Dr. Dimitri Papastamatiou


Dimitri Papastamatiou died in Athens on 4th July 2000, after a short illness.  Dimitri was the second person to graduate with a PhD from the Imperial College Engineering Seismology Section (following Dr. S.K. Sarma), taking his doctorate in 1971 under the supervision of Professor Ambraseys. The subject of his thesis was “Ground motion and response of earth structures to strong earthquakes”.


Dimitri left Imperial in 1974 and worked until 1980 as Senior Engineer in the Advanced Technology Group of Dames & Moore in London.  During this time, he also acted as a UNESCO consultant to the Institute of Earthquake Engineering and Engineering Seismology in Skopje, Yugoslavia.  He continued to undertake teaching and research in strong ground-motion and seismic hazard analysis and worked on applications in regional and site-specific seismic hazard assessment for nuclear power plants, industrial installations and residential complexes.  Dimitri also participated in a number of field studies of destructive earthquakes in the Eastern Mediterranean.


Between 1980 and 1981, Dimitri was a Director of Geognosis Ltd, in London responsible for the development of numerical codes for static and dynamic analysis of continua.  This work included applications in seismic fault studies in El Asnam, Algeria, following the destructive earthquake of 10 October 1980.  In 1981, Dimitri established his own specialist consultancy, delta pi associates, in London, of which he was Managing Director until 1988.  His work included consulting for the Central Electricity Generating Board and then Nuclear Electric (as a Member of the Seismic Hazard Working Party), British Petroleum and Ove Arup amongst others.  During this period, Dimitri was also a consultant to the recently formed Institute for Earthquake Engineering & Engineering Seismology (ITSAK) in Thessaloniki, Greece, and continued to engage in research in strong-motion data acquisition and analysis.  He participated in field studies of destructive earthquakes in Greece, including the September 1986 Kalamata earthquake.


Dimitri left London in 1988 with his family to return to his native Greece to take up the post of Senior Lecturer in Engineering Seismology in the Civil Engineering Department of the National Technical University of Athens.  In 1994, he was promoted to Associate Professor in the same Faculty, where his work included teaching and research in active tectonics, strong ground-motion recording and analysis, seismic hazard assessment and seismic response of classical monuments.  One of his major enterprises at NTUA was the setting up of the Earthquake Field Laboratory, a compact borehole strong-motion array on the island of Cephalonia to collect ground response data in one of the most active seismic areas in Europe.  In 1994, he was awarded the T.K.Hsieh award for the 1993 paper “Earthquake response at Grangemouth”, published in Géotechnique (vol. 43: pp. 537-553, with co-authors J.W. Pappin, J.A. Richards and M. Sweeney).  Dimitri’s work also extended well beyond Europe:  he participated in the reconstruction of Popayán in Colombia, following the destructive earthquake in 1983, and more recently in an EU-funded project on seismic hazard in El Salvador, to which he brought his unique experience on many aspects of the work, including the installation of a new strong-motion accelerograph network.  Dimitri continued to be active in field studies of destructive earthquakes in Greece right up until the time he became ill, and nor did he neglect his connections with the UK, organising joint field trips with the MSc group from Imperial College and maintaining his many professional contacts, distance notwithstanding. 


Dimitri Papastamatiou was born in 1941, a scion of a cultured family.  His father had been Head of the Geological Survey of Greece and a pioneer in seismotectonics, and his late brother, Nicholas (who, too, sadly died early), was an eminent professor of physics at the University of Milwaukee.  Dimitri himself was a combination of erudite engineer and perceptive scientist.  Lateral thinking was a hallmark of his research  -  among his many publications, the 1980 Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America paper “Incorporation of crustal deformation to seismic hazard analysis” (vol: 70, pp. 1321 – 1335) and the 1988 Earthquake Engineering and Structural Dynamics paper  “Physical constraints in engineering seismic hazard analysis” (vol 16: pp.967-984, co-author S K Sarma) are recognized by many as significant advances in post-Cornell seismic hazard assessment.


Dimitri leaves to mourn his wife Caroline, whom he met when they both worked for Dames & Moore, and two fine sons, Yannis and Alexis, of whom he was inordinately proud.  At his funeral service in Athens, the head of the Civil Engineering Department told mourners that in five days time Dimitri was to have been made full Professor, a recognition he and his family would have treasured, and one that was fully warranted for this accomplished teacher and fine researcher.  Just as his scientific thinking was often lateral, so too was his unique and special sense of fun.  Many of us will have cherished memories of delightful post-meeting sessions at nearby pubs where, in former days, the indispensable Gauloise cigarettes would be produced, to go with that inimitable wry sense of humour, and the sudden, impulsive gale of laughter that was a special feature of his character.  Dimitri was an exceptional human being, and such a thoroughly nice and charming person that he will be greatly missed by the multitude of colleagues and friends he had gathered over the years.

Willy Aspinall