Susan Hough has written a remarkable book. Clarence Allen has called it “disquieting,” Clifford Thurber “compelling” and “full of surprises,” Seth Stein “extraordinary” and “thoughtful.” It is all that and more. Susan dug up the Richter file from the Caltech library and—surprise!—there was a man behind the Richter scale.

And what a man! I knew Richter as a lovable, funny character who was my boss when I spent two years (1955–1957) as his post-doc assistant at the Caltech Seismo Lab. (You can look up what we worked on in his 1957 Elementary Seismology.) I've never met anyone who didn't...

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