The Contribution of Shaking Tables to Early Developments in Earthquake Engineering

  • R.T. Severn
Part of the Geotechnical, Geological, and Earthquake Engineering book series (GGEE, volume 17)


Using examples, the thesis developed here is that shaking tables were essential to the progress made in earthquake engineering during the period 1900–1980. This period covers that from the very first shaking tables at the beginning of the twentieth century and ends just before the rapid advances in computing and control engineering made such major changes in shaking table performance capabilities that a separate paper would be required to record them. Not surprisingly, progress was linked to major earthquakes, but corroboration of existing theories or new design methods based on theoretical advances also played a part, as did the specific practical needs of the construction industry. Examples of the first of these spurs to activity are foundation issues highlighted by the 1906 Californian earthquake and similar events in 1964 in Alaska and Niigata in Japan in the same year; also, elevated water tanks by the 1933 event in California, and the general range of structures by the 1923 Tokyo (Kanto)earthquake which devastated the city. Relating to shaking table developments due to theoretical advances, the 1933 “added-mass” analysis by Westergaard for the effect of a rigid wall vibrating against a body of water (as in a dam), prompted several shaking table studies to test the validity of practical design issues, as did Biot’s 1943 introduction of spectral curves to represent earthquake input in a simplified way.


Shake Table Test Real Earthquake Equivalent Static Load Earthquake Input Incline Pile 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The author is grateful to his many colleagues around the world who have given him the benefit of their knowledge in the task of collecting material for this chapter. Also, to the libraries of the University of Bristol and the Institutions of Civil Engineers for tracing copies of early publications.

I cannot claim that this chapter is in any way a complete record of the assistance which shaking tables have given towards advancing knowledge in earthquake engineering, and I shall be grateful if serious omissions are pointed out to me.


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Earthquake Engineering Research Centre, University of BristolBristolUK

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