The history of seismology has been traced since man first reacted literarily to the phenomena of earthquakes and volcanoes, some 4000 yr ago. Twenty-six centuries ago man began the quest for natural causes of earthquakes.
The dawn of modern seismology broke immediately after the Lisbon earthquake of 1755 with the pioneering studies of John Bevis (1757) and John Michell (1761). It reached its pinnacle with the sobering discourses of Robert Mallet (1862).
The science of seismology was born about 100 yr ago (1889) when the first teleseismic record was identified by Ernst von Rebeur-Paschwitz at Potsdam, and the prototype of the modern seismograph was developed by John Milne and his associates in Japan.
Rapid progress was achieved during the following years by the early pioneers: Lamb, Love, Oldham, Wiechert, Omori, Golitzin, Volterra, Mohorovičic, Reid, Zöppritz, Hergoltz, and Shida. A further leap forward was gained by the next generation of seismologists, both experimentalists and theoreticians: Gutenberg, Richter, Jeffreys, Bullen, Lehmann, Nakano, Wadati, Sezawa, Stoneley, Pekeris, and Benioff.
The advent of long-period seismographs and computers (1934 to 1962) finally put seismology in a position where it could exploit the rich information inheren in seismic signals, on both global and local scales. Indeed, during the last 30 yr, our knowledge of the infrastructure of the Earth's interior and the nature of seismic sources has significantly grown. Yet, an ultimate goal of seismology, namely, the prediction of earthquakes, is not forthcoming. In spite of vast deployment of instruments and manpower, especially in the United States and Japan, no substantial progress has been made in this direction. The nonlinear dynamic processes at the sources of earthquakes are not yet understood, and with the lack of proper mathematical tools and physical theory, breakthrough is not apt to come through computers and seismographs.
The conclusion of the present historical study can be succinctly phrased as follows: seismology has reached a stage where its lofty goals cannot be pursued by seismologists alone. Unless we launch a concentrated interdisciplinary research effort, we shall always be surprised by the next major earthquake.