Sept. 17, 2021
Dr Peter Ward
Earned a BA from Dartmouth College in Geology in 1965 and a PhD from Columbia University in Geophysics in 1970. My thesis focused on earthquakes, volcanoes, and tectonics in Iceland. I worked 27 years with the United States Geological Survey in Menlo Park, California, as a geophysicist, as a Program Manager, and as Chief of the Branch of Seismology, which, under my leadership, became the Branch of Earthquake Mechanics and Prediction. I played a major role in developing and initially leading the National Earthquake Hazard Reduction Program.
I spent 8 summers studying earthquakes and volcanoes in Katmai National Park, Alaska, and installed instruments on volcanoes in Iceland, Alaska, Hawaii, Washington State, California, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Nicaragua.
At the age of 31, I was appointed to lead a group of 40 PhD scientists and 100 other workers in a major effort to monitor earthquakes, with the goal of predicting their time of occurrence. This led to life-long interests in how to manage creativity—an obvious oxymoron—and in the public policy aspects of good science.
I specialized for many years in helping the general public understand the risks they face from natural hazards so that families could take reasonable actions to live more safely. I set a new standard, in 1990, by conceiving, creating, finding funding for, producing, and distributing a 24-page magazine, with versions in English, Chinese, Spanish, and Braille, to 3.3 million families in Northern California explaining future earthquake risk and simple actions that everyone can take to be prepared. This effort was featured on Good Morning America, and I received the Public Affairs Award from the Secretary of the Interior, the highest award of the Association of Government Communicators, and was a Finalist for the Federal Employee of the Year Award in 1991.