CalTech’s Oral History collection
The L.A. Times profiles the oral history collection at the California Institute of Technology.
Scientists, legends, nobel laureates are part of the oral history collection at the Pasadena, California Institute. Visit the online home for Caltech Archives Oral Histories Online.
Ever heard the story about Albert Einstein and the Long Beach earthquake of 1933?
Einstein, a visiting professor at Caltech at the time, was walking across campus with an earthquake expert, Beno Gutenberg. They even were talking about seismic research. But when the magnitude-6.4 temblor struck, the absent-minded scientists were so engrossed in conversation that neither noticed the shaking.
“There was an earthquake someplace?” Gutenberg, a partner with Charles Richter in developing the Richter scale, supposedly replied when a passerby mentioned the tremor. Einstein piped in, “What earthquake?”
That story is found in the Caltech Archives Oral History Project, a rare storehouse of interviews filled with anecdotes about giants of American scientific and engineering history. Drawn from the memories of more than 200 retired professors and others with long ties to Caltech, the oral histories provide glimpses of the interviewees’ lives as well as their recollections — albeit sometimes fuzzy or embellished — of other pioneering researchers.