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California Earthquake Research Pioneer Joe Penzien Dies at 86

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Joseph Penzien, a University of California-Berkeley engineering professor who developed the world's first modern shake table in 1972 and pioneered groundbreaking earthquake engineering research and academics, died on Sept. 19 in Redwood City, Calif. He was 86.


Penzien, a 35-year teaching veteran at the school, was a key developer of its programs in structural dynamics and earthquake engineering, "which many considered to be the best in the world," according to a 2004 oral history conducted by Robert Reitherman, executive director of the Consortium of Universities for Research in Earthquake Engineering.

An introduction by Berkeley professor Anil Chopra noted that while Penzien taught all of the program's courses, "his unique contribution was the first course on random vibrations." Developed in 1961, it was "the earliest course on this subject offered in a civil engineering department in the U.S." he said, further noting that it "became legendary for how tough it was and enhanced his already-existing reputation of teaching difficult subjects."

Penzien later co-authored a landmark 1975 textbook, “Dynamics of Structures.” The book was groundbreaking "in terms of its broad scope, comprehensive coverage and philsophy," said Chopra.



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