James M. Kelly

James M. Kelly
Professor Emeritus
Structural Engineering, Mechanics and Materials

Office Hours:

  • Tues. Thurs. 3.30-5.00pm


James M. Kelly is presently Professor in the Graduate School at the University of California at Berkeley. In recent years he has been primarily concerned with seismic response of structures and new methods of seismic-resistant design. He has carried out numerous large-scale experimental studies of isolation systems, structures with energy-absorbing devices, and structures with piping systems on the large shaking table at the Earthquake Engineering Research Center (EERC) of U.C. Berkeley. He has recently been involved in the development of energy-absorbing devices for the seismic protection of tall structures for which base isolation is not feasible. The energy-absorbing devices explored in this test program have included frictional devices and devices using high-damping viscoelastic materials and shape-memory alloys. Professor Kelly has been the leading proponent in the United States of using multilayer elastomeric bearings for seismic protection of buildings, and through the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) he has been instrumental in developing low-cost seismic isolation systems for the protection of housing and other structures in earthquake-prone developing countries.

He was the first in the U.S. to start teaching university-level courses on seismic isolation and energy dissipation beginning with a graduate course at UC Berkeley in1991. He conducted many short-courses and seminars on isolation and energy dissipation worldwide. He has been a consultant to: International seismic isolation projects in Chile, China, Indonesia, Italy, Korea, and Greece; International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA); EPRI on seismic performance of equipment and piping systems in power plants; General Electric Co. on seismic isolation of liquid metal fast breeder nuclear power plants; Argonne National Laboratory on seismic isolation for nuclear facilities.

His work, which formed the basis for significant advances worldwide in the analysis and design of isolation and energy dissipation systems, is the foundation for many of the base isolation design codes used today, including UBC, IBC, and CBC. Base isolation has been used for seismic retrofit of major buildings in the U.S. including important historic structures such as the city halls of Salt Lake City; Oakland, CA; San Francisco; Los Angeles; and the Hearst Memorial Mining Building, Berkeley, CA, on which he was a consultant. Dr. Kelly’s pioneering efforts have established seismic isolation and energy dissipation as important methods for earthquake protection. Various forms have been used in more than 1000 major structures worldwide.  Professor Kelly