(Greek: seismos, shaking)

A science immediately concerned with every vibratory movement of the earth’s crust consequent upon the release of subterranean forces. It investigates the geographical distribution of these movements, their frequency, causes, and effects. Indirectly its researches are extended to problems on the physics of the earth. As with all other sciences, Catholics have contributed liberally to its advancement. The original seismoscope for the detection of earthquakes assembled by a Chinese named Choko in 134, was first modified by Jean Hautefeuille, French physicist and Catholic priest. His improvement gave greater sensitivity and the assibility of rating the intensities of different quakes. Father Timoteo Bertelli (1826-1905), member of the Barnabite Order, is generally indicated as the founder of microseismology. His researches were carried on at Florence where he set up in the basement of the college a tromometer of his own design. His findings, published in 1872, read:

  • (a) microseismic movements of an isolated pendulum often occur simultaneously with distant earthquakes
  • (b) others occur during continued barometric depressions
  • (c) these movements are a maximum in the winter and a minimum in the summer.

De Rossi accredits the work of Bertelli as being the new Italian science of endogenous meteorology. He also claims that it gave encouragement to the inauguration of the first journal devoted to the “science of the endogenous forces of the earth.” Father Francesco Denza, also a Barnabite, a pupil of Angelo Secchi, contributed generously to the literature of the earlier seismology by his notices in Rossi’s Bulletino del Vulcanismo Italiano of a dozen or more local quakes. Davison in his Founders of Seismology says of Bertelli: “Few men have left behind them such a record of energetic labor and unfailing kindness to those who sought his help.” Luigi Palmieri was another outstanding figure in Italian seismology. At the age of forty he was appointed professor of philosophy at the University of Naples and in 1860 was elected to the chair especially created for him, that of terrestrial physics. He was the first by his electromagnetic seismograph to record earth tremors insensible to human beings, and to use the term seismograph. The service of Pietro Tacchini (1838-1905) to seismology was administrative rather than direct. Designated in 1887 the director of the R. Ufficio Central di Meteorologia e Geodinamico, he located as many as 67 seismoscopes in the several meteorological stations throughout Italy and founded the fortnightly Supplemento on earthquakes of the Annali in 1889. Seismology in France is identified with the name of Fernand Jean Baptiste Marie Bernard, Comte de Montessus de Ballore (1851-1923). Detailed to El Salvador in charge of a military mission in 1881, he devoted his leisure hours to the study of the earthquakes of this seismic country. One hundred and forty-eight memoirs are counted to his credit, the principal ones touching the geographical distribution of seismicity. In 1906 Ballore was placed in charge of the seismological service of Chile, which position he filled to the time of his death. Over 10% of the present system of seismological observatories, which numbers about 350 units, are maintained by Catholic institutions of learning. Six of these stations are supervised by the Philippine Weather Bureau, two are located in Spain, and one in the following countries: Syria, England, Cuba, Hungary, Australia, Madagascar, Italy, Bolivia, Colombia, and Canada. In 1909 the Jesuit Seismological Service was established in the United States. A chain of 18 stations was placed in the following places: Brooklyn, Buffalo, and Fordham, New York; Cleveland, Ohio; Chicago, Illinois; Denver, Colorado; Georgetown, DC; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Mobile, Alabama; Spokane, Washington; Saint Mary’s, Kansas; Saint Louis, Missouri; and Worcester; Massechusetts. In more recent years several of these stations have been discontinued and others added. Also more sensitive equipment has been substituted for the older type of machines and a new society formed under the title of the Jesuit Seismological Association.

Published in: on 3 September 2006 at 12:31 pm  Leave a Comment  

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