Accession No


Brief Description

model of earthquake motion, with accompanying bound journal offprint, by Cambridge Scientific Instrument Company Ltd., designed by Prof. Seikei Sekiya, 1889


England; Cambridge [made]; Japan; Tokyo [designed]


Seikei Sekiya [designer] Cambridge Scientific Instrument Company Ltd. [maker]


earth sciences; demonstration; books

Earliest Date

Jan. 1, 1889

Latest Date

Dec. 31, 1889

Inscription Date


wood; metal (brass, other)


length 910 mm; width 360 mm; depth 240mm

Special Collection


Transferred from Sedgwick Musuem, Department of Earth Sciences, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, England, 12/1986.


[on brass plaque]

Description Notes

Model of earthquake motion, with accompanying bound journal offprint, design by Prof. Seikei Sekiya, made by Cambridge Scientific Instrument Company, English, 1889.

Wooden base, painted black, on which three copper wire models are fixed. The metal wires have the appearance of three-dimensional wild scribbles. Attached to the metal wires are small metal tags with type written numbers. The course taken by the wire represents the path pursued by a hypothetical 'earth-particle' during the earthquake of January 15th 1887 (near Yokohama, Japan). The horizontal and vertical motion of the ground is magnified 50 times. The model is in three parts and shows the continuous motion of the earth particle over 72 seconds. Model 1 are the seconds 1-20, model 2 are the seconds 20-40 and model three is the seconds 41-72.

With hard-bound journal offprint of: Seikei Sekiya (1887), ‘A Model showing the Motion of an Earth-particle during an Earthquake’, Journal of the College of Science, Imperial University, Japan, 1, 359-362. Includes two large-format fold-out plates. “Sedgwick Museum” embossed on front cover.


Mark Sprevak; 'A Japanese earthquake model'; Explore Whipple Collections online article; Whipple Museum of the History of Science; University of Cambridge; 2006:


Professor Seikei Sekiya (1855–1896) was a Japanese scientist who was influential in establishing seismology (the study of earthquakes) in Japan. He created a model to represent the motion of the ground during the severe earthquake of 15th January 1887, as recorded at Sekiya’s observatory in Tokyo. Sekiya's earthquake model consists of three examples of twisted copper-wires, which individually represent the motion of an imagined ‘Earth-particle’ for different intervals of time during the 1887 earthquake. The leftmost example shows the particle motion the first twenty seconds of the earthquake. The middle model represents the motion for the next twenty seconds and the rightmost depicts the motion for the following thirty-two seconds. Tags along the wire locate the particle's position at one-second intervals, which provides an idea of particle speed and acceleration. At the time that Sekiya produce his model, the standard way of representing earthquake motion was the seismogram. A seismograph translates ground motion into electrical charges, which are processed and recorded as a seismogram. Seismographic traces simplify earthquake motion by charting Earth movement along a rolling drum. This creates a visual effect of a single line, which makes measurement and analysis much easier. By contrast, Sekiya's model reinforces the complex nature of earthquake motion by showing the movement in three dimensions.
Created by: Mark Sprevak, edited by Allison Ksiazkiewicz on 24/02/2014


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