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George William Housner Papers

Identifier: 10202-MS

Scope and Content

The collection is organized into the following series:
  1. Correspondence
  2. Caltech Material
  3. Writings
  4. Consulting Files
  5. Professional Organizations, Meetings and Talks
  6. Slides and Photographs
  7. Biographical
  8. Oversize


  • 1926-1999


Language of Materials

English, Russian, & Japanese


The collection is open for research. Researchers must apply in writing for access.

Publication Rights

Copyright may not have been assigned to the California Institute of Technology Archives. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Caltech Archivist. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the California Institute of Technology Archives as the owner of the physical items and, unless explicitly stated otherwise, is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the reader.


George William Housner, the C. F. Braun Professor of Engineering, Emeritus, is one of the pioneers in earthquake engineering, and is internationally known for his outstanding contributions to theory and practice in the field of structural dynamics. Housner has served as president of the International Association for Earthquake Engineering, the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute, and the Seismological Society of America.

Professor Housner was born in Saginaw, Michigan on December 9, 1910. He received his BS degree in mathematics from the University of Michigan in 1933, and his MS degree in civil engineering from the California Institute of Technology the following year. From 1934 to 1939 he worked as a structural engineer in the Los Angeles metropolitan area, then returned to the California Institute of Technology for further studies, obtaining his PhD in civil engineering in 1941.

During World War II Housner worked with the US Army Corps of Engineers on problems of protective construction; and from 1943 to 1945 he served as chief of the Operations Analysis Section of the 15th Air Force Unit in North Africa and Italy. He received the Distinguished Civilian Service Award for his contributions to optimizing air force operations during the war.

Professor Housner joined the California Institute of Technology faculty as an assistant professor in 1945, later serving as professor of civil engineering and applied mechanics. Professor Housner conducted research in earthquake engineering on characteristics of destructive ground shaking, earthquake design spectrum, and seismic design of structures, including high-rise buildings and liquid storage tanks.

In parallel to his academic career, Housner served as a consultant on several of the earliest skyscrapers built in Los Angeles and has been an earthquake engineering consultant to dozens of governmental agencies and major corporations, including the California Department of Water Resources, the California Department of Transportation, the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit System, the Japanese Atomic Energy Commission, the Italian Nuclear Energy Commission, and the Bechtel Corporation. In 1986 he was named a consultant on the construction of Metro Rail in Los Angeles.

Housner's contributions to earthquake engineering have been recognized by his election to membership in the National Academy of Engineering in 1965, the National Academy of Sciences in 1972, the Indian National Science Academy in 1984, and the Japan Academy of Science in 1991. He has received many honors and awards, including the Von Kármán Medal of the American Society of Civil Engineers in 1974, Medal of the Seismological Society of America in 1981; and in 1988 he received the National Medal of Science. In 1989, Professor Housner became the first recipient of the George W. Housner Medal of the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute.


35 linear feet (71 boxes)


The working papers, correspondence, publications, and biographical material of George W. Housner form the collection known as the G. W. Housner Papers in the Archives of the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). Professor Housner spent his entire academic career at Caltech and he is one of the pioneers in earthquake engineering, and is internationally known for his outstanding contributions to theory and practice in the field of structural dynamics.


The collection is composed of eight series organized in seventy-one archival boxes. The correspondence, Series 1, is organized chronologically from 1948 to 1994. An alphabetical index for this series will be forthcoming. Note that a correspondence folder for 1977 is not available.

Housner spent his entire academic career at Caltech, and material regarding that relationship can be found in Series 2, California Institute of Technology. This series is subdivided into Housner's teaching material, committees, proposals and research notes. History of earthquake engineering research material can also be found in this section.

Series 3, Writings, includes Housner's manuscripts, preprints and reprints. All are arranged in chronological order and contain a wide variety of related documents, from graphs to related correspondence.

During his academic career, Housner served as an earthquake engineer consultant to many government agencies and corporations. His consulting files (Series 4) make up about a third of the collection and shed light on his non-academic activities. Housner was also very active in many scientific and professional organizations, and material dealing with these organizations can be found in Series 5.

Series 6 contains a varied selection of slides and photographs on structures in the US and abroad, as well as unique earthquake damage photos. Housner's many awards and honors can be found in the biographical section (Series 7) as well as in the oversize section (Series 8), which contains plaques, medals, paper awards and memorabilia.

Physical Location

Archives, California Institute of Technology.

Acquisition Information

The papers were donated to the Caltech Archives by Professor Housner himself in several installments between 2001 to 2002. The first installment in December 2001 consisted of one storage box of miscellaneous papers. The second and third installments in March and April 2002 consisted of eight storage boxes of Housner and R. R. Martel material. Accessions of forty-four additional storage boxes of Housner's material were donated in September 2002. The Martel material has been processed as a separate collection.

Printed material from Housner's collection regarding the Auburn Dam and the Littlerock Dam was transferred in July 2003 to the Water Resources Center Archives located at the University of California at Berkeley.

Related Material

Researchers may also refer to the oral history interviews conducted through the Caltech Archives' Oral History Project. The first interview with Professor Housner was conducted by Rachel Prud'Homme in 1984, and the second one by Shirley Cohen in 1997.
Finding Aid for the G. W. Housner Papers, 1926-1999
Processed by Nurit Lifshitz.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Repository Details

Part of the California Institute of Technology Archives and Special Collections Repository

1200 East California Blvd.
MC B215-74
Pasadena California 91125 United States of America
(626) 395-2704