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Stanford University has a long tradition in geophysics. John Casper Branner came to Stanford in 1891 as the first professor hired for the new University. In addition to serving as university president and head of the geology program until 1915, Branner witnessed the great 1906 San Francisco earthquake and served as president of the Seismological Society of America. In 1947, George Thompson taught the first formal geophysics course at Stanford, followed by a full geophysics curriculum. In 1957 the Department of Geophysics was formally created with two faculty (Joshua Soske and George Thomspon).

Today the Department of Geophysics investigates a broad range of physical phenomena using new and innovative geophysical tools. Faculty members in Geophysics collaborate with Stanford colleagues in Geological and Environmental Sciences, Energy Resources Engineering, Institute for Computational Mathematics in Engineering, Earth and Environmental Systems Science, Civil Engineering, and more. Since its first Ph.D. graduate in 1953, there have been more than 800 graduate degrees awarded in geophysics from Stanford University.