European Seismological Commission

In Memory of Peter Bormann

Prof. Dr. Peter Bormann (08.04.1939 - 11.02.2015)

On 11 February 2015, Prof. Dr. Peter Bormann passed away at the age of 75 after a period of serious illness. We have lost not only a precious colleague and friend but also an outstanding geoscientist. With all his strength and personality, he had dedicated his professional life to seismology, has made significant research contributions in this field, rendered excellent services to the international bodies and the scientific community and has trained young seismologists from all over the world. We know Peter as someone who always walked through life with keen eyes and made interesting discoveries in many areas of life. Far beyond seismology, he also took an interest in other fields of science, in literature, art, photography and last not least in people.

Peter BormannAfter his studies in geophysics in Freiberg/Saxony, Peter Bormann, worked as a seismologist at the Institute for Geodynamics in Jena and the related Seismological Observatory Moxa near Jena, both of which became part of the Central Institute of Physics of the Earth (CIPE) of the Academy of Sciences of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) in 1968. In the beginning of the seventies Peter moved to CIPE’s headquarter in Potsdam, where he became chief of the earthquake research department. Since 1981, he conducted CIPE’s international UNESCO-Training-Courses on Seismology and Hazard Assessment. After two years of interim work at the United Nations in New York (1975 – 1977), fostering the use of Remote Sensing in developing countries, he came back to Potsdam and took the position of the deputy director of CIPE in 1978, which he held until 1985. Between 1979 and 1987 Peter Bormann coordinated the Antarctic Programme of the GDR with the scientific planning of the GDR Antarctic station Georg Forster falling under his duties. He also was the official delegate of the GDR to the Scientific Committee for Antarctic Research (SCAR) of the International Council for Science (ICSU) between 1981 and 1986.

After reunification of Germany, Peter since 1992 worked at GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences where he received further worldwide recognition, in particular through the organization and execution of the GFZ International Training Courses on Seismology and Seismic Hazard Assessment – these courses being still continued today. Peter Bormann has not only brought his profound knowledge of seismology into these courses but also his fascinating dedication to the scientific matter. His unique ability to impart knowledge has been invaluable and a great support for education and professional career development of generations of seismologists, particularly in developing areas. In 1997 he became chairman of the Sub-Commission on Training of the International Association of Seismology and Physics of the Earth Interior (IASPEI) and member of IASPEI’s Commission on Education and Outreach.

Since the beginning of his GFZ time, Peter Bormann also took the position of the Secretary of the Commission of Seismic Observation and Interpretation of IASPEI. Under his leadership the „New Manual of Observatory Practice (NMSOP)", a textbook for seismological observatories worldwide, came into being. It was translated completely into Chinese and partly into several other languages such as Bahsa Indonesia, Russian and Turkish. Already seriously sick, Peter spent most of his time during the last years with editing, rewriting and producing a second, totally revised and enlarged edition of the Manual. It is worth mentioning that without his constant perseverance neither of these editions would ever have become reality. The Manual holds internationally as one of the most important books for the education of seismologists.

In addition, Peter Bormann has a considerably large number of publications in international scientific journals. He became known worldwide for his work on the determination of earthquake magnitudes. Many colleagues will not forget his enthusiasm, unwavering attention to detail and his lively spirit during discussions about different magnitude scales and measuring practices. As chairman of the IASPEI Working Group on Magnitude Measurements he played a key role in developing new measuring routines, which later were adopted by IASPEI as a new standard. Also as professor emeritus, he still made essential contributions in this field, for example to the fast and precise determination of the magnitudes of strong earthquakes. His procedure constitutes a breakthrough in Tsunami Early Warning.

“I am retired, but definitely not tired”. We often heard him saying this when colleagues expressed their admiration for the amount of scientific work he was still carrying out after retirement. We will cherish fond memories of our colleague Peter Bormann and his scientific legacy.






Back to list


From the ESC Working Groups:

Contribute to the Portal of the ESC WG on Communication here

Visit the website of the FAULT2SHA Working Group and find out forthcoming activities! The WG promotes a new initiative, open to all researchers interested in contributing to discussions on topics that could improve the assessment of seismic hazard.

The Working Group on Induced Seismicity organised as its second activity a special session 'Induced Seismicity - The European Perspective' at the annual meeting of the SSA in April 2017. 


What were the past General Assemblies of the ESC like? Find out! Interesting documentation has been made easily accessible.

This list summarizes the files.


Sadly we announce the loss of esteemed and beloved colleagues and friends:

Older obituaries can be found here.