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Selected tributes from colleagues and friends
Newest entries will be added at the end
I am so sorry to learn of Leon's death. I had the privilege to be his student, and to experience at first hand his rare gift of physical insight. I had but a few years with him at UCLA, and they stand out as the most rewarding of my life. So I can appreciate the loss you must feel ...

Warm Regards,

Mike Randall
New Zealand
Leon and I first met in the late 1960s when I was a student at Columbia and Lamont, and he visited. We spent more than a half hour discussing some of my research, and I recall being flattered by how he treated me as an equal. Then over lunch discussions ranged across some of his interests, including music of course.

My most memorable experience was in 1980 in China, at a meeting about Tibet and followed by a field trip from Lhasa to Kathmandu. We stayed in what is best described as a military hotel. Our rooms overlooked a courtyard in which a basketball court was used often. On Monday or so of the 5-day meeting, I suggested to some Chinese that we have a basketball game between Chinese and international scientists. The response was inscrutable. Then, Wednesday or Thursday evening, a Chinese man came to me and said something like, "The game will be at 6:00 AM tomorrow. Get your team together."

Leon was our star. He scored 4 baskets, twice as many as anyone else on our team. We lost, of course, though we did not recognize any of our opponents, for it was not obvious that they were attending the symposium (except maybe as basketball players). More important, we all had fun.

Later that day, he told me he had had the easiest interview with a journalist of his life. Someone from the Xinhua News Agency had asked Leon if he would grant an interview, and then asked one question: "How old are you?" Indeed, already bald and white-haired, Leon was probably 15 years older than everyone else on our team ...

I wish you good luck in moving forward. Surely these first few days will be the worst, but I hope that all gets easier fast.

Peter Molnar
Professor, Geological Sciences
Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES)
University of Colorado at Boulder
... Professor Knopoff was not only my research colleague, he was my mentor and my inspiration to dedicate myself to science. He will be inside my heart until I die.


Dr. Amiya Chatterjee
Continuing Lecturer, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department, UCLA
Senior Consultant, ATK Aerospace Structures, MRC
Laguna Hills, California
Dear Joanne Knopoff, Dear friends and colleagues,

Far away from home in my current winter "exile" from Germany – because of an uncurable disease triggered by low temperatures – reaches me the sad news about the passing away of Leon Knopoff. Regrettably, I never had the pleasure to meet and talk with him personally. However, his name and publications as well as the memories of two of his inspiring talks which I attended – as early as 1971 at the IUGG General Assembly at Moscow and then more than 38 years later at the Geophysical Institute of the China Earthquake Agency in Bejing – have been milestones in my working life.

Most impressed I was, being still a student, by his paper with the shortest title I ever came across in my life: "Q". Nobody will beat him on this! And there was so much in this paper about the nature and crucial role of the "quality factor" that it became a favourite reference in my own first review type publication in 1966.

Leon was indeed a master of putting essential things, even complex ones, into a nut shell, being at the same time as concise, deep thinking and far ahead looking as possible. No wonder that I had to refer in my most recent paper on the relationship between moment and energy magnitude, to another one of his earliest publications (1958) with the short but telling title "Energy release in earthquakes".

Yet, as his dear wife Joanne said, he was scientifically productive until very recently. I just amended the reference list for the second edition of the IASPEI New Manual of Seismological Observatory Practice by probably one of his latest publications (2009) with the title "Single-couple component of far-field radiation from dynamical fractures". Co-author was Prof. Chen Yun Tai, one of his many outstanding students who later became long-term director of the Geophysical Institute in Beijing. Some years ago Leon was granted the honorable professorship by the GI in Beijing for his great scientific achievements in general, as well as his many years of mutually fruitful and inspiring collaboration with scientists from China and other countries as well. They all will remember him with gratitude.

Yet, as we learn from Joanne's letter, Leon's life was not only one of science. It found its fulfillment also in a wonderful family, shared happiness, mutual understanding and appreciation, with wonderful friends, the joys of backpacking and the love of music, both listening and self-acting. Nothing better can ever be said and hoped for when looking back at one's life. Sharing myself all these pleasures and interests makes me even more sad that we had no chance to meet each other personally on this planet. I always missed a good piano playing friend who could have accompanied me with my violin. I never found one and gave it up. A great loss. Also, enthusiastic backpacker companions were rare. Maybe we meet each other on another planet, surely also one with "quakes" and volcanoes, which inspired our lives so much, but also with musical instrument makers. Would be fine.

With greatest sympathy for dear Joanne, respect, admiration, and gratitude for Leon, who just left a bit earlier than we to the new horizons,

Peter Bormann

Prof. Dr. Peter Bormann
retired from the GFZ German Research Center for Geosciences
Potsdam, Germany
I was very saddened by the news that Leon has passed away.

In addition to having benefited a great deal from interaction with Leon as a colleague, I especially owe him in the following.

My oldest son, Atsushi, was not a very good student at high school, but was barely admitted to UCLA. Both my wife and I were concerned about his academic progress. However, when he came home after the first day at UCLA, he was very excited about the Physics class and completely changed his attitude toward science. He became very serious about school since then, and graduated from UCLA in good standing. I did not know in the beginning that luckily Leon was teaching freshman physics in that year. Atsushi went on to Stanford, and after getting PhD, he started working at Microsoft.

Best wishes,

Hiroo Kanamori
John E. and Hazel S. Smits Professor of Geophysics, Emeritus
Seismological Laboratory
Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences
California Institute of Technology
Pasadena, California
Leon's passing away was sad news for a lot of people. I have known him for over 34 years since my arrival in the US from the Soviet Union in the summer of 1974. Leon offered me a job at UCLA at that time and he was a mentor to me as I started my American career. To me he has always been remarkably warm and solicitous.

I cherish having known Leon all these years and also meeting his family, Joanne, Katie, Rachel, and Michael. I also remember our joint work with Leon and Rachel in 1981, which resulted in a publication of a paper in the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America in 1982. During all these years (1975-1996) Leon and I co-authored 15 papers. Several of these publications are still often cited in scientific literature.

In particular, we started a rigorous statistical analysis of earthquake catalogs, proposed quantitative methods for earthquake forecasting and for measuring methods' efficiency. We were the first researchers to point out and investigate the scale-invariance and fractality of earthquake occurrence in space, time, and earthquake size. We also started the statistical analysis of the seismic moment tensor and the influence of the random stress on the moment properties.

Leon was a very good friend to me and my wife Olga. We cherish our memories of dinners with Leon and Joanne at their house. We were happy to welcome them to ours.

I feel grateful to Leon for collaborating with me and making me part of his active intellectual life. Olga and I are also grateful for having the Knopoff family in our lives for so many years.

Yan Kagan
Research Geophysicist
Department of Earth and Space Sciences, UCLA
Our deepest sympathy to Joanne and to the whole family, on the death of Leon. He was a wonderful scientist and academic, and an unforgettable friend and human being. We are left with many happy memories, and he will never be forgotten. We served together on the UCLA Earthquake Committee, which produced the "A Campus at Risk" report in 1985 and started the earthquake upgrading of the campus. Leon was a respected, valued, and loved colleague, who will be sadly missed.

In friendship,
Sam and Malca Aroni

Professor Emeritus Samuel Aroni
Director, Special Academic Cooperative Projects
UCLA International Institute
Dear Friends,

I had an opportunity to interact personally with Prof. Leon Knopoff in the early 1980s when he visited the Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand when Prof Frank Evison was the Chairman at the Institute of Geophysics, and I was a PhD student on a Commonwealth scholarship.

We are always inspired by his outstanding contribution in Seismology, his guidance, innovative ideas and advices. It's a great loss for the seismologist community of the world.

Now I know from Joanne's mail how successful and happy a person he was as a husband, father, friend, as well as a great scientist and Professor.

He would live with every seismologist of the world through his great contribution / publication / knowledge and for his amiable and admirable personality.

I pay my deep respect and homage to this great soul.

Prof. J. R. Kayal
CSIR Emeritus Scientist,
Jadavpur University, Kolkata
Adjunct Professor,
Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad
I would like to express my sincere condolences for the loss of Leon.

He was a major influence on my early career from the Enrico Fermi Summer School on Lake Como just before I started my PhD, to later interaction during his visits to Cambridge.

Brian Kennett

Professor Brian L. N. Kennett FAA FRS
Professor of Seismology
Research School of Earth Sciences
The Australian National University
I am very saddened by this news. My condolences to Joanne and the family.

Professor Knopoff was my mentor, teacher, and guide in my doctoral studies at UCLA. He taught me how to do research and is largely responsible for the success that I have had in the research problems that I have undertaken in my career. I have many fond memories and stories of our interaction that I carry with me, and that I often share with family and friends.

Narbik Manukian
Research Scientist
Automated Data Understanding Systems
Such sorrowful news, Joanne! Leon was a truly great man in every sense. For those like myself who had the good fortune to work under him, Leon was a great teacher and wonderful friend. He brought an infectious energy to everything he did. With all his talents and brilliance, and with all the honors he earned in his distinguished career, Leon was unfailingly warm and lovable, approachable by everyone. I will always cherish my memories of him!

My heart goes out to Joanne and to Katie, Rachel, and Michael!

My deepest sympathy,

John Mouton
Chairman and Co-founder
Object Reservoir, Inc.
I first met Leon following the 1994 earthquake. He was remarkably gracious and welcoming to me as I was developing a course on the impact of natural disasters for public health students. For several years, he even guest lectured in that course on the geophysics of earthquakes. What a marvelous, enthusiastic way of taking the most complex of models and making them understandable to non-mathematically oriented students.

With sincere condolences,
Steve Rottman

Steven J. Rottman, MD, FACEP
Professor, Emergency Medicine and Community Health Sciences
David Geffen School of Medicine and UCLA School of Public Health
My condolences to you and your family. I had the opportunity to meet your husband in a conference but before that I published several papers on some of his famous models for earthquakes (and I still publish papers on them). This is a big loss for Science!


Maria de Sousa Vieira
I have very fond memories of my two years in the seismology lab with Leon in 1977-79, and have been prompted to remember more about my studies there over the last few months as we experienced the aftermath and aftershocks of the 7.1 earthquake here in Christchurch last September.

Leon took great care to support his students, including me, and I fondly remember morning and afternoon tea and discussion when Leon was in (always tea – which suited me).

I greatly appreciated catching up with Leon again when I passed through Los Angeles in 1997 and 2004.

Sharing in your sorrow, and also in the joy of sharing time with a great scholar, scientist and human being,


Ian Westbrooke
Research and Development
New Zealand Department of Conservation
... I still remember when in September 1983 I arrived at your home in what was my very first experience in US. I barely talked some English, and you and Leon accepted me with love and affection in your family. I have sharp and great memories of the two beautiful weeks I spent with you and the nice trip we took in your house close to a lake on the mountain side where Leon also played the piano for us.

This was not only the beginning of a friendship that has been lasting for 28 years now. For me it was literally the discovery of a new world: I was totally fascinated for being in LA and visiting Leon's lab at UCLA. Leon, with his humanity and his profound knowledge, certainly inspired me with my later decision of seeking an academic career in the environmental field. It was nice also to come back and see you again in LA in August 1989. Leon was not only a great scientist, I always admired him for being such a great and beloved father as well.

We send you our prayers in this time of grief and look forward to sharing with you in person our memories of Leon.


Prof. Giulio A. De Leo
Dipartimento di Scienze Ambientali
Università degli Studi di Parma, Italy
I am saddened and deeply grieved to read of the passing of Leon. He was a great scientist, and true gentleman, and a wonderful human being. When I was active in the management of the U. S. Geological Survey's earthquake program I called upon Leon many times to serve on committees and review panels. He never turned me down and served with great energy, insight, and distinction. I shall miss him. He was always very kind to me.

Please accept my deep sympathy and best regards and best wishes for the future.


John R. Filson
Scientist Emeritus
Earthquake Hazards
U. S. Geological Survey
Reston, Virginia
... I was a student of David Griggs in the 1960s, and I remember many conversations in Griggs's lab with Leon and an experiment we set up on the countertop one time with springs and weights of various kinds and sizes to model Leon's famous spring and slider model. I also spoke with Leon several times in the 1990s about the high-pressure shearing instability I discovered that probably explains deep earthquakes.

Leon was surely one of the giants of seismology of the 20th Century. His creativity and innovation will be sorely missed.

I offer Joanne and the family my heartfelt condolences on his passing.

Harry Green

Dr. Harry W. Green, II
Director, Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics
Distinguished Professor of Geology and Geophysics, Department of Earth Sciences
Director, Central Facility for Advanced Microscopy and Microanalysis (CFAMM)
President, Tectonophysics Section of the American Geophysical Union
University of California, Riverside
It is very sad news and a great loss, in particular for the nonlinear geophysics community. The model of earthquakes he elaborated with R. Burridge remains a landmark with both an elegant reduction to fundamental mechanisms and a remarkable ability to generate non-trivial behaviors. However, Leon had not only been an outstanding scientist, he had also a broad culture and a unique sense of humor, particularly about the invading bureaucracy in science.

I had really enjoyed preparing with him the AGU-Chapman/EGU-Richardson conference on Nonlinear Variability in Geophysics in 1993, as well as the launch of the AGU-EGU journal "Nonlinear Processes in Geophysics". Leon's impulse for launching this journal was officially acknowledged by the EGS Badge Award 2001 "in recognition of his outstanding services as Editor and supporter of the Society's journal Nonlinear Processes in Geophysics."

I had also enjoyed his talks in various seminars and conferences, as well as passionate discussions about scaling and fractals ... and their possible limitations. It is very hard to realize that there will be no longer a possibility to discuss with him. However, his ideas will go on and contribute to wide scientific developments.


Professor Daniel Schertzer
Head of the Chair "Hydrology for Resilient Cities"
Université Paris Est
Ecole des Ponts ParisTech, LEESU
Marne-la-Vallée, France
Leon was a great scientist and one of the most brilliant figures in modern geophysics. His decease is a hard and irreplaceable loss for world science.

Leon had eminent talents in many fields and was a very kind and frank man. Everybody who knew him is sorrowing deeply.

With my personal condolences,
Alexandre Soloviev

Prof. Alexandre A. Soloviev
Director, Int. Inst. of Earthquake Prediction Theory and Mathematical Geophysics
Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow
I received the news with sudden and deep sorrow.

Prof. Knopoff was the first geophysicist whom I visited in the US. I still remember the first day when I met him at UCLA. Leon was casual, and also very friendly while I, as a young student, was tense in front of the great figure. Since then, he spent hours to discuss something which was related to my research. I also remember the parties in your sunny garden. You and Leon were surrounded by your nice family, students and friends.

When I got my first child, he encouraged me to continue working. I was moved to hear such generous and thoughtful words from him. But I was not strong enough to cope with my personal situation, and had to have a break. Later I received my doctorate from my alma mater (University of Tokyo), but know I would have never accomplished it without Leon's guidance and support in the beginning of my life in the US.

I did not have a chance to visit him recently but remembered his work often. In fact, around the day of his passing, I was reading a paper which was written under his strong influence.


Fumiko Tajima
Faculty of Earth Sciences, Geophysics Section
Munich, Germany
The news gave me a very great shock. Leon’s passing away was not only a great loss for Joanne and family, but also for the whole world of sciences.

I have not had the opportunity to be his student, but I have really learnt a lot from him – from science to behavior. He will be alive in my heart forever.

With great sorrow,

Xiang-Chu Yin
Professor, Institute of Earthquake Science and Institute of Geophysics, Chinese Earthquake Administration
LNM (State Key Laboratory of Nonlinear Mechanics), Institute of Mechanics, Chinese Academy of Sciences
Graduate School, University of Sciences and Technology China,
ISB member of ACES (APEC Cooperation for Earthquake Simulation)
I loved Leon!
He was a wonderful force for good.
I'm glad I came to know him.

All the best,

Darryl D. Holm
Professor of Applied Mathematics
Imperial College London
It is with great sorrow that I have learned about the demise of Joanne's dear husband Leon.

He was also my teacher in the early '80s in Trieste, when he gave a series of lectures at the former Istituto di Geodesia e Geofisica. I still have the notes I have written at that time ... and they are still very much up-to-date! In fact, Leon was a great mind and a great seismologist, very much respected worldwide, whose scientific contributions will remain part of the world history of seismology.

I would like to express deep condolences to Joanne and all the family on behalf also of the International Association of Seismology and Physics of the Earth's Interior, its Bureau with our President Wu Zhongliang and all the world seismological community. I intend to publish his obituary in the next issue of our IASPEI Newsletter.

Leon will live in all our hearts!

Peter Suhadolc
IASPEI Secretary General
Department of Geosciences
University of Trieste, Italy
I have always considered Leon to be such a good friend and truly valued colleague. I was deeply saddened by the news of his passing.

I first met Leon during the fifties while working on my PhD thesis at MIT under Gordon Macdonald. Ironically enough, Leon and I coauthored Gordon's obituary in EOS some time ago. Our paths crossed from time to time at professional meetings; Leon was a delight to be with; I consider it a privilege to have known him, and to have so enjoyed the benefits of his extraordinary scientific as well as musical talents.

Sincerely yours,

Sven Treitel
Research Consultant, Retired
I was saddened to hear about Leon’s death.

I knew Leon personally and as a professional colleague for at least 45 years. He was very kind to me many times in exchanging ideas and in complimenting and reading my work in seismology and tectonics.

I was lucky to be a member with him of the US Earthquake Studies Delegation that visited China in 1974. I especially remember his great enthusiasm during a visit we made to an institute that promoted the use and teaching of ancient Chinese musical instruments. I remember having dinner with Joanne, Leon and a few others in Lima in 1973. I saw him many times at meetings of the Southern California Earthquake Center.

Leon was one of the great figures of the earth sciences internationally, in the US and at UCLA.

I send condolences and best wishes at this most difficult time to Joanne and your family.


Lynn R. Sykes
Higgins Professor Emeritus of Earth and Environmental Science
Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University
Palisades, New York
With great sorrow I have learned about the death of Leon. He was a really great person. I admired him not only as an outstanding scientist and teacher but also as a very delightful person. I remember with pleasure our last being together in the "Rote Mühle" and the walk through the green valley toward our home on the Hardtberg in Königstein. All these things are now gone. Since my wife Irmgard has left the earth on March 19, 2010, I moved to Bad Homburg ...

My thoughts are often of Leon and Joanne.

Yours sincerely,
Hans Berckhemer

Prof. Emer. Hans Berckhemer
University of Frankfurt, Germany
The loss is not only for Joanne, the family, for me, it is also for the world of science. He was a great geophysical scientist in the world. It is a large loss in scientific area. I worked in Knopoff’s group from 1979.5 to 1982.2. I felt great help by his direction. Then we became good friends for thirty years. Please let me express my great sympathy and solicitude.

Xu Guoming
Professor, Department of Earth and Space Sciences
University of Science and Technology of China
Heifei, China
A great loss indeed, for Joanne, for the family, for the scientific community, and also a personal loss for Karl Fuchs.

I got to know Leon over a long span of years. When I try to remember our many gatherings, the most impressive characteristic feature was his ability to listen and to give to-the-point-advice in a very friendly way. I remember the occasions at Karlsruhe, at Schiltach, at Strasbourg, at Los Angeles in your home, but also the written communications. I admire his ability to be at the forefront of science through the many years of active research and even during his years as emeritus.

Both Corry and I remember the pleasant hours we spent together at Karlsruhe and on many occasions all over the world.

With our warmest regards, also from Corry, to Joanne and the family,


Karl Fuchs
Professor Emeritus of Geophysics
Karlsruhe University, Germany
Former President International Lithosphere Program
I wish that I had been able to know Leon better. It was only about twenty years ago that a colleague of mine and I rediscovered what we immediately learned was the famous Burridge-Knopoff model of earthquake dynamics. Unlike other grumpier members of our scientific generation, Leon was delighted to find that there were more discoveries to be made along the directions that he had started. He was always extraordinarily friendly, enthusiastic, and open to new ideas. I especially admired – and envied – the fact that he was an accomplished musician as well as a wonderful scientist.

Elly joins me in sending condolences and very best regards,


James S. Langer
Research Professor
Physics Department
University of California, Santa Barbara
I was sitting watching a basketball game of the NCAA tournament last week, and was reminded of a day about 16 years ago when Leon and I sat in front of his TV watching UCLA win the championship. It reminded me of our many interactions.

I first met Leon in the early '80s, a brash youngster explaining my ideas to the master. We continued to talk and exchange ideas for almost 20 years. I still can picture the gleam in his eye when a new thought came to him and he would stop to think how to explain it.

Around his 65th birthday, I asked Leon whether he was thinking about retirement. He looked surprised, and said he was thinking about a sabbatical year to retool himself.

It is a great loss, but I have very fond memories.

Best regards,

Len G. Margolin
Senior Scientist for Computational Physics
Los Alamos National Laboratory
... Leon was a great scientist and a wonderful person, and I feel proud to have known him as a colleague and friend.

Best regards,

Thomas H. Jordan
University Professor & W. M. Keck Professor of Earth Sciences
Director, Southern California Earthquake Center
Department of Earth Sciences
University of Southern California
Los Angeles
... I was sad to hear of Leon's passing – he was a big influence on my career in bringing a background in physics into the study of the Earth, and I recall several interesting discussions over the years at conference, or during your visit here to Edinburgh during the festival in the early 1990s, on a wide variety of topics, including music.

Best regards,

Ian Main FRSE
Professor of Seismology & Rock Physics
The University of Edinburgh, Scotland
My condolences over the loss of Leon. He was an influential colleague of whom I was aware since almost my earliest times of working in earth science, and I had known him personally for the last 30 or so years, as a great scientist and brilliant human being, interested in and engaging on all he encountered. I am committed to be at a conference in Israel at that time of the 5 May gathering, but wish well to you and others who share this loss.

Jim Rice

James R. Rice
Mallinckrodt Professor of Engineering Sciences and Geophysics
Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences and School of Engineering and Applied Sciences
Harvard University
Cambridge, Massachusetts
... I recall two ventures with Leon that particularly stand out in my mind. First was with a small group that climbed the Matterhorn some years ago – the Matterhorn in the Sierra Nevada, that is, not the Matterhorn in Switzerland! We had to make camp on the side of the peak, and it poured buckets all night long. But in the morning, Leon was his usual cheerful self, and by the time we reached the summit, it was a beautiful day – with a spectacular view of Bridgeport Valley, Mono Lake, and the eastern Sierra.

Secondly was our trip together, with Frank Press and a number of colleagues, to China in 1974. As you know, we were among the first foreign scientists to be allowed into China, and in the waning years of the Cultural Revolution, the experience was both fascinating and a bit frightening. I remember sharing with Leon considerable skepticism about many of their earthquake-prediction efforts, but at the same time admiring their enthusiasm and spirit of hospitality. I've been back to China some 13 times since, but nothing quite compares with that "pioneering" trip. I think that Leon likewise valued the experience, and he, of course, also returned to China several times in subsequent years.

I'll never forget Leon's quizzical smile and his ever-cheerful outlook. My heart goes out to Joanne and the family.


Clarence R. Allen
Professor of Geology and Geophysics Emeritus
California Institute of Technology
Pasadena, California
Still now, three months hence, there are frequent daily pangs wherein I am instantly convinced that Leon's absence is merely a cruel anxiety-enhancing device in a particularly vicious and persistent nightmare from which I shortly will wake up ... It is with much sadness I now brace myself for the seemingly inevitable and ask you to expect my presence during the events of the upcoming afternoon of May 5.


Per Jögi
... I had the extreme luck and pleasure of starting my career as Leon's post-doc and subsequently to share with him some of the most exciting topics in seismology co-authoring several papers that have been seminal worldwide. Leon has been a most effective teacher, both at the undergraduate and graduate levels, and I had the possibility to enjoy his very inspiring and enthralling lectures at many courses at the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP). Among other things, at ICTP he shared his pioneering understanding about the non-linear dynamics that governs the scale invariance of earthquake sizes, a distribution that is observed in every earthquake zone in the world. His work on stochastic branching fault networks, fractality of earthquakes, placed him years ahead of groups that applied methods of condensed matter physics to understand earthquakes. Leon has been not only a Mentor but a good friend of Rita and me, and we owe him a great contribution to the development of our spiritual life. We would like to express our everlasting gratitude to Leon.


