Carl Kisslinger

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Carl Kisslinger
Carl Kisslinger headshot.gif
Membership Society of Exploration Geophysicists, American Geophysical Union, Seismological Society of America, St. Louis Academy of Science, Sigma Xi
BSc Geophysics
MSc Geophysics
PhD Geophysics
BSc university St. Louis University
MSc university St. Louis University
PhD university St. Louis University

"Carl Kisslinger, 1953"


Carl Kisslinger, born in St. Louis, Mo., in 1926, received his B.S. degree in geophysics in 1947 from St. Louis University. Previously he had served as a radio technician in the U.S. Navy from 1944 to 1946, instructing in radar at Treasure Island, California. He held the Shell Fellowship in Geophysics at St. Louis University from 1947 to 1949, and in this time completed work for the M.S. degree. Following a brief period of employment by the Shell Oil Company, he joined the faculty of the Department of Geophysics and Geophysical Engineering of St. Louis University as an instructor. In June 1952, he received the Ph.D. degree, with a major in geophysics and a minor in mathematics

He was a member of the Society of Exploration Geophysicists, the American Geophysical Union, the Seismological Society of America, the St. Louis Academy of Science, and Sigma Xi.

In Memoriam

by Jerry Kisslinger[1]

Carl Kisslinger, a geophysicist who furthered scientific and international understanding through tireless devotion to his field, died on December 31, 2008 at his home in Boulder, Colorado.

Kisslinger served on the University of Colorado in Boulder faculty since 1972. He arrived from St. Louis University, where he chaired the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences and earned his undergraduate and doctoral degrees under the mentorship of James Bernard Macelwane, S.J. For seven years he also served as director of CIRES, the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, a partnership between the University of Colorado and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. According to the CIRES Web site: “The casual, respectful, and mutually supportive atmosphere among the institute's scientists and staff was established by his example, as was its dedication to excellence in all endeavors." Esteemed by generations of undergraduate and graduate students and colleagues, he received the University Service Award from the University of Colorado Board of Regents in 1993. Among his many roles as a university citizen he most recently served as president of the CU Retired Faculty Association.

Kisslinger's career grew out of a passion for understanding and explaining nature. A native of St. Louis, he met Penny, the love of his life and wife of more than 60 years, while working as a nature counselor at Camp Thunderbird in Minnesota, where she served as the dietician.

As a seismologist, Kisslinger focused his research on earthquake fault zone processes, earthquake aftershocks, remote triggering of earthquakes, earthquake hazard analysis, and earthquake prediction. Much of his observational work was based in the Aleutian Islands, where he worked in the 1970s on problems related to the monitoring of underground nuclear testing. An author, coauthor, and editor of articles, reports, and books, he was one of four international editors of the muchcited International Handbook of Earthquake and Engineering Seismology, published in 2002, and the author of CIRES, 1967–2002, Pioneering a Successful Partnership.

Kisslinger left a profound impact on the professional organizations in his field. In 1972, as president of the Seismological Society of America, he initiated contacts with China that helped lay the groundwork for one of the first American scientific exchange visits to the People's Republic of China, causing Smithsonian magazine to note in the Nixon-Kissinger era of détente that the visit was inspired in part by “an energetic young scientist named of all things, Kisslinger.” He visited China as a member of the seismology delegation from the National Academy of Science in October–November 1974, during the final days of the Cultural Revolution and before Chinese-U.S. diplomatic relations ensued.

He also served the American Geophysical Union as Foreign Secretary (1974–1984) as well as Secretary (1964–1968) and President (1970–1972) of the Seismology Section. For the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics, he served as Bureau Member (1975–1979, Vice President (1983–1991), and Chair of the Colorado Host Committee for the 1995 IUGG General Assembly held in Boulder.

His international connections led to travel and friendships around the world and a sprit of adventure and cross-cultural understanding that he passed along to his children. In 1967 the Kisslinger family lived in Tokyo while he taught at a UNESCO institute for earthquake studies.

He shared with Penny a lifelong love of music, and for many years their annual schedules included attendance at concerts of the Colorado Music Festival and the Takacs Quartet.

In addition to Penny, he is survived by his five children, seven grandchildren, sisters Lois Cronholm and Sandra Olsen, and brother Leonard Kisslinger. Carl and Penny's children are Karen Kisslinger of Millerton, New York; Susan Kisslinger of Portsmouth, New Hampshire; Ellen Kisslinger of Hudson, Massachusetts; Pamela Kisslinger of Kansas City, Missouri; and Jerry Kisslinger of New York City. The grandchildren are Emma and Ava Dweck, David and Rachel Belanger, Sarah Smith, and Daniel and Aaron Kisslinger.

In lieu of flowers, the family has asked that donations be sent to HospiceCare of Boulder or the Colorado Music Festival.


  1. Kisslinger, J., Seismological Research Letters, March/April 2009, v. 80, p. 196, doi:10.1785/gssrl.80.2.196 (Reproduced with permission of the Seismological Society of America.)

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