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

How productive are the ore factories in the deep sea?

17 hours ago

About ten years after the first moon landing, scientists on earth made a discovery that proved that our home planet still holds a lot of surprises in store for us. Looking through the portholes of the submersible ...

NASA image: Volcanoes in Guatemala

22 hours ago

This photo of volcanoes in Guatemala was taken from NASA's C-20A aircraft during a four-week Earth science radar imaging mission deployment over Central and South America. The conical volcano in the center ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Study links California drought to global warming

While researchers have sometimes connected weather extremes to man-made global warming, usually it is not done in real time. Now a study is asserting a link between climate change and both the intensifying California drought ...

Google+ boss leaving the company

The executive credited with bringing the Google+ social network to life is leaving the Internet colossus after playing a key role there for nearly eight years.