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The seventeenth Mallet-Milne lecture

The biennial Mallet–Milne Lecture is organised by the Society for Earthquake and Civil Engineering Dynamics (SECED) in memory of Robert Mallet (1810–1881) and John Milne (1850–1913), nineteenth century pioneers of seismology in Britain. This prestige lecture series has been running for 36 years, providing the opportunity to celebrate UK and international scientists and engineers that have made a significant contribution to seismology and earthquake engineering through their careers’ work. Past Mallet–Milne lectures have covered a wide spectrum of earthquake engineering topics, ranging from engineering seismology and seismic hazard assessment to seismic design and analysis relating to geotechnics, buildings, and infrastructure, as well as covering broader issues of policy for disaster prevention, and societal and economic effects of major earthquakes. The full list of past Mallet–Milne lectures is available through the SECED website along with some of the recordings.

The seventeenth Mallet-Milne is the sixth lecture in the series dedicated to issues related to engineering seismology and seismic hazard assessment. The very first Mallet-Milne lecture, “Engineering Seismology”, presented in 1987 by the late Professor Nicholas Ambraseys of Imperial College described a new approach to the assessment of liquefaction potential and re-evaluation of twentieth century seismicity in Turkey. In this remarkable lecture, Professor Ambraseys also emphasised the importance of field observations and measurements to provide data for effective earthquake risk management. In the fifth Mallet–Milne lecture “From Earthquake Acceleration to Seismic Displacement”, Professor Bruce Bolt of the University of California at Berkeley discussed the destructive nature of near-field ground motions containing high energy pulses. In the eighth Mallet–Milne lecture “Living With Earthquakes: Know Your Faults”, Professor James Jackson of Cambridge University addressed the identification and characterisation of active geological faults. He illustrated the advances made in the determination of source parameters for earthquakes, in the understanding of the relationship between crustal deformations and geomorphology, and in the developments of technology for measuring the deformation of the Earth’s surface. In the thirteenth lecture in the series, “The Practice of Earthquake Geology: Career-Changing Events and Life Stories”, Lloyd Clough of the Pacific Gas and Electric Company, California, set out a lifetime of field reconnaissance studies and developing seismic hazard techniques and risk assessments for critical facilities around the world, including the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, Aswan Dam and Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant. Finally, in the fourteenth Mallet–Milne lecture in 2013, Dr Roger Musson of the British Geological Survey gave a fascinating overview of the contribution of British seismologists and engineers to the study of earthquakes in “A History of British Seismology”, which was particularly fitting as it coincided with the centenary of John Milne’s death.

The seventeenth Mallet–Milne lecture links seamlessly to the thread introduced by Ambraseys and followed by Bolt, Jackson, Clough and Musson. “Earthquake Hazard and Risk Analysis for Natural and Induced Seismicity: Towards Objective Assessments in the Face of Uncertainty” will be delivered by Julian Bommer in June 2022 at the Institution of Civil Engineers in London.

Professor Bommer has worked for more than 30 years at the interface between seismology and earthquake engineering as both a researcher and practitioner. After graduating with a degree in Civil Engineering and a masters in Geotechnical Engineering, he completed a PhD under the supervision of Professor Ambraseys, the first of his many mentors in the field of engineering seismology. In the inaugural Mallet-Milne lecture, Ambraseys said "There is little room in Engineering Seismology for 'armchair' seismologists and engineers"; Julian Bommer took this admonition to heart, undertaking field studies of damaging earthquakes in many locations around the globe including Algeria, Armenia, California, Colombia, El Salvador, Italy, Greece, Japan, Mozambique, Peru and Turkey.

Julian has had a distinguished career in earthquake engineering, with over 35 years’ experience in seismic hazard studies for major engineering projects around the world, including major dams, bridges, pipelines and the expansion of the Panama Canal, as well as work as an expert witness on several earthquake-related disputes. A significant portion of Julian’s work has been for nuclear sites, working as an advisor to the Office for Nuclear Regulation in the UK and as a consultant on projects in Abu Dhabi, Brazil, Romania, Spain, South Africa, Switzerland and the United States. In more recent years, Julian has worked extensively in the field of induced seismicity, with engagements throughout the world related to the estimation of the hazard and risk associated with earthquakes caused by anthropogenic activities. He has made several important contributions not only to the assessment of induced seismic hazard but also to the mitigation of the resulting risk. Notably, Julian has promoted the earthquake engineering discipline throughout his career, lecturing at Imperial College, participating in and leading numerous field reconnaissance missions, and serving as a past Chair of SECED. It is in recognition of his great contribution to British earthquake engineering that Julian Bommer was elected to deliver the seventeenth Mallet–Milne Lecture.

The lecture draws on Julian Bommer’s extensive experience around the world to discuss the key challenges in engineering projects relating to the identification, quantification and, where possible, reduction, of uncertainties, which often involves overcoming stakeholders’ preconceived views. Through a series of carefully selected case histories, the lecture highlights both successes and failures in objective assessment of induced seismic hazard and risk and reflect on perspectives both for reducing uncertainty and for facilitating decision-making that begins with an impartial estimate of seismic risk. The manuscript, which is essentially a seminal book, provides the state-of-the-art for the application of seismic hazard analysis in major, energy related infrastructure projects in a methodical and insightful manner, and undoubtedly will be a valuable resource for seismologists and earthquake engineers for years to come.

SECED is pleased that the Editors of the Bulletin of Earthquake Engineering have once again agreed to publish the seventeenth Mallet–Milne lecture in its entirety in this special issue, available both as an “open access” publication, free to download from the Springer website, and as a hard copy. Hosting the Mallet-Milne lecture is significant financial undertaking for SECED, and in this respect we are extremely grateful for the generous contribution from our sponsors for the 2022 event: Atkins, Rendel and Jacobs. We hope that this special edition will share a sense of the seventeenth Mallet–Milne lecture to those who were unable to attend it at the Institution of Civil Engineers on 8th June 2022.

Stavroula Kontoe

SECED Chairman 2020–2022

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Kontoe, S. The seventeenth Mallet-Milne lecture. Bull Earthquake Eng 20, 2821–2823 (2022).

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