Bruce Bolt

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Bruce Bolt
Born (1930-02-15)February 15, 1930
Died July 21, 2005(2005-07-21) (aged 75)
Fields Seismology
Institutions University of California, Berkeley
Alma mater University of Sydney

Bruce Bolt (February 15, 1930 – July 21, 2005) was an Australian-born American seismologist and a professor of earth and planetary science at the University of California, Berkeley. Professor Bolt was known as pioneer of engineering seismology. He served for 15 years on the California Seismic Safety Commission leading public debate on earthquake safety in that state, and acted as a consultant on major projects throughout the world. As well, Bolt published a number of popular and technical books on seismology.

His research led to construction of earthquake resilient bridges and buildings.[1][2] Bolt was elected to the National Academy of Engineering "for application of the principles of seismology and applied mathematics to engineering decisions and public policy”.[1] The Earthquake Engineering Research Institute jointly with the Seismological Society of America established an award in his name: The Bruce A. Bolt Medal.[2] Bolt was president of the California Academy of Sciences,[3] president of the Seismological Society of America,[3] and chairman of the California Seismic Safety Commission.[3]

Early life and career[edit]

Bolt was born in Largs, New South Wales just north of Maitland in 1930. He studied at the University of Sydney obtaining his bachelors degree in 1952, a masters degree in 1955 and a doctorate in applied mathematics in 1959.[3] He also lectured at Sydney University in mathematics but developed an interest in mathematical modelling of the Earth's interior. He obtained a D. Sc from Sydney University in 1972 while working at Berkeley. After visiting the Lamont Geological Observatory in New York, he visited the Department of Geodesy and Geophysics at Cambridge University where he met Professors Perry Byerly and John Verhoogen of UC Berkeley who invited him there.

Career at Berkeley[edit]

Bolt started as director of the Berkeley Seismological Stations (now the Berkeley Seismological Laboratory) in 1963 and served in that position until 1991. In that position, he was at the forefront of seismology especially as a pioneer of engineering seismology. He identified the impact of near-fault effects of earthquakes as well as the "fling" where the fault slips during an earthquake which has a strong impact on structures near the quake. Professor Bolt was elected to the US National Academy of Engineering in 1978 as recognition for his contribution to that profession. As director of the Berkeley Seismology Center, Bolt pioneered the use of digital recordings rather than paper readouts to read data.

Bolt identified that the epicenter of the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake was near Daly City, California not near Olema, California in Marin County as had been previously thought. He also helped to design a simulation of the 1906 quake at the California Academy of Sciences museum in Golden Gate Park which has been seen by millions of people. He has written a number of works including Earthquakes: a Primer in 1978 and Inside the Earth: Evidence from Earthquakes in 1982.

Professor Bolt served on the California Seismic Safety Commission for 15 years including a year as chairman in 1986. In that position, he had a significant impact on California's earthquake safety legislation and helped to create that states mandatory system of earthquake hazard mapping.[3]

He was a consultant on seismology for every major earthquake engineering project including on the Diablo Canyon Power Plant as well as international projects including the Aswan Dam and the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System.

Professor Bolt retired in 1993 and died of pancreatic cancer in July 2005 at the Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Oakland.[4][5] He was a citizen of the US at the time of his death.

Other contributions[edit]

During his career, Professor Bolt served as a member of a number of important scientific and academic organisations. These include:

  • President of the California Academy of Sciences between 1982 and 1985;
  • Member of the Board of Trustees for the California Academy of Sciences between 1981-92 and again in 1999;
  • President of the Academic Senate at Berkeley in 1992-93; and
  • President of the Faculty Club at Berkeley between 1994 and 2004;
  • President of the Seismological Society of America in 1974;
  • Bulletin editor of the Seismological Society of America between 1965 and 1972; and
  • President of the International Association of Seismology and Physics of the Earth's Interior between 1980 and 1983.

Written works[edit]

Bruce Bolt published a number of works about seismology during his career. These include:


External links[edit]