Allen to Receive Rare Medal of the Seismological Society of America
This prize is the highest medal that the society can bestow upon a member, and unlike many awards that are given on a regular schedule, the Medal of the SSA is given only occasionally, when someone worthy is identified. The last such award was made in 1993. Allen is the fourth member of the Caltech faculty to receive this award; it has previously been given to Charles Richter in 1976, to George Housner in 1981, and to Hiroo Kanamori in 1991.
A citation supporting Allen's nomination for the medal explains that "his work has had a profound impact on our understanding of seismotectonics and the importance of incorporating geologic information in the assessment of seismic hazards. Further, Allen has been extremely effective as a bridge between the geophysical, geological, and engineering communities."
Professor Allen's seismological career began in the 1950s with studies of the geology of faults in California. In 1957 he published an important paper on the San Andreas fault that provided a solid framework for future seismotectonic and plate tectonic interpretations regarding California.
In the 1960s Allen traveled the world and worked on practically every important surface fault in the world. This global experience enabled Allen to write the extremely influential paper "Geologic Criteria for Evaluating Seismicity" in 1975. This work laid the foundation for incorporating geologic information into analyzing seismic hazards.
In the 1980s Allen assumed a role as public spokesman for seismology. He has reviewed progress and research on earthquake prediction, he has helped bring the seismotectonics of China to the attention of the west, and he has played a key role in incorporating seismology into the process of assessing techniques for storing radioactive waste. The problem of waste disposal is critical to the future of this country, and Allen brings great scientific credibility to this difficult task.
Allen earned his BA in physics from Reed College in Portland, Oregon, and both his MS and his PhD from Caltech, in geophysics, and structural geology and geophysics, respectively. In 1960 he was the first person to receive the G. K. Gilbert Award in Seismic Geology from the Carnegie Institution of Washington, and he served as president of both the Geological Society of America in 1973–74, and the Seismological Society of America, in 1974–75. He has been elected to membership in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the National Academy of Sciences.
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