Fred W. Kinsinger and Lillian Anna Richter welcomed their son Charles Francis Richter into the world on April 26, 1900, in the town of Overpeck, Ohio. When he was a very young child, his parents went through a divorce. Richter spent his childhood at home with both his mother and his grandpa. In 1920, he graduated with a bachelor's degree in economics from Stanford University. In 1928, he received a job offer from the Carnegie Institution in Washington, and he accepted it. Richter, on the other hand, did not take advantage of this opportunity and instead enrolled at the California Institute of Technology to pursue a doctoral degree in theoretical physics.
During this time, he focused his attention on the study of earthquakes and earthquake science. Later on, he created a new laboratory in the area of seismology in Pasadena, where he continued his work. Beno Gutenberg served as the head of the laboratory's opening committee. In 1932, Richter and Gutenberg created a standard scale for determining the relative sizes of the causes of earthquakes. He lent his name to this measuring device. The year 1952 marked the beginning of his tenure at the University of California, where he later became a professor and stayed for the remainder of his life.
Before the research done by Richter on earthquake magnitude, the Mercalli scale, which was developed in 1902, was the only scale that could be used to assess an earthquake. On the Mercalli scale, earthquakes were given a rating from one to twelve based on the degree of damage that was sustained by both persons and structures. On this scale, the degree of subjectivity depended on the quality of the building's construction as well as the degree to which the community had been prepared for a natural catastrophe.
The Richter scale, on the other hand, was an absolute measurement of the intensity of an earthquake. This is not a real scale, but rather a mathematical computation, thus there is no need to worry about accuracy. He would record the real movement of the ground with a seismograph while an earthquake was occurring.
Richter needed to take into consideration the distance between himself and the epicenter of the earthquake to arrive at this conclusion He assigned numbers from one to ten to each position on the scale and referred to them as magnitudes. An earthquake with a magnitude of 5 would be about ten times more powerful than an earthquake with a magnitude of 4. It wasn't long after its publication in 1935 that scientists from all over the globe began using his scale.
Richter and Gutenberg collaborated for several years to monitor seismic activity all around the globe. In the late 1930s, they extended their scale to deep earthquakes, which are defined as those that have their epicenter more than 185 miles below the surface and which, according to the Richter scale, have a magnitude of 8 or more. In 1941, they released a textbook titled Seismicity of the Earth, which, after being amended, went on to become an industry-standard reference book. They focused on determining the epicenters of all of the significant earthquakes and organizing them into geographical categories as they worked.
Richter got his start in earthquake engineering when he began advocating for strong seismic construction rules and enough education for individuals who lived in areas prone to earthquakes. He was against anything being built that was taller than thirty storeys, and he advocated for structures to be stripped of any unnecessary additions or modifications that may be potentially hazardous.