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After the Earth QuakesElastic Rebound on an Urban Planet$
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Susan Elizabeth Hough and Roger G. Bilham

Print publication date: 2005

Print ISBN-13: 9780195179132

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780195179132.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 16 October 2021

The Lisbon Earthquake and the Age of Reason

The Lisbon Earthquake and the Age of Reason

(p.41) 3 The Lisbon Earthquake and the Age of Reason
After the Earth Quakes

Susan Elizabeth Hough

Roger G. Bilham

Oxford University Press

An individual’s response to any catastrophic event, including the capacity for rebound, surely depends a great deal on one’s expectations before the event. In a short-term sense, earthquakes remain as utterly unpredictable and abrupt as they have been since the dawn of time. Looking back through history, however, it becomes apparent that some earthquakes were more unexpected— and seemingly more mercurial—than others. In the middle of the 18th century, earthquake science had barely reached its infancy. Earthquakes had fascinated, and posed a challenge to, the best minds since at least the day of Aristotle. Aristotle, Pliny the Elder, St. Thomas Aquinas—whether they viewed earthquakes as acts of God or not, they and other philosophers approached the subject with a decidedly naturalist bent. Aristotle and Pliny interpreted earthquakes as the result of subterranean winds or subterranean storms. St. Thomas Aquinas argued in favor of the scholastic approach, supporting Aristotle’s scientific views over later, more theologically oriented interpretations. During the 17th century, earthquakes continued to be the source of scientific speculation. Galileo argued that the earth had a dense, solid core. In 1680 Robert Hooke published Discourse on Earthquakes, arguably the first significant book dealing with earthquakes as a natural phenomenon. In 1750 a series of earthquakes was widely felt throughout England. During this “year of earthquakes,” shocks were felt in London on February 19 and March 29, in Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight on March 29, in northwest England and northeast Wales on April 18, and in and around Northamptonshire on October 11. These shocks are now estimated to have been no larger than mid-magnitude-4: the first two events were quite small, felt strongly in London only because their epicenters were within city limits. But pound for pound—or, rather, magnitude unit for magnitude unit—the impact of these earthquakes far outstripped their literal reverberations within the earth.

Keywords:   cataloging, elasticity, focusing effect, magnitude, natural phenomena, overshoot, prediction, reason, thrust faults

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