Hurricane Outlook

The latest hurricane news and headlines on hurricane season and active storms.

Hurricane Video

Learn more about the power of a Category 5 hurricane and the damage it can cause. Watch Video

Hurricane Now

Hurricane experiences and coverage from people reporting live on the scene. Watch Video

Stay Safe & Informed

New WeatherBug®Alert

WeatherBug Alert Tray Icon

Get severe weather alerts and your live local temperature when you're not on the web. Includes one-click access to additional severe weather information on WeatherBug.com. Learn More

Weather News

Other Top Weather Headlines

WeatherBug Featured Content

Green Living

Green Living

You too can help save our planet and put money back in your wallet. Learn how you can take the first steps to reduce your environmental impact, including driving green, easy ways you can conserve water, and energy saving tips. To learn more and discover the benefits of going green, visit WeatherBug’s green living section. More >

Sponsored Content