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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index R > Charles Richter Quotes

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Charles Richter
(26 Apr 1900 - 30 Sep 1985)

American seismologist who devised the Richter Scale that measures earthquake magnitudes. He wrote the article on Earthquakes for the 1974 edition of Encyclopζdia Britannica.


Science Quotes by Charles Richter (15 quotes)

[Interviewer: If the building you are in now started to shake and you knew an earthquake was occurring, what would you do?]
I would walk - not run - to the nearest seismograph.
— Charles Richter
From interview in the Earthquake Information Bulletin (Jul-Aug 1971), 3, No. 4, as abridged in article on USGS website.
Science quotes on:  |  Building (156)  |  Do (1908)  |  Earthquake (34)  |  Know (1519)  |  Nearest (4)  |  Run (174)  |  Seismograph (4)  |  Shake (41)  |  Start (221)  |  Walk (124)

I have a sense of humor; but over the years that sense has developed one blind spot. I can no longer laugh at ignorance or stupidity. Those are our chief enemies, and it is dangerous to make fun of them.
— Charles Richter
Draft (22 May 1970) of speech he hoped to give upon his retirement. In Susan Hough, Richter's Scale: Measure of an Earthquake, Measure of a Man (2007), 309.
Science quotes on:  |  Blind (95)  |  Blind Spot (2)  |  Chief (97)  |  Dangerous (105)  |  Develop (268)  |  Enemy (82)  |  Fun (39)  |  Humor (8)  |  Ignorance (240)  |  Laugh (47)  |  Sense (770)  |  Sense Of Humor (3)  |  Stupidity (39)  |  Year (932)

I think that harping on [earthquake] prediction is something between a will-o'-the-wisp and a red herring. Attention is thereby diverted away from positive measures to eliminate earthquake risk.
— Charles Richter
From interview in the Earthquake Information Bulletin (Jul-Aug 1971), 3, No. 4, as abridged in article on USGS website.
Science quotes on:  |  Attention (191)  |  Divert (3)  |  Earthquake (34)  |  Eliminate (22)  |  Herring (4)  |  Measure (233)  |  Positive (94)  |  Prediction (82)  |  Red (35)  |  Risk (62)  |  Something (719)  |  Think (1086)  |  Will (2354)

Logarithmic plots are a device of the devil.
— Charles Richter
From interview with Henry Spall, as in an abridged version of Earthquake Information Bulletin (Jan-Feb 1980), 12, No. 1, that is on the USGS website.
Science quotes on:  |  Device (70)  |  Devil (31)  |  Logarithmic (5)  |  Plot (11)

Magnitude may be compared to the power output in kilowatts of a [radio] broadcasting station; local intensity, on the Mercalli or similar scale, is then comparable to the signal strength noted on a receiver at a given locality. Intensity, like signal strength, will generally fall off with distance from the source; it will also depend on local conditions at the point of observation, and to some extent on the conditions along the path from source to that point.
— Charles Richter
From interview in the Earthquake Information Bulletin (Jul-Aug 1971), 3, No. 4, as abridged in article on USGS website.
Science quotes on:  |  Comparable (6)  |  Compare (70)  |  Condition (357)  |  Depend (228)  |  Distance (163)  |  Extent (139)  |  Fall (230)  |  Intensity (34)  |  Kilowatt (2)  |  Local (19)  |  Locality (6)  |  Magnitude (83)  |  Observation (560)  |  Output (10)  |  Path (145)  |  Point (580)  |  Power (747)  |  Radio (50)  |  Receiver (5)  |  Scale (121)  |  Signal (27)  |  Source (93)  |  Station (29)  |  Strength (126)  |  Will (2354)

Most loss of life and property has been due to the collapse of antiquated and unsafe structures, mostly of brick and other masonry. ... There is progress of California toward building new construction according to earthquake-resistant design. We would have less reason to ask for earthquake prediction if this was universal.
— Charles Richter
From interview with Henry Spall, as in an abridged version of Earthquake Information Bulletin (Jan-Feb 1980), 12, No. 1, that was on the USGS website.
Science quotes on:  |  According (237)  |  Antiquated (3)  |  Ask (411)  |  Brick (18)  |  Building (156)  |  California (9)  |  Collapse (17)  |  Construction (112)  |  Design (196)  |  Due (141)  |  Earthquake (34)  |  Less (103)  |  Life (1799)  |  Loss (110)  |  Masonry (4)  |  Most (1729)  |  New (1217)  |  Other (2236)  |  Prediction (82)  |  Progress (468)  |  Property (169)  |  Reason (744)  |  Resistant (3)  |  Structure (346)  |  Universal (189)  |  Unsafe (5)

My main point today is that usually one gets what one expects, but very rarely in the way one expected it. (1970)
— Charles Richter
Draft (22 May 1970) of speech he hoped to give upon his retirement. In Susan Hough, Richter's Scale: Measure of an Earthquake, Measure of a Man (2007), 309.
Science quotes on:  |  Expect (201)  |  Expected (5)  |  Get (3)  |  Point (580)  |  Rarely (21)  |  Today (314)  |  Usually (176)  |  Way (1216)

