14th Mallet Milne Lecture

Of course, the other major activity earlier this year was the preparation for the 14th Mallet Milne Lecture. Those familiar with this biannual event, organised by the Society for Earthquake and Civil Engineering Dynamics (SECED), will know that the actual lecture is only part of it: it is customary for the lecture to be accompanied by a monograph on the same topic. Which is quite a lot of writing.

The title I chose was “A history of British seismology” – an obvious nod in the direction of Charles Davison’s classic work, “A history of British earthquakes” (Cambridge University Press, 1924). I was thinking that this would be something that would be fairly straightforward to write, but when it came down to it, I was surprised to discover just how much I didn’t know. It was quite an education to research some of the points that I found I knew only partly about. For instance, I knew that claims had been made in the late 1880s that a teleseism had been recorded at Marsden Colliery (near Sunderland), a few years before Rebeur-Paschwitz’s historic redording made at Potsdam. But I never before had really looked at the details; for instance, that the claim was debunked almost immediately by the physicist Alexander Herschel, who went on to design his own seismoscope.

Nor did I know that the word “seismoscope” was coined by the Irish engineer Robert Mallet; indeed, I also found that it was Mallet who coined the word “seismologue” for an earthquake catalogue (see earlier posts).

All in all, it was a bit like doing a second PhD, only having to do it in six months, working only in the evenings and at weekends.

However, it was finished on time, all 150 pages of it. In a departure from past practice, SECEDĀ  arranged for it to be published open access in the Bulletin of Earthquake Engineering; it fills an entire issue. So anyone who wants, can download a copy from the Springer web site (http://link.springer.com/journal/10518/11/3/page/1).

The lecture itself took place on 29 May and passed off successfully, with a good audience. A video of it can be watched here: https://vimeo.com/icegroup/review/67311706/64f31d516d

And here is a photo taken just before the lecture – with Andy Mair, Chairman of SECED.



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