In the early 1950's, Violet Taylor—known to her friends as Vi—took a position at the Caltech Seismo Lab as an assistant to Charles Richter. According to Richter, Taylor, who had no prior training in science, had been “scared pink” when she first took the job. Over the years, however, her responsibilities expanded enormously from the basic, routine measurements she was first hired to perform. Eventually she essentially ran the “Measuring Room”, where basic analysis of seismograms was carried out; her responsibilities eventually expanded to include the training of Seismo Lab graduate students.

When Beno Gutenberg died of influenza in January...

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