International Association of Seismology
and Physics of the Earth's Interior


Brian J. Mitchell (1936 - 2018)


Brian J. Mitchell, PhD and Professor Emeritus died on 29 May 2018. Brian was born 25 July 1936 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where he also received his B.S. and M.S. degrees in physics and geophysics from the University of Minnesota in the 1960s. He then moved to Texas, where he completed his PhD in geophysics at Southern Methodist University in 1970. After a postdoc appointment at Caltech working with Don Helmberger on deep mantle structure from 1971 to 1972 and a brief position in the exploration industry in 1973, he was appointed Assistant Professor at Saint Louis University in Missouri, in 1974. He advanced through Associate Professor to full Professor by 1981 and remained at Saint Louis University until his retirement as Professor Emeritus in 2012. Brian served as Chair of the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences from 1980 to 1993 and became Paul C. Reinert Professor of Natural Sciences in 1993. Over the years he held several visiting research appointments at various universities and institutes in the USA and Europe, including Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, NORSAR, and the University of Trieste.

Brian Mitchell focused on seismological investigations of propagation and attenuation of Rayleigh-wave fundamental modes and overtones, and he became a widely recognized authority on this topic. Throughout his career he sustained interest in different aspects of seismic-wave attenuation: he worked with numerous co-authors and advisees on S-wave attenuation in the mantle, coda-Q, surface wave attenuation, the frequency dependence of attenuation, the attenuation of Lg waves, the influence of crustal fluid content on the attenuation of seismic waves, seismic wave attenuation in different tectonic regimes and lateral heterogeneous Q distributions. Other main topics of his work include S-wave velocities and anisotropy, T-phase propagation and intraplate seismicity in USA (New Madrid) and, together with Norwegian colleagues, in the European Arctic (Svalbard Archipelago). He published more than 70 peer-reviewed papers on these topics.

In addition to his many contributions on seismic wave analysis, Brian became well known to the global seismological community for his many years of service as the Chief Editor of Pure and Applied Geophysics (PAGEOPH) and for sustaining the high scientific standard of that journal. In this function he edited a large volume on Q of the Earth and a set of seven volumes on various aspects of monitoring the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty. He was an elected Fellow of the American Geophysical Union and the Geological Society of America and received the Peter Raven Lifetime Achievement Award from Saint Louis University in 2004. Brian is survived by his wife of 58 years, Judith Mitchell and his sons David and Peter, along with four grandchildren.

Johannes Schweitzer & Thorne Lay, based on different Internet sources.