George W. Housner, an earthquake engineering pioneer, died on Nov. 10 of natural causes in Pasadena, Calif. He was 97. Housner, the Braun professor emeritus of engineering at California Technology Institute (Caltech) in Long Beach, was responsible for developing the most complete mathematical system to analyze effects of ground shaking on structures.
Engineers previously only considered the quake force pushing upon a building. Housner realized that an earthquake isn’t static but rather sets off vibrations throughout the entire structure that could bring it down. His mathematical framework helped to better understand those vibrations and led to the implementation of more rigorous building standards.
Born in Saginaw, Mich., Housner earned a bachelor’s degree in structural engineering at the University of Michigan. He later received master’s and doctorate degrees from Caltech.
“George really has to be considered one of the most original and clearest thinkers ever within the entire engineering profession,” says John Hall, Caltech civil engineering professor.