Kate Hutton

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Kate Hutton
Alma materPennsylvania State University (B.A., 1971), University of Maryland, College Park (M.S. 1973, Ph.D. 1976)
Scientific career
InstitutionsCalifornia Institute of Technology

Kate Hutton, nicknamed the Earthquake Lady, Dr. Kate, or Earthquake Kate was a staff seismologist at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, California, where she monitored Southern California's earthquake activity for 37 years.[1]

While Hutton was growing up, her family lived in several states and spent six years in Taiwan. She was interested in all kinds of natural sciences. She decided to stay in the fields of math and science.[2]

Hutton received a B.S. in astronomy from Pennsylvania State University in 1971, and an M.S. (1973) and Ph.D. (1976) in astronomy from the University of Maryland, College Park. She has worked for the Caltech earthquake center as a seismologist her entire career since the 1970s.

After graduation, Hutton says she found astronomy jobs scarce, so switched careers. She sees the two professions as similar: "Earth is a planet, after all, so it's sort of a matter of looking down rather than looking up." Most of her job is consumed by bureaucracy and data analysis, but immediately following a major earthquake, especially in Southern California, Hutton is sought by the media for her professional commentary. Her local celebrity is such that people take note of her shopping, whether she is replacing glassware or stocking up.[3]

Hutton works on a project to improve the consistency of the “earthquake catalog”, which is our list of over 400,000 southern California quakes recorded since 1932. Better consistency means better statistics, which help to estimate earthquake risk. [2]

Hutton sometimes appears with her United States Geological Survey colleague "Dr. Lucy" Jones, who has been appearing on television since the 1980s. According to LA Weekly, "Hutton strikes just the right balance between calm and caution" in explaining earthquake science to viewers.[4]

Hutton has been an out lesbian since 1984, and is often listed as a "lesbian icon".[3] She gave a tour for the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Scientists group and ended up dating the tour group's leader that year.[5]

Hutton was the consulting seismologist for the 1990 monster movie Tremors. The seismic theories were for once well presented, the only liberty taken for theatrical effect was that the apparent seismic response of the propagation of the fictitious creatures in the film ("graboids") was too low-frequency for the ground shaking likely to be realistically caused by the graboids.[citation needed]

Hutton retired on Jan 30, 2015.[6]


  1. ^ "Dr Kate Hutton". Palm Springs Hamfest. Retrieved 2019-01-15.
  2. ^ a b https://ctago.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/Kate-Hutton.pdf Kate Hutton's biography
  3. ^ a b Richard Tate (March 2001). "That Earthquake Lady". The Advocate. Retrieved 2016-02-12.
  4. ^ Gendy Alimurung (2006-04-19). "Epicenter of Cool: Dr. Kate Hutton". LA Weekly. Retrieved 2016-02-12.
  5. ^ Scupham-bilton, Tony (2013-03-15). "The Queerstory Files: Earthquakes and Dinosaurs - A Tale of Two Kates". The Queerstory Files. Retrieved 2019-01-15.
  6. ^ KNBC, Jack Noyes (2015-01-30). "It's official "Earthquake Lady" Dr. Kate Hutton, famed Caltech seismologist has retired -- today was her last day". @jacknoyesknbc. Retrieved 2019-01-15.