Beno Gutenberg

Beno Gutenberg (also: Benno, born June 4, 1889 in Darmstadt, Germany, † January 25, 1960 in Pasadena, USA ) was a German seismologist who has contributed with his life's work greatly to the current understanding of earth structure.


Gutenberg first studied in Darmstadt and moved to Göttingen in 1908 with the aim of studying meteorology. Here he attended lectures by Emil Wiechert, who had recently established the Institute for Geophysics. In Wiechert Gutenberg doctorate in 1911 with a seismological work. Two years later, certain Gutenberg from seismological studies the radius of the Earth's core. His calculation is still considered exact. The core - mantle boundary is therefore called particularly in the older literature also Wiechert- Gutenberg discontinuity.

Gutenberg was an employee of the International Seismological Association in Strasbourg. During the First World War he served as a meteorologist with the troops and was wounded. After the war, Gutenberg returned to Strasbourg, but moved to Frankfurt, where he became associate professor in 1926 later. Previously, he was, among others, Karl Erich Andrée, Gustav Angenheister, Immanuel Friedlander, Franz Kossmat, Gerhard Krumbach, Charles Mack, Ludger Mintrop, Peter Polis, August Heinrich Sieberg and Emil Wiechert of the founding members, founded in Leipzig on September 19, 1922 German Seismological society, now the German Geophysical society.

In the following years, Gutenberg published a large number of scientific papers. Although he was already famous as the leading seismologist in Germany, he was not able to attain a full professorship. His livelihood earned Gutenberg, after his father had died, as manager of his father's farm in Darmstadt. There is evidence, especially in connection with an appeal to the succession of his PhD Emil Wiechert at Göttingen in 1928 that his Jewish origins played a role, as the local professors feared a too high proportion of Jews in the faculty.

Nanny in Pasadena

1929 Gutenberg visited the Seismological Laboratory in Pasadena, U.S., where he moved a year later. He was appointed professor of geophysics at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech ), in which the Seismological Laboratory in 1936 integrated. Gutenberg in 1947, Director of the Laboratory, which occupied a central role in the study of earthquakes and the deep structures of the earth under his leadership.

Together with Charles Francis Richter, he developed the relationship between the energy release of an earthquake and its magnitude: the Gutenberg - Richter scale, but usually referred to simply as Richter scale. Furthermore Gutenberg discovered the zone of low velocities in the upper mantle, which is known as the asthenosphere today. The boundary between the lithosphere and the asthenosphere is therefore called also the Gutenberg discontinuity. In 1945, he developed the space -wave magnitude scale and the surface wave magnitude scale for measuring earthquake magnitudes, and in 1956, together with Charles Francis Richter magnitude scale, the unit as a combination of both.

Beno Gutenberg went into retirement in 1958, continued his research, however, continued. He died on 25 January 1960 at the age of 70 years with severe pneumonia as a result of influenza infection.

In honor and in memory of the researcher of the European Geosciences Union ( EGU) named after him Beno Gutenberg Medal is awarded.


The first time that Gutenberg experienced an earthquake personally was on March 9, 1933 at the Long Beach earthquake in California, but what he did not catch because he is excited at this time with Albert Einstein entertained on the Caltech campus.

Awards and honors

Publications (selection)

  • The seismic ground disturbance and its relationship with neighboring areas, especially geology and meteorology, Berlin 1924.
  • The structure of the Earth, Berlin 1925
  • Fundamentals of seismology, Berlin 1927
  • Seismicity of the Earth, along with Charles Francis Richter, New York 1941
  • Physics of the earth 's interior, New York in 1959