Beno Gutenberg

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Beno Gutenberg (; June 4, 1889 – January 25, 1960) was a German-American
seismologist Seismology (; from Ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language used in ancient Greece and the classical antiquity, ancient world from around 1500 BC to 300 BC. It is often roughly divided into the following period ...
who made several important contributions to the science. He was a colleague and mentor of
Charles Francis Richter Charles Francis Richter (); April 26, 1900 – September 30, 1985) was an United States, American seismology, seismologist and physics, physicist. Richter is most famous as the creator of the Richter magnitude scale, which, until the development ...
at the
California Institute of Technology The California Institute of Technology (Caltech)The university itself only spells its short form as "Caltech"; other spellings such a"Cal Tech" and "CalTech" are incorrect. The Institute is also occasionally referred to as "CIT", most notably i ...
and Richter's collaborator in developing the
Richter magnitude scale The Richter scale – also called the Richter magnitude scale or Richter's magnitude scale – is a measure of the strength of earthquakes, developed by Charles Francis Richter and presented in his landmark 1935 paper, where he called it the "m ...
for measuring an
earthquake An earthquake (also known as a quake, tremor or temblor) is the shaking of the surface of the Earth resulting from a sudden release of energy in the Earth Earth is the third planet from the Sun and the only astronomical object known t ...

's magnitude.

# Early life

Gutenberg was born in
Darmstadt Darmstadt (, also , , ) is a city in the States of Germany, state of Hesse in Germany, located in the southern part of the Frankfurt Rhine Main Area, Rhine-Main-Area (Frankfurt Metropolitan Region). Darmstadt has around 160,000 inhabitants, ma ...

,
Germany Germany (german: Deutschland, ), officially the Federal Republic of Germany, is a country in . It is the in Europe after , and the most populous . Germany is situated between the and seas to the north, and the to the south; it covers an area of ...

, and obtained his doctorate in physics from the
University of Göttingen The University of Göttingen, officially the Georg August University of Göttingen, (german: Georg-August-Universität Göttingen, known informally as Georgia Augusta) is a public research university in the city of Göttingen, Germany. Founded i ...
Emil Wiechert Emil Johann Wiechert (26 December 1861 – 19 March 1928) was a German physicist A physicist is a scientist A scientist is a person who conducts Scientific method, scientific research to advance knowledge in an Branches of science, area of ...

. During
World War I World War I, often abbreviated as WWI or WW1, also known as the First World War or the Great War, was a global war A world war is "a war engaged in by all or most of the principal nations of the world". The term is usually reserved for ...

, Gutenberg served in the German army as a meteorologist in support of gas warfare operations. Gutenberg held positions at the
University of Strasbourg The University of Strasbourg (french: Université de Strasbourg, Unistra) is a public In public relations and communication science, publics are groups of individual people, and the public (a.k.a. the general public) is the totality of suc ...
, which he lost when Strasbourg became French in 1918. After some years during which he had to sustain himself with managing his father's soap factory, he obtained in 1926 a junior professorship at University of Frankfurt-am-Main, which was poorly paid. Although he was already, in the 1920s, one of the leading seismologists worldwide and definitely the leading seismologist in Germany, he was still dependent on the position in his father's factory; however, he continued his research in his spare time.

# Professor

In 1928, the attempt to become the successor of his academic teacher, Emil Wiechert, in Göttingen, failed. There are hints that Gutenberg's
Jewish Jews ( he, יְהוּדִים ISO 259-2ISO The International Organization for Standardization (ISO; ) is an international standard are technical standards developed by international organizations (intergovernmental organizations), suc ...

background might have played a role because, already in the 1920s, there were strong antisemitic tendencies in German universities. For similar reasons, he was also not accepted for a professorship in
Potsdam Potsdam () is the capital and largest city of the German German(s) may refer to: Common uses * of or related to Germany * Germans, Germanic ethnic group, citizens of Germany or people of German ancestry * For citizens of Germany, see also Ge ...

to become the successor of Gustav Angenheister. Since Gutenberg could not sustain a career of scientific work in Germany, he accepted a position as Professor of Geophysics at the
California Institute of Technology The California Institute of Technology (Caltech)The university itself only spells its short form as "Caltech"; other spellings such a"Cal Tech" and "CalTech" are incorrect. The Institute is also occasionally referred to as "CIT", most notably i ...
in Pasadena in 1930, becoming founding director of the Seismological Laboratory when it was transferred to Caltech from Carnegie. Even if he had obtained a full professorship in Germany, he would have lost it in 1933 anyway like so many other scientists of Jewish ancestry, at least 30 of whom emigrated to the United States under Gutenberg's sponsorship.

# Research

Gutenberg, especially in his collaboration with
Charles Francis Richter Charles Francis Richter (); April 26, 1900 – September 30, 1985) was an United States, American seismology, seismologist and physics, physicist. Richter is most famous as the creator of the Richter magnitude scale, which, until the development ...
, made the California Institute of Technology Seismological Laboratory the leading seismological institute worldwide. Collaborating with Richter, Gutenberg developed a relationship between seismic magnitude and energy, represented in this equation: :$\!\ \log E\left(s\right) = 11.8 + 1.5 M.$ It gives the energy $E\left(s\right)$ given from earthquakes from seismic waves in
erg The erg is a unit of energy equal to 10−7joule The joule ( ; symbol: J) is a SI derived unit, derived unit of energy in the International System of Units. It is equal to the energy transferred to (or work (physics), work done on) an object ...
s. Another famous result, known as
Gutenberg–Richter law In seismology, the Gutenberg–Richter law (GR law) expresses the relationship between the Richter magnitude scale, magnitude and total number of earthquakes in any given region and time period of ''at least'' that magnitude. : \!\,\log_ N = a - b ...
, provides
probability distribution In probability theory Probability theory is the branch of mathematics concerned with probability. Although there are several different probability interpretations, probability theory treats the concept in a rigorous mathematical manner by expre ...
of
earthquake An earthquake (also known as a quake, tremor or temblor) is the shaking of the surface of the Earth resulting from a sudden release of energy in the Earth Earth is the third planet from the Sun and the only astronomical object known t ...

s for a given
energy In , energy is the that must be to a or to perform on the body, or to it. Energy is a ; the law of states that energy can be in form, but not created or destroyed. The unit of measurement in the (SI) of energy is the , which is the ...

. He also worked on determining the depth of the core-mantle boundary as well as other properties of the interior of the earth. In 1952, Gutenberg received the Prix Charles Lagrange from the Academie royale de Belgique, Académie royale des Sciences, des Lettres et des Beaux-Arts de Belgique

Gutenberg remained director of the Seismological Laboratory until 1957, when he was succeeded by Frank Press.

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