Academy of Distinguished Alumni

Dr. Vitelmo Bertero

Vitelmo Bertero Ph.D., N.A.E.

Inducted to the Academy of Distinguished Alumni as an Honorary Member on

Vitelmo Victorio Bertero, born in Esperanza, Argentina, received his Bachelor of Science from the Faculty of Applied Science at the National University of the Littoral in Rosario, Argentina in 1947.  Following the devastation caused by the San Juan, Argentina earthquake, he came to the U.S. in 1953 and enrolled in the doctoral program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).  There, he advanced the state of understanding for blast-resistant structures through ingenious experimentation and careful analysis, obtaining master’s and doctoral degrees in 1955 and 1957, respectively.  After a brief post-doctoral stay at MIT, he arrived at the University of California, Berkeley, as a lecturer in 1958.  He advanced to associate professor in 1960, and then full professor in 1966.  He retired from the University in 1991 but continued mentoring graduate students and advancing the state of the art and practice through research, consulting, and service to the profession until his death in 2016.

Professor Bertero dedicated himself to advancing the profession's understanding of the response of structures to earthquakes and to developing effective means for improving the earthquake resistance of new and existing structures in zones of high seismic risk.  In conjunction with his colleagues in the Division of Structural Engineering and Structural Mechanics (SESM) of the Department of Civil Engineering, he developed innovative experimental methods for assessing the hysteretic behavior of structural components for steel, concrete, and steel-concrete composite structures.  He was a significant force for the improvement of the experimental facilities on campus and for securing the funding for, and establishing, a world-class experimental facility for earthquake engineering research at Berkeley’s Richmond Field Station.  After major earthquakes around the world, Professor Bertero traveled tirelessly collecting first-hand information of the structural damage that occurred and to conduct in-depth studies of structural failures.  His work and research following the 1971 San Fernando Earthquake and the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake earned him the 1990 Man of the Year Award presented by Engineering News Record.

An inspiring and demanding teacher, Professor Bertero was a major contributor to the curriculum in earthquake engineering at Berkeley and developed several new courses, most notably the course on earthquake-resistant design that is still a staple of similar curricula around the world.  Bertero served many national and international societies during his long and distinguished career, most notably as chief technical advisor to the UNESCO Mission to Japan in 1971.  Amongst his many professional honors and recognitions, he was elected to the U.S. National Academy of Engineering (1999), the Argentine Academy of Engineering (1989), and the Argentine Academy of Sciences (1971). He also received the Berkeley Citation in 1991, the EERI Housner Medal (1995), the ASCE Nathan M. Newmark Medal (1991), J. James R. Croes Medal (1989), and Moisseiff Award (1987), and the ACI A. Anderson Award (1989) and Raymond C. Reese Research Award (1987), and the ROSE School Prize, Italy (2010).  He held honorary professorships from many universities in Central and South America, including the National University of Rosario, University of Buenos Aires, and University of Mendoza, all in Argentina.