Oral History Series

Oral History Series


The EERI Oral History project publishes interviews with prominent figures in the field of earthquake engineering to preserve the rich history of those who shaped seismic design theory and practice. EERI began this series to preserve the recollections of some of those who have had pioneering careers in the field of earthquake engineering. These reminiscences are themselves a vital contribution to our understanding of where our current state of knowledge came from and how the overall goal of reducing earthquake losses has been advanced. Significant, even revolutionary, changes have occurred in earthquake engineering since individuals first began thinking in modern, scientific ways about how to protect construction and society from earthquakes. The Connections series helps document this important history. 

The EERI oral history program was initiated by Stanley Scott (1921-2002). The first nine volumes were published during his lifetime, and manuscripts and interview transcripts he left to EERI are resulting in the publication of other volumes for which he is being posthumously credited. In addition, the Oral History Committee is including further interviewees within the program’s scope, following the Committee’s charge to include subjects who: 1) have made an outstanding career-long contribution to earthquake engineering, 2) have valuable first-person accounts to offer concerning the history of earthquake engineering, and 3) whose backgrounds, considering the series as a whole, appropriately span the various disciplines that are included in the field of earthquake engineering.

The Connections oral history series presents a selection of senior individuals in earthquake engineering who were present at the beginning of the modern era of the field. The term “earthquake engineering” as used here has the same meaning as in the name of EERI—the broadly construed set of disciplines, including geosciences and social sciences as well as engineering itself, that together form a related body of knowledge and collection of individuals that revolve around the subject of earthquakes. The events described in these oral histories span many kinds of activities: research, design projects, public policy, broad social aspects, and education, as well as interesting personal aspects of the subjects’ lives. Learn more about the EERI Oral History Program.


Idriss coverThe 31st volume of the Connections series features Dr. Izzat (Ed) Idriss, a pioneer in the field of geotechnical earthquake engineering. Born in Syria in 1935, Idriss moved from Beirut, Lebanon to upstate New York in 1954, beginning a six-decade career in the United States as a scholar and practitioner. This oral history covers his wide-ranging contributions to the field, including the development of innovative procedures for evaluating the behavior of soil sites and structures, and recounts his participation in post-earthquake reconnaissance and investigations of many major earthquakes of the last half-century, beginning with Alaska in 1964. It discusses his public service as a member of the California Governor’s Board of Inquiry tasked to investigate the failure of portions of the Cypress Freeway and Bay Bridge in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, as an advisor to Caltrans, and as a consultant for seismic risk mitigation on major public works projects around the world. The volume recounts Dr. Idriss’s academic career, ranging from graduate studies at Caltech and Berkeley to his years as director of the Center for Geotechnical Modelling at the University of California, Davis, as well as his decades of engineering practice at the firm Woodward-Clyde. It also touches on his personal and family life, from recollections of his youth in Syria and Lebanon to his travels and hobbies in retirement. Interviews for the oral history were conducted by Dr. Ross W. Boulanger, Distinguished Professor Emeritus in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of California, Davis, and a longtime colleague and friend of Dr. Idriss. 


The Oral History Series may be read online or downloaded in PDF form via EERI's Digital Library. To access a volume, click on the below link to the Digital Library edition and select the download arrow icon. EERI members will need to log in to your member account; non-members may access a free copy by entering your name and an email address. Print copies of some recent volumes are also available for purchase from Barnes and Noble here.


Interviews for the oral histories were conducted as follows:  

  • Volume 31: Ross Boulanger
  • Volume 30: Richard Sharpe and Rebecca Priestley
  • Volume 29: by Robert Reitherman
  • Volume 28: by Stanley Scott
  • Volume 27: by Lucy A. Arendt
  • Volume 26: by Robert D. Hanson and Robert Reitherman
  • Volume 25: by Stanley Scott
  • Volume 24: by Robert Reitherman and Stanley Scott
  • Volume 23: by Robert D. Hanson and Robert Reitherman
  • Volume 22: by Laurie Johnson
  • Volume 21: by Robert Reitherman
  • Volume 20: by Stanley Scott
  • Volume 19: by Robert Reitherman
  • Volume 18: by Grace S. Kang, structural engineer and partner, Forell/Elsesser Engineers; Christopher Arnold, AIA and president, Building Systems Development; and Robert Reitherman
  • Volumes 16 and 17: by Robert Reitherman
  • Volumes 13 through 15: by Stanley Scott
  • Volume 12: by Robert Reitherman
  • Volume 11: by Stanley Scott and supplemented by Robert Reitherman, executive director of CUREE (Consortium of Universities for Research in Earthquake Engineering)
  • Volumes 9 and 10: by Stanley Scott
  • Volume 8: by the late Frank Killinger, head of Hale’s Testing Laboratory, and Stanley Scott
  • Volume 7: by Joseph P. Nicoletti, structural engineer (retired), URS Corporation
  • Volumes 1 through 6: by the late Stanley Scott, research political scientist, Institute of Governmental Studies at the University of California at Berkeley


The Oral History Committee is charged with submitting the names of candidates for this honor to the Board of Directors. To be the subject of an EERI oral history, individuals must meet the following criteria:

  1. have made an outstanding career-long contribution to earthquake engineering,
  2. have valuable first-person accounts to offer concerning the history of earthquake engineering, and
  3. have backgrounds, considering the series as a whole, that appropriately span the various disciplines that are included in the field of earthquake engineering.
Earthquake Engineering Research Institute
499 14th Street, Suite 220
Oakland, CA 94612
Phone: 510-451-0905
Fax: 510-451-5411
Email: eeri@eeri.org

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