With the 6.4 earthquake that rattled July 4th morning celebrations, and the 7.1 that followed the next day, Charles Richter might very well be turning in his grave.
Richter, if the name doesn’t shake your tree, was a seismologist and physicist as well as a Caltech professor. Most notably, he was the inventor (with Beno Gutenberg) of the Richter Magnitude Scale.
Richter and his wife Lillian rest side by side in the leafy Mountain Meadows area of the cemetery that dates back to 1882 and is also home to the remains of physicist Richard Feynman, sci-fi writer Octavia Butler, and television Superman George Reeves.
“There’s been a small but seismic shift in the Richter family grave location inquires,” punned Denny Dormody, Mountain View’s funeral director. “More students and history buffs are coming to pay homage to the professor that gave a name to the levels of earthquakes at home in Southern California and across the world.”
Today’s scientists and seismologists have the latest in technology to predict a quake, but Richter would likely bury the idea of forecasting the shakers.
For while he was a student and teacher of plate tectonics and Earth movement, he is perhaps best known for his quote: “Only fools, liars and charlatans predict earthquakes.”
It is a phrase that still resonates in scientific circles today.
There is also a song named after him, called “Richter Scale,” that was supposedly written and then sung to him by Caltech colleagues at his retirement party. Richter died from congestive heart failure in 1985 at the age of 85.
Mountainview Cemetery offers walking tours and the gates are open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.