Historical Background

The term “University of Utah Seismograph Stations” originally referred to a small group of six seismographic installations, with on-site recording, established by the University of Utah in the early 1960’s to form a skeletal statewide network. The University of Utah Board of Regents formally recognized the University of Utah Seismograph Stations as an entity in April 1966 and appointed Dr. Kenneth L. Cook as its first director (see historical display).

The historical development of seismological centers within U.S. universities (e.g., at the University of California at Berkeley, the California Institute of Technology, various Jesuit universities, Columbia University, Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and so on) is well established and persists to this day.

In the case of the University of Utah, seismographs were first installed on campus in 1907 by James E. Talmage, and seismology has subsequently evolved into a major program. The University’s current program in undergraduate and graduate studies in earthquake seismology dates 40 years from the early 1950s.

In 1972, at the urging of Governor Calvin Rampton, the Utah state legislature established a line-item budget appropriation to the University of Utah Seismograph Stations in order to provide stable, partial support for earthquake recording and studies beneficial to the people of Utah.

A number of evolutionary changes since the early 1970s have drastically changed the character of the University of Utah Seismograph Stations. These include personnel changes, the installation of arrays of modern seismographs – which combine to form a regional seismic network, conversion to digital recording, and marked growth in research programs.

Today, the “University of Utah Seismograph Stations” is an integral part of the Department of Geology and Geophysics and exists as:

  • one of the University’s designated “research agencies,”
  • an organizational entity encompassing students, technical staff, and faculty scientists involved in a broad program of earthquake research and recording, and
  • the recipient of state line-item funding partially supporting the latter efforts.

Historical Review of Earthquake-Related Studies and Seismographic Recording in Utah” by Walter J. Arabasz, in Earthquake Studies in Utah 1850 to 1978, Special Publication of the University of Utah Seismograph Stations and the Department of Geology and Geophysics, University of Utah, July 1979, pp. 33-56.

Seismographic Centennial, June 29, 1907–June 29, 2007: Commemorating the centennial of the installation of the first seismographs in Utah by Dr. James E. Talmage and celebrating 100 years of earthquake recording at the University of Utah” by Walter J. Arabasz, University of Utah Seismograph Stations, July 2007, 12 pp.