Born in Paris, Texas, on 11 November 1909, Florence Robertson wanted to be a schoolteacher like her mother. After a stint at junior college, she studied education and mathematics at Texas Technological College in Lubbock. But when an earthquake literally rocked her world, she changed course—and eventually became one of the most prominent female seismologists in the world at that time.1

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“It was my first earthquake, and the only one I've ever felt,” recalled Robertson of the minor tremor that occurred in 1936, while she was pursuing her master's degree in physics and mathematics at Texas Technological College. Intrigued,...

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