Jenn Shreve reviews Richter’s Scale: Measure of an Earthquake, Measure of a Man by Susan Elizabeth Hough, in the San Francisco Chronicle:
The shift of science from an individual to a team pursuit has caused some to opine that the days of the great scientific biography are numbered, too. Yet there are still a few luminaries of science who have not yet gotten their due in print. Among them, until now, was Charles Richter.
That it took so long for a biography to appear is surprising because Richter’s life is about as ripe for the book treatment as it gets. A reluctant seismologist, he made important contributions to the field, including though not limited to the scale that bears his name. But as we learn in Susan Elizabeth Hough’s “Richter’s Scale: Measure of an Earthquake, Measure of a Man,” noteworthy professional accomplishments tell only a fraction of the story.
Richter, it turns out, was also an avid nudist, a frustrated but prolific poet, a Trekkie, a devoted backpacker profiled in the pages of Field and Stream, and a philandering spouse who was quite possibly in love with his sister and whose globe-trotting wife may have been a lesbian. While that may not sound all that unusual to the modern-day San Franciscan, keep in mind that the guy was born in 1900.