Skip to main content

Donald V. Helmberger Oral History Interview with Shirley K. Cohen [sound recording]

Identifier: 1999-00155

Content Description

Interview in two sessions, May and June 1999, with Donald V. Helmberger, Smits Family Professor of Geophysics and Planetary Sciences in the Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences. He begins by recalling his family background and childhood on a farm in Northern Minnesota, one of thirteen children. Matriculates at the University of Minnesota in 1956 (B.S. 1961). Summer work at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, 1961; sails to Alaska on a research vessel studying the structure of the oceanic crust. Transfers to UCSD for graduate work in geophysics; works at Scripps with Russell Raitt (PhD 1967). Recollections of Walter Munk and Freeman Gilbert. Two-year postdoctoral position at MIT, with Frank Press and Nafi Toksoz; introduced to seismology. Works on upper-mantle modeling, supported by U.S. Air Force in connection with underground testing of nuclear weapons. Becomes an assistant professor at Princeton in 1969; following year, joins Caltech Seismology Laboratory as assistant professor of geophysics. After 1971 San Fernando Earthquake, works on high-frequency modeling of earthquakes. Recollections of Seismo Lab when it was on N. San Rafael Ave., in Pasadena, and of the move in 1974 to South Mudd, on Caltech campus. Memories of Charles Richter. Recalls students: Charles Langston, Thomas Heaton, Thorne Lay, Terry Wallace, Stephen Grand. Comments on Hiroo Kanamori, director of Seismo Lab 1990-1998. Discusses National Science Foundation's establishment of earthquake centers and hopes for Caltech to get the first one; Caltech loses out to SUNY Buffalo. Succeeds Kanamori as director of the Seismo Lab in 1998. Discusses evolution of directorship since Don Anderson's tenure (1969-1989) and effects of the move to Caltech campus. Discusses Kanamori's directorship and work on TriNet. Discusses Seismo Lab's relations with U.S. Geological Survey and the CUBE program [Caltech-USGS Broadcast of Earthquakes]. Concludes by discussing his own efforts as director of the Seismo Lab and his hopes for its future.

Restrictions Apply



  • Date Created



1 unspecified containers : MEDIUM: Sound recording; FORMAT: Sound cassette: analog; QUANTITY: 1 set (2 cassettes per set)