From Publishers Weekly
Hough's wooden biography of Charles Francis Richter (1900–1985), the Caltech seismologist who developed the eponymous Richter scale, which measures the magnitude of earthquakes, competently explains his scientific contribution, but veers toward willful conjecture about his personal life. The author, a seismologist at the U.S. Geological Survey, describes Richter as a talented but troubled man whose "complicated relationships with women began the day he was born." She speculates that his wife, Lillian Brand, who convinced him to join a nudist colony, may have been a lesbian and suggests the possibility of an incestuous attachment to his sister as well as extramarital affairs. Hough (After the Earth Quakes
) theorizesthat the trajectory of Richter's scientific career may have been driven in part by Asperger's syndrome, a disorder not officially recognized until after his death. The biography is stronger on the relevance of Richter's accomplishment in the field of earthquake research and on his professional interactions with other faculty at Caltech. (Jan.)
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Written by a seismologist about the most famous seismologist, this biography of Charles Richter (1900-85) is the first researched from Richter's papers. Empathetic toward but puzzled by her subject, whom colleagues esteemed professionally but regarded as eccentric and socially awkward, Hough considers various explanations of her subject's personality. Her inspections of Richter's psyche may expand her readership beyond that interested in earthquakes to that, for example, interested in Asperger's syndrome since Hough suggests that Richter suffered from this form of autism. Richter had the intelligence and a preoccupation with detail necessary to synthesizing seismological measurements into the magnitude scale that bears his name. A nudist and a poet, Richter, however difficult to like in life--he had few friends, according to Hough--proves to have had the turbulent inner life and struggles with the external world of which compelling biographies are made. Gilbert TaylorCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved