Early History of the ISC

John Milne

Publisher of the Shide Circular Reports on Earthquakes


H.H. Turner

Publisher of Reports on Large Earthquakes


Director of the International Seismological Summary (ISS)


H. Plaskett

Director of the ISS


Harold Jeffreys

Director of the ISS


Robert Stoneley

Director of the ISS


P.L. (Pat) Willmore

Director of the ISS


Director of the International Seismological Centre (ISC)


Edouard P. Arnold

Director of the ISC


Anthony A. Hughes

Director of the ISC


Raymond J. Willemann

Director of the ISC


Avi Shapira

Director of the ISC


Earthquake effects have been noted and documented from the earliest times, but it is only since the development of earthquake detecting instruments within the last hundred years that a proper study of their occurrence has been possible. The need for international exchange of readings was soon recognised by Professor John Milne, whose work resulted in the International Seismological Summary being set up immediately after the First World War.

After Milne's death, the International Seismological Summary operated with funding principally from colleges of U.K. universities under the directorship of several professors of seismology at Oxford University, and Sir Harold Jeffreys (Cambridge).

The present International Seismological Centre was formed in Edinburgh in 1964, with Dr. P.L. Willmore as its first director, to continue the work of the International Seismological Summary (ISS), which was the first gathering of all observations of earthquakes world-wide.

In 1970, with the help of UNESCO and other international scientific bodies, the Centre was reconstituted as an international non-governmental body, funded by interested institutions from various countries. Initially there were supporting members from seven countries, now there are more than 50, and member institutions include national academies, government departments and universities. Each member contributing a minimum unit of subscription or more, appoints a representative to the Centre's Governing Council, which meets every two years to decide the Centre's policy and operational programme. Representatives from UNESCO and the International Association of Seismology and Physics of the Earth's Interior also attend these meetings. The Governing Council appoints the Director and a small Executive Committee to oversee the Centre's operations.

Most of the ISC budget is financed by Members' subscriptions but since 1978 a new category of Associate Membership has been available to organisations in the commercial sector, such as insurance offices, engineering enterprises and exploration companies, which have a professional need for the Centre's results, and wish to contribute to its continuing operations. Both members and associate members are afforded certain privileges.

In 1975, the Centre moved to Newbury in southern England to make use of better computing facilities there. The Centre subsequently acquired its own computer and in 1986 moved to its own building at Pipers Lane, Thatcham, near Newbury. The internal layout of the new premises was designed for the Centre and included not only office space but provision for the storage of extensive stocks of ISS and ISC publications and a library of seismological bulletins, journals and books.

In 1997 the first set of ISC Bulletin and Catalogue CD-ROMs was published. In 1998 the ISC set up its first website. In 1999 the ISC users were able to retrieve bulletin data via the Internet. By early 2000 the ISC relational database was set up for operational use and from 2001 the collection of seismic bulletins from stations worldwide was made predominantly via e-mail.

Notes and experiences from the early days of the ISC

Insights into the history of the ISC by Robin Adams.

On the use of computers by Bruce Bolt

Interview with Anthony Hughes about the ISC by Henry Spall.

Early history of the ISC by Chris Argent.

My experience at the ISC in 1966 by Anatoli Levshin.

My experience at the ISC in 1966-1968 by Slawomir Gibowicz.

The Steel Globe of the International Seismological Summary by Anthony A. Hughes.

Early days at the ISC by David McGregor.

My time at the ISC in Edinburgh by Ron Smith.

An Historic Dinner in May 1978 by Robin D. Adams.

My 30 Years at the ISC: Sep 1986 – Sep 2016 by Maureen Aspinwall.