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The Father of Earthquake Engineering – John Blume

April 4th, 2013

 Born in California in early 20th Century, John Blume grew up hearing his grandparents’ stories about the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake. Both sets of his grandparents survived the earthquake and subsequent fire. His father, who worked as a builder, helped in the reconstruction of the city, including the legendary Palace Hotel.

As he grew older, Blume assisted his father in construction and also paid witness to other California earthquake events, including in Santa Barbara in 1925, where the coastal town was destroyed. Blume noted that most of Santa Barbara’s houses survived while the downtown commercial buildings saw heavy damage. Given his nascent experience in construction, Blume felt he could make a difference regarding earthquake safety.

Studying Engineering at Stanford University

Thus inspired, Blume enrolled at Stanford University in 1929 to study engineering. One of his professors was Lydik S. Jacobsen, known for his experimental designs for multi-story dynamic buildings able to withstand the shaking caused by an earthquake. Blume himself designed a more elaborate model based on San Francisco’s 15-story Alexander Building. His graduate thesis covered the principles of dynamic response in buildings.

Notable among Blume’s initial work after graduation was a two-year stint from 1935 to 1936 as a construction engineer on the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. As his career progressed, he formed his own engineering practice, John A. Blume and Associates in 1945. Four years later, Blume played a role in the establishment of the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute (EERI).

A Leader in Earthquake Engineering

Over his career, Blume and his company played a leadership role in the practice of earthquake engineering. He was involved in the design and/or analysis of a host projects engineered specifically to withstand earthquakes, including the Stanford Linear Accelerator, San Francisco’s Embarcadero Center, and the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant. At the crux of his career, Blume spent time studying at Stanford ultimately earning his PhD in 1967.

His legacy as the Father of Earthquake Engineering was cemented in 1974 with the opening of the John A. Blume Earthquake Engineering Center at Stanford. His career is one to inspire any engineer. If you are interested in furthering your career as an engineer, make it a point to talk to the Talley Group. As one of the leading engineer staffing agencies in the United States, the Talley Group can help inspire you to do great things in engineering.

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