SSA Turns 100

March/April 2004

We are approaching an historic year for seismology in the United States. 2006 will mark the 100th anniversary of the 18 April 1906 San Francisco earthquake and the centennial of the founding of the Seismological Society of America. The Society was established in response to the earthquake to encourage “the acquisition and diffusion of knowledge concerning earthquakes and allied phenomena, and to enlist the support of the people and the government in the attainment of these ends.” The first meeting of the Society was held on 20 November 1906. The Articles of Incorporation were signed on 1 December 1906 and filed on 11 February 1907. The first decade of the 21st century also provides a number of other “centennial anniversaries” for seismology–various developments in instrumentation and networks, significant earthquakes, and early discoveries about Earth structure and dynamics, including elastic rebound theory.

Plans are underway by a number of organizations in California and the San Francisco Bay area for events and activities to commemorate the 1906 earthquake. These include a variety of ceremonial and educational activities surrounding the date of the earthquake and longer-term activities to raise local and national awareness of earthquake hazards. The 1906 Centennial Alliance ( plans to coordinate the many groups involved, in an effort to highlight the century of progress in understanding earthquake hazards and reducing risks, as well as to commemorate the cultural and social response to the earthquake.

One activity directly connecting SSA and the earthquake will be the 2006 SSA Annual Meeting, scheduled to take place 18-22 April 2006, during the week of the earthquake anniversary (18 April 2006 is a Tuesday). The U.S. Geological Survey and the University of California at Berkeley will be cohosts for the meeting, with Carol Prentice and Lind Gee as coconvenors. The meeting will be held jointly with the 8th U.S. National Conference on Earthquake Engineering (8NCEE), the Annual Meeting of the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute (EERI), and the Disaster Resistant California annual conference of the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services as the 100th Anniversary Earthquake Conference commemorating the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.

SSA’s centenary offers opportunities for celebration and reflection. The SSA Board is considering ways in which the Society can celebrate our hundredth birthday and join with others in commemorating the 1906 earthquake. This should be looked at as an opportunity to reflect on the history of the Society and its contributions and accomplishments. Some of the activities being considered are:

  • Build a sense of history: An organization that is 100 years old should be confident in both its past and its future. Special sessions at the Annual Meetings can be used to highlight the history of SSA and seismology.
  • Capture what might be lost: Establish an SSA archive; preserve the Society’s early history.
  • Celebrate what has been learned: How has SSA contributed to advances in science and practice in 100 years?
  • Pay tribute to pioneers: Who were the founders? What were their goals and contributions?
  • Develop special centennial materials and publications, including a “centennial year” of SRL.
  • Increase visibility for SSA and for seismology: A certain respect comes with being 100 years old–let’s use it!

There is interest in collecting SSA archival materials. Anyone who has, or knows where to find, old photographs, documents, meeting materials, or other treasures from the early days of SSA is requested to contact Susan Newman at the SSA office. We will ensure that the materials are appropriately archived and that proper attribution is provided.

Over the next two years, SRL will continue to use this special page to keep the membership informed of activities related to both the SSA centennial and the anniversary of the 1906 earthquake. Please contact the SRL editor or SSA staff if you have materials that should be included or suggestions for anniversary activities and articles. The six issues of SRL published in 2006 will not be special issues per se, but they will have a centennial theme. Informal articles related to the anniversary of the 1906 earthquake and the history of SSA will be welcome, as will be suggestions for Classic Papers and other historic material whose republication would be of interest to the SSA community.

Contributed by the SSA Centennial Committee:
David Simpson (Chairman)
Sue Hough, and
Tom Rockwell,
with input from Lind Gee and
Carol Prentice
on behalf of the 1906 Centennial Alliance.