Giuliano F. Panza
Professor of Seismology
Department of Geosciences (DiGeo) and the Abdus Salam ICTP/ESP section
Head of SAND Group
Trieste, Italy
Honorary professor of the Institute of Geophysics
China Earthquake Administration
Beijing, China
Institute of Geophysics, China Earthquake Administration

At the moment to commemorate the life of Professor Leon Knopoff on May 5, 2011, please convey our deepest sympathy and our warm personal regards to all the family.

A Chinese translation of the UCLA obituary will appear in the coming issue of Translated World Seismology.

Yun-tai had the privilege of knowing Leon in earlier 1970s when Leon was one of the pioneers to visit Chinese geophysicists and working under his supervision in the past 30 years, and we realize what a great loss his death is to all the family and to all the friends and colleagues. As a great scientist, the brilliant achievements Professor Leon Knopoff leaves behind him will be remembered forever by the world.

Chen Yun-tai and Zheng Qi-qin

Chen Yun-tai
Professor and Honorary Director, Institute of Geophysics, China Earthquake Administration
Dean, School of Earth and Space Sciences, Beijing University
Rene and I send our sincere condolences over Leon's passing.

He was not only an excellent, creative and productive scientist, but also a really neat human being and friend. I used to enjoy my conversations with Leon on physics and other topics. He always had intriguing ways of thinking about situations ... We'll miss him.

Charles and Rene Buchanan

Charles Buchanan
Professor and Academic Vice Chair Emeritus
Dept of Physics and Astronomy, UCLA
... Prof. Knopoff always lives in my mind and is my master of earthquake science. My wife, my daughter, and I miss him forever.

In order to commemorate the life of Prof. Leon Knopoff and to express my respect to him, I will give a talk, entitled "Prof. Leon Knopoff's contributions to seismology," in my Institute on the afternoon of May 9. For this purpose, I scanned some old photos with Leon.

A professor of Department of Earth Sciences, National Central University, where Prof. Knopoff gave two talks on Oct. 27, 1989, also invites me to give a talk concerning Prof. Knopoff's contributions to seismology. I will use the same slides.

With best regards,

Jeen-Hwa Wang
Distinguished Research Fellow
Institute of Earth Sciences
Academia Sinica, Taiwan
... I was privileged to have known Leon for many years, since my entry into the world of geophysics in the late 1960s, and to have benefited time and again from his always gracious comments and advice on my own work. He was a born educator.

He had always been very supportive, kind and patient with me when I was a young scientist, and later when I became more involved in administrative duties. Whenever I started a new scientific or other professional endeavor, it was but a short time before I would discover that Leon had already made seminal contributions on the very same topic some time before, that I could learn from, and build upon.

I also keep him in my mind as a founding member of the Institute of Geophysics (now IGPP) and of the Southern California Earthquake Center ... but also as a dominant intellectual force in many excellent meetings and summer schools in Italy, Sicily and Japan, where so many fascinating discussions took place.

Please accept my most sincere condolences and my very best regards,

Bernard Minster

Jean Bernard Minster
Distinguished Professor of Geophysics
Scripps Institution of Oceanography
University of California, San Diego
With Leon's passing, there's a whole chapter, and a very glorious one, of the geosciences at UCLA that fades into the sunset.

My warmest feelings to Joanne and the children,


Michael Ghil
Distinguished Professor (Emeritus), UCLA, and former IGPP Director (1992-2003)
Distinguished Professor, Ecole Normale Supérieure, Paris
I was very sorry indeed to hear of Leon's passing. He was not only a marvelous scientist, but also a great and warm human being. Edith and I loved him and Joanne both.

With every good wish,

John D. Roberts
Institute Professor of Chemistry, Emeritus
California Institute of Technology
Pasadena, California
I am very sorry to receive the sad news about Prof. Knopoff.

Prof. Knopoff lectured at many of ICTP's workshops for which I was always the secretary.

He will be sadly missed by everyone but I am sure he leaves a great part of who he was and what he did to all. It was a great pleasure to have had the opportunity of working with him for many years.


Gabriella De Meo
SAND Group Secretary
The Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics, Trieste, Italy
Although Leon was not my PhD advisor (it was Dave Jackson), I considered him to be a kind of second advisor. I fondly remember the many times we had group meetings, and Leon would share his encyclopedic knowledge of science, art, or music with the students.

