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Rawlinson, N., R. Stephenson, and R. Carbonell (2017), Seismic imaging at the crossroads: Active, passive, exploration and solid Earth, Tectonophysics, doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.tecto.2017.07.022.


Science has grown from our need to understand the world around us. Seismology is no different, with earthquakes and their destructive effect on society providing the motivation to understand the Earth's seismic wavefield. The question of when seismology as a science really began is an interesting one, but it is unlikely that there will ever be a universally agreed-upon date, partly because of the incompleteness of the historical record, and partly because the definition of what constitutes science varies from person to person. For instance, one could regard 1889 as the true birth of seismology, because that is when the first distant earthquake was detected by an instrument; in this case Ernst von Rebeur-Paschwitz detected an earthquake in Japan using a pendulum in Potsdam, Germany (Ben-Menahem, 1995). However, even the birth of instrumental seismology could be contested; the so-called Zhang Heng directional “seismoscope” (detects ground motion but not as a function of time) was invented in 132 CE (Rui and Yan-xiang, 2006), and is said to have detected a four-hundred mile distant earthquake which was not felt at the location of the instrument (Needham, 1959; Dewey and Byerly, 1969). Prior to instrumental seismology, observations of earthquakes were not uncommon; for instance, Aristotle provided a classification of earthquakes based on the nature of observed ground motion (Ben-Menahem, 1995).

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