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Rothé’s legacy to the French Central Seismological Bureau (BCSF): a history of hegemony in French seismicity

Abstract : The French Central Seismological Bureau (BCSF) is celebrating its centenary this year. However, from the macroseismic studies point of view, which is the main activity of BCSF, it would be more accurate to celebrate its 92nd anniversary of activity. This is because between 1978 and 1986, macroseismic studies were assigned to the Geological and Mining Research Bureau (BRGM) owing to an obvious failure of BCSF to fulfill its mission. In this article, I aim to bring a new insight on this unfortunate, tragic episode by following two main actors of BCSF history: Edmond and Jean-Pierre Rothé, father and son. Through them I will relate the story of French macroseismic studies and, more broadly, French seismicity. In order to do so, I will focus on how they built themselves a full system of monitoring and processing earthquake data, and also on how together they owned all the macroseismic data in France for almost 60 years. I will explore how their dominance brought about the failure of BCSF after the collapse of the legitimacy of Rothé’s expertise at a time when earthquake issues were intertwined in nuclear industry stakes. This brings to light not only the history of French seismicity but also the vulnerability of seismic hazard assessment practices.
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Submitted on : Friday, December 17, 2021 - 5:46:28 PM
Last modification on : Thursday, September 1, 2022 - 3:56:05 AM


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Mathias Roger. Rothé’s legacy to the French Central Seismological Bureau (BCSF): a history of hegemony in French seismicity. Comptes Rendus. Géoscience, 2021, 353 (S1), pp.1-18. ⟨10.5802/crgeos.68⟩. ⟨hal-03489749⟩



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