It was with some satisfaction that I was able to revive interest in his earthquake model (published in 1967 with Bob Burridge) and spread interest much more widely in the world of physics. This happened in conjunction with the meeting on chaos and earthquakes that I organized in 1989 at the Asilomar conference center. That model is now known throughout science, and is the basis now not only for understanding earthquakes, but also stock market crashes, ecological collapses, and many other types of catastrophes.

Leon was a wonderful friend, mentor and colleague. We all share a deep sense of loss that he has been taken from among us.

With all best wishes,

John Rundle
Distinguished Professor
University of California, Davis
Chairman, Open Hazards Group
... In reading the material broadly circulated the world over on Dr. Knopoff's scientific accomplishments and honors, we are especially admiring his warmth and kindness as a teacher and later life-long friend. We shall long miss him.

Evelyn and I also especially treasure Leon's and Joanne's friendship, for you were my only Caltech Professor family (with your baby daughter) attending our wedding in Pasadena in 1963. About twenty years later, your Rachel and our Frances bumped into each other in college, only to find out later that their fathers were both Seismologists. They became roommates and so – of course – we became friends in both generations. We enjoyed your friendship and especially Leon's famed Sunday breakfast.

We remember Leon most fondly.

Best regards,
Leon Teng

Professor Emeritus Ta-liang Teng
Department of Earth Sciences
University of Southern California
Los Angeles
I was very sorry to hear of Dr. Knopoff's passing. He was a fantastic teacher and mentor to me as I readied myself for graduate school in the late 1980s. I have no doubt that the kindness and intellectual clarity he shared with his students moved us to do the same as we developed into scientists, teachers, and parents.

Warm regards,

Dr. Anthony Gopal
I first met Leon by telephone when he called me at the University of Toronto in early 1965, inviting me to join his team at UCLA. In the Fall I drove down to Los Angeles and we met in person in Leon's office. It was October 1965 and for me the beginning of a very happy and memorable 15 months. Working for and with Leon as a post-doc was a challenge and an absolute pleasure, and an important part of my education in research. This stood me in good stead when I returned to Canada at the end of 1966.

During my time in Santa Monica, you and Leon welcomed me to your home on several occasions, and the friendship that started then was refreshed through more than four decades as we met at scientific meetings in the US and Europe. Ann and I remember well the time we were in Karlsruhe together, at Karl Fuchs's institute, at the evening BBQ at the geodynamics lab with our families, and on a picnic later. Happy memories indeed.

Jo, please accept our sincere regrets at your great loss. We hope that your knowing the high esteem and affection with which Leon was held by his many students and colleagues has helped you and your family during the past year, and that it continues to help.

With our warmest regards,
Michael and Ann

Michael Berry
Retired in 1995 as Director-General
Minerals and Continental Geoscience Branch
Geological Survey of Canada
I was in Knopoff's group from 1983 to 1985 as a postdoc. Discussion with him was highly stimulating, and I learned what science is from him. I also enjoyed my life at UCLA thanks to his warmth. For example, I had a rare opportunity to climb the Sierra Nevada with Knopoff, his son Michael, and their friends. I still remember our days in Los Angeles.

I owe what I am today largely to Professor Knopoff.

Teruo Yamashita
Earthquake Research Institute
University of Tokyo
In 1159 John of Salisbury published a book entitled Metalogicon (in Latin, of course). In it he stated, "We are like dwarfs sitting on the shoulders of giants. We see more, and things that are more distant, than they did, not because our sight is superior or because we are taller than they, but because they raise us up, and by their great stature add to ours."

In the same metaphorical vein Isaac Newton wrote to Robert Hooke in 1678, "What Descartes did was a good step. You have added much in several ways, and especially in taking the colours of thin plates into philosophical consideration. If I have seen a little further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants." By Giants Newton meant Copernicus, Kepler and Galileo.

In my opinion Leon was a Giant of Geophysics and his followers will see further by standing on his shoulders, the better to understand Natural Philosophy.

Take care and very kind regards,

J. Freeman Gilbert
Research Professor, Emeritus
IGPP, Scripps Institution of Oceanography
University of California, San Diego
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