Bruce A. Bolt (Photo courtesy of UC Berkeley)

Bruce A. Bolt, California Seismic Safety Commissioner, respected UC Berkeley professor, author and international seismic consultant, died Thursday, July 21, of pancreatic cancer at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Oakland. The Australian native and naturalized U.S. citizen was 75.

As director of the University of California Seismographic Stations for 28 years, Bolt traveled the world to investigate the sites of major earthquakes, lectured on earthquakes and earthquake hazards and served on numerous local, state and national panels and commissions, according to a UC Berkeley press release.
Bolt’s public service legacy included 15 years on the California Seismic Safety Commission where he was chairman in 1986. He was also a member of the National Academy of Engineering. "He really was the founder of the modern field of engineering seismology, which is the interface between earth science and the fields of geotechnical and structural engineering," says Gregory Fenves, UC Berkeley professor and chair of civil and environmental engineering.

Bolt pioneered analysis of seismic wave recordings. "In the 1960s and '70s he made significant contributions to our understanding of the deep Earth - in particular, the Earth's inner core," according to a UC Berkeley press release quoting Barbara Romanowicz, UC Berkeley professor of earth and planetary science who succeeded Bolt in 1991 as director of the Berkeley Seismological Laboratory.

Bolt "consulted on every major seismic project in the state, including dams, bridges and airports," says his former student, Norm Abrahamson, an engineering seismologist for Pacific Gas & Electric. Some of this consulting was for PG&E, including for the company's Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant, although he consulted on the Alaska oil pipeline, the Aswan dam in Egypt and many other international projects.

Bolt was often referred to as the "father of seismology" due to his long and insightful study of earthquakes, says John D. Hooper, principal and director of Earthquake Engineering, Magnusson Klemencic Associates, Seattle. “He was considered, by most, as the preeminent authority on earthquake ground motions.”