Nothing is less predictable than the development of an active scientific field.
— Charles Richter
From interview with Henry Spall, as in an abridged version of Earthquake Information Bulletin (Jan-Feb 1980), 12, No. 1, that is on the USGS website.
Science quotes on:  |  Active (76)  |  Development (424)  |  Field (365)  |  Less (103)  |  Nothing (969)  |  Predictable (10)  |  Scientific (940)

Refining is inevitable in science when you have made measurements of a phenomenon for a long period of time.
— Charles Richter
From interview with Henry Spall, as in an abridged version of Earthquake Information Bulletin (Jan-Feb 1980), 12, No. 1, that is on the USGS website.
Science quotes on:  |  Inevitable (49)  |  Long (789)  |  Measurement (174)  |  Period (198)  |  Phenomenon (319)  |  Refining (4)  |  Science (3880)  |  Time (1877)

The laboratory routine, which involves a great deal of measurement, filing, and tabulation, is either my lifeline or my chief handicap, I hardly know which.
— Charles Richter
(1949). Epigraph in Susan Elizabeth Hough, Richter's Scale: Measure of an Earthquake, Measure of a Man (2007), 62.
Science quotes on:  |  Chief (97)  |  Deal (188)  |  Great (1575)  |  Handicap (6)  |  Involve (90)  |  Know (1519)  |  Laboratory (197)  |  Measurement (174)  |  Routine (25)  |  Tabulation (2)

The most remarkable feature about the magnitude scale was that it worked at all and that it could be extended on a worldwide basis. It was originally envisaged as a rather rough-and-ready procedure by which we could grade earthquakes. We would have been happy if we could have assigned just three categories, large, medium, and small; the point is, we wanted to avoid personal judgments. It actually turned out to be quite a finely tuned scale.
— Charles Richter
From interview with Henry Spall, as in an abridged version of Earthquake Information Bulletin (Jan-Feb 1980), 12, No. 1, that is on the USGS website.
Science quotes on:  |  Actually (27)  |  All (4107)  |  Assigned (2)  |  Avoid (116)  |  Basis (173)  |  Earthquake (34)  |  Extend (128)  |  Extended (4)  |  Feature (44)  |  Finely (2)  |  Grade (11)  |  Happy (105)  |  Judgment (132)  |  Large (394)  |  Magnitude (83)  |  Medium (12)  |  Most (1729)  |  Originally (6)  |  Personal (67)  |  Point (580)  |  Procedure (41)  |  Remarkable (48)  |  Richter Scale (3)  |  Scale (121)  |  Small (479)  |  Three (10)  |  Turn (447)  |  Turned Out (4)  |  Want (497)  |  Work (1351)  |  Worked (2)  |  Worldwide (16)

The usual designation of the magnitude scale to my name does less than justice to the great part that Dr. Gutenberg played in extending the scale to apply to earthquakes in all parts of the world.
— Charles Richter
From interview with Henry Spall, as in an abridged version of Earthquake Information Bulletin (Jan-Feb 1980), 12, No. 1, that is on the USGS website.
Science quotes on:  |  All (4107)  |  Apply (160)  |  Designation (13)  |  Earthquake (34)  |  Extending (3)  |  Great (1575)  |  Beno Gutenberg (2)  |  Justice (39)  |  Less (103)  |  Magnitude (83)  |  Name (333)  |  Played (2)  |  Richter Scale (3)  |  Scale (121)  |  World (1778)

There is common misapprehension that the magnitude scale is itself some kind of instrument or apparatus. Visitors will ask to “see the scale,” and are disconcerted by being referred to tables and charts used for applying the scale to readings taken from the seismograms.
— Charles Richter
From interview with Henry Spall, as in an abridged version of Earthquake Information Bulletin (Jan-Feb 1980), 12, No. 1, that was on the USGS website.
Science quotes on:  |  Apparatus (68)  |  Apply (160)  |  Ask (411)  |  Being (1278)  |  Chart (6)  |  Common (436)  |  Disappointed (6)  |  Instrument (144)  |  Kind (557)  |  Magnitude (83)  |  Misapprehension (2)  |  Reading (133)  |  Scale (121)  |  See (1082)  |  Table (104)  |  Visitor (3)  |  Will (2354)

[In plotting earthquake measurements] the range between the largest and smallest magnitudes seemed unmanageably large. Dr. Beno Gutenberg then made the natural suggestion to plot the amplitudes logarithmically.
— Charles Richter
From interview with Henry Spall, as in an abridged version of Earthquake Information Bulletin (Jan-Feb 1980), 12, No. 1, that is on the USGS website.
Science quotes on:  |  Amplitude (4)  |  Earthquake (34)  |  Beno Gutenberg (2)  |  Large (394)  |  Largest (39)  |  Magnitude (83)  |  Measurement (174)  |  Natural (796)  |  Plot (11)  |  Plotting (2)  |  Range (99)  |  Smallest (9)  |  Suggestion (46)

…it is good to have measured myself, to recognize my limitations.
— Charles Richter
Journal entry (20 Jun 1926). Epigraph in Susan Elizabeth Hough, Richter's Scale: Measure of an Earthquake, Measure of a Man (2007), 1.
Science quotes on:  |  Good (889)  |  Limitation (48)  |  Measured (2)  |  Myself (212)  |  Recognize (125)


See also:
  • 26 Apr - short biography, births, deaths and events on date of Richter's birth.
  • Richter's Scale: Measure of an Earthquake, Measure of a Man, by Susan Hough. - book suggestion.

Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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