Vitelmo V. Bertero – October 24, 2016

PEER is saddened to hear of the passing of Vitelmo V. Bertero on October 24, 2016.

Vitelmo V. Bertero
May 9, 1923 – October 24, 2016

Vitelmo V. Bertero was professor emeritus of civil and environmental engineering at the University of California, Berkeley. Professor Bertero was a world-renowned pioneer, expert, and leader in the field of earthquake engineering.

In 1947 Bertero received his degree in Civil Engineering from the Facultad de Ciencias Matemáticas, Físico-Químicas y Naturales, Universidad del Litoral, Rosario, Argentina, his native country. He received his M.S. and his Sc.D. degree in civil engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In 1958 he joined the Department of Civil Engineering at UC Berkeley, where, from 1988 to 1990, he was the Director of the Earthquake Engineering Research Center at Berkeley, the predecessor to PEER – Pacific Earthquake Engineering Research Center, and a hub for analytical and experimental earthquake engineering research, information resources, and public service programs.

Bertero conducted numerous integrated analytical and experimental studies on seismic behavior of civil engineering facilities. He developed comprehensive methods of seismic design of steel moment frames, steel braced frames, reinforced concrete (RC) frames, RC shear walls, and masonry structures. He conducted many pioneering research studies including: elastic and inelastic seismic structural response due to near-fault directivity pulses in the early 1970s; classic experimental work on cyclic behavior of beam-column steel and RC sub-assemblages; original experimental work on cyclic versus monotonically deformed behavior of RC moment resisting frames and shear walls; innovative study on the understanding and applications of energy-based methods in earthquake-resistant design and damage evaluation; and the development of conceptual framework and the design- objective matrix for performance-based earthquake engineering.

Bertero inspected structural and non-structural damage after numerous major earthquakes throughout the world, including the 1964 Alaska, 1967 Caracas (Venezuela), 1971 San Fernando (CA), 1972 Managua (Nicaragua), 1976 Guatemala, 1977 Caucete, San Juan (Argentina), 1979 Imperial Valley (CA), 1980 El Asnam (Algeria), 1983 Oga Peninsula (Japan); 1983 Coalinga (CA), 1985 Chile, 1985 Michoacan (Mexico), 1986 San Salvador, 1987 Whittier Narrows (CA), 1988 Spitak (Armenia), 1989 Loma Prieta (CA), 1990 Luzon (Philippines), 1992 Erzincan (Turkey), 1992 Flores (Indonesia), 1994 Northridge (CA), and 1995 Kobe (Japan) earthquakes. He brought his observations into his research and the classroom.

Professor Bertero published more than 350 papers and reports on various issues in earthquake engineering and received numerous national and international awards for his teaching and original research efforts. For decades he collaborated on joint research with his colleague at UC Berkeley, Egor Popov.

In 1990 he was awarded the Berkeley Citation, UC’s highest honor. Among other awards in the US, he received the ASCE Nathan Newmark Award (1991); ACI Arthur Anderson Award (1989); AISC T.R.Higgins Lectureship Award (1990); and EERI Housner Medal (1995). In 1990, Engineering News Record recognized him as the “Construction Man of the Year” for “advancing the science of earthquake engineering,” and described him as the “impassioned professor who advances earthquake engineering through research.”

His international awards and honors include the Jai Krishna Award from the India Society of Earthquake Technology (1974); First International Gold Medal Eduardo Torroja from the CSIC, Spain (1989); appointment as the Extraordinary Chair of Javier Barrios Siera at the National University of Mexico (1986); appointment as Honorary Professor in seven universities in South American countries; and Honorary Doctoral degrees including “Doctorado Honoris Causa en Ingeniería” from the University of Los Andes, Mérida, Venezuela (1993), and from “CUYO” University, Mendoza, Argentina (1997).

Professor Bertero was elected to the Academy of Science of Argentina (1971); Academy of Engineers of Argentina (1989); and the U.S. National Academy of Engineering as Foreign Associate (1990). He was an Honorary Member of the American Concrete Institute (ACI), Fellow of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), Honorary Member of the Structural Engineers Association of Northern California, and member of EERI.

From 1988 to 1992 he was a member of the Advisory Committee to the United States Congress regarding the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP). From 1992 to 2000 he was a Director, representing the United States, of the International Association of Earthquake Engineering (IAEE).

In 1997 the EERC-CUREe Symposium in Honor of Vitelmo V. Bertero was held at UC Berkeley, where a global assembly of individuals and organizations of researchers and engineering practitioners participated during the two-day event.

In 2004, Professor Bertero co-edited the comprehensive book Earthquake Engineering: From Engineering Seismology to Performance-Based Engineering, (CRC Press, 2004). In 2006 he was named one of the “Top 10 Seismic Engineers of the 20th Century” by the Applied Technology Council and Engineering News Record. In 2007, he co-founded BFP Engineers, Inc., with Eduardo Fierro and Cynthia Perry.

In 2010 he was awarded the Rose School Prize for his “long and distinguished career, during which he emphasized the need to understand structural performance under seismic attack, and to learn lessons from structural damage and failure in earthquakes. He led a whole new field of research emphasizing the importance of energy demand and capacity in seismic performance.”

Watch a video of the ROSE Prize Awarding Ceremony - 2010 Edition