Iranian telegraph operator, first to propose earthquake early warning system

Sep 03, 2013

In 1909, an Iranian telegraph operator living in the remote desert town of Kerman noticed an unusual movement of the magnetic needle of his telegraph instrument. While other telegraph operators during the late 1800s and early 1900s noticed the phenomenon, the Iranian telegraph operator proposed an earthquake early warning system, as detailed in an article published today by the journal Seismological Research Letters (SRL).

Nineteenth century telegraph operators in New Zealand, Switzerland, Chile, the Caribbean and elsewhere noted the usefulness of electric telegraph for recording . But the Iranian telegraph operator and cashier, named Yusef (Joseph), took the next step, suggesting the concept of a local warning system in a Persian newspaper, The New Iran.

He became aware of anomaly in 1897 and put the knowledge to use in 1909, using the six seconds of warning to urge his fellow dwellers to evacuate the building.

"I am confident if a more sophisticated instrument is built," wrote Yusef, "a few minutes after the needle's anomalous move, the earthquake will be felt. And if the system is connected to a big bell (an alarm system), it can be heard by all the people, and their lives will be saved."

While J.D. Cooper, M.D. is credited with first proposing an in 1868, which he described in an article printed by The San Francisco Daily Bulletin, the Iranian telegraph operator living on the edge of desert likely had no access to American newspapers. Few newspapers existed at that time in Iran, when the literacy rate did not exceed five percent.

Manuel Berberian, who authored the SRL paper, called Yusef's attempt to transfer knowledge in the service of others "priceless." He noted that by the 100th anniversary of the printing of Yusef's article, earthquakes had claimed the lives of more than 164,000 Iranians, and no plans for an early warning system are in development.

Explore further: Indians remember telegram heyday as service stops

More information: The article, "Early Earthquake Detection and Warning Alarm System in Iran by a Telegraph Operator: A 116-Year-Old Disaster Prevention Attempt," will appear in the September issue of SRL, which is published by the Seismological Society of America.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Indians remember telegram heyday as service stops

Jul 11, 2013

Sixty-six years ago, Santosh Sharma saw her mother sell gold bangles to feed and clothe her family of six and then dispatch telegrams to her brothers urging them to leave newly created Pakistan and gather ...

Britain probes sex-selective abortion claims

Feb 23, 2012

The British government on Thursday vowed to investigate newspaper reports that doctors illegally approved abortions that were requested due to the sex of the unborn child.

Recommended for you

Warm US West, cold East: A 4,000-year pattern

2 hours ago

Last winter's curvy jet stream pattern brought mild temperatures to western North America and harsh cold to the East. A University of Utah-led study shows that pattern became more pronounced 4,000 years ago, ...

New study outlines 'water world' theory of life's origins

4 hours ago

(Phys.org) —Life took root more than four billion years ago on our nascent Earth, a wetter and harsher place than now, bathed in sizzling ultraviolet rays. What started out as simple cells ultimately transformed ...

Agriculture's growing effects on rain

Apr 15, 2014

(Phys.org) —Increased agricultural activity is a rain taker, not a rain maker, according to researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and their collaborators at the University of California Los ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Warm US West, cold East: A 4,000-year pattern

Last winter's curvy jet stream pattern brought mild temperatures to western North America and harsh cold to the East. A University of Utah-led study shows that pattern became more pronounced 4,000 years ago, ...

UN weather agency warns of 'El Nino' this year

The UN weather agency Tuesday warned there was a good chance of an "El Nino" climate phenomenon in the Pacific Ocean this year, bringing droughts and heavy rainfall to the rest of the world.

ESO image: A study in scarlet

This new image from ESO's La Silla Observatory in Chile reveals a cloud of hydrogen called Gum 41. In the middle of this little-known nebula, brilliant hot young stars are giving off energetic radiation that ...

First direct observations of excitons in motion achieved

A quasiparticle called an exciton—responsible for the transfer of energy within devices such as solar cells, LEDs, and semiconductor circuits—has been understood theoretically for decades. But exciton movement within ...

Patent talk: Google sharpens contact lens vision

(Phys.org) —A report from Patent Bolt brings us one step closer to what Google may have in mind in developing smart contact lenses. According to the discussion Google is interested in the concept of contact ...

Tech giants look to skies to spread Internet

The shortest path to the Internet for some remote corners of the world may be through the skies. That is the message from US tech giants seeking to spread the online gospel to hard-to-reach regions.