11/01/1996 08:00:00

Memorial Set For Inventor of Richter Scale

PASADENA— The late Charles Richter, whose eponymous earthquake measuring scale has long been a household term the world over, will be honored with a memorial ceremony at Mountain View Cemetery in Altadena at 11 a.m. on Saturday, November 9.

Richter, who died in 1985, was a seismologist at the California Institute of Technology from 1927 until his retirement as professor emeritus in 1970. He originally came to Caltech in 1920 for graduate study, and received his doctorate in theoretical physics in 1928. A year before finishing his doctorate, Richter was asked by Caltech president Robert Andrews Millikan if he would be interested in an opening for a physicist at the new seismological laboratory. Richter accepted the offer, and soon after discovered a deep interest in seismology that would continue for the rest of his life. He invented the Richter Scale in 1935 with collaborator Beno Gutenberg, and also played a key role in establishing the Southern California Seismic Array, which for decades has been based at Caltech and is one of the world's foremost tools for the study of earthquakes. He also wrote two standard textbooks on seismology.

But it was his creation of the Richter Scale that made his name virtually synonymous with the study of earthquakes. In a 1980 interview, he said that the scale was established because the seismological lab needed an appropriate tool to keep track of the magnitudes of the 200 to 300 earthquakes being studied annually.

Though other scales have been devised for earthquake magnitudes and others are in common use, the term "Richter Scale" seems to have made an indelible impression on the public consciousness.

The public is invited to the memorial service, at which time a privately donated marker will be unveiled. For more information, contact Mountain View Cemetery and Mortuary at 1-800-468-1095.

Written by Robert Tindol