A “natural and legitimate ambition . . . .”

Earthquake Information Bulletin (USGS)


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Grove Karl Gilbert (1843-1918) was Chief Geologist for the U.S Geological Survey from 1889 to 1892. Still working for the Survey, he was in Berkeley when the 1906 earthquake struck San Francisco. Immediately on waking, he began to study the motion of the light fixture hanging from the ceiling, trying to decipher the direction of Earth waves and to time the intervals between tremors and hoping to gain some insight into the quake's magnitude. What Gilbert called a "tumult of motions and noises" brought him "unalloyed pleasure." He later announced that it was the "natural and legitimate ambition of properly constituted geologist to see a glacier, witness an eruption and feel an earthquake..." Having narrowly missed the 1872 Inyo earthquake (while with the Wheeler Survey) and the 1899 Alaska earthquake (while with the Harriman Expedition), the 63-year-old Gilbert considered the 1906 earthquake to be one fo the highlights of his career. He was to be comissioned by both the State and Federal committees that investigated the earthquake. 

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title A “natural and legitimate ambition . . . .”
Series title Earthquake Information Bulletin (USGS)
Volume 11
Issue 2
Year Published 1979
Language English
Publisher U.S Geological Survey
Description 5 p.
First page 53
Last page 57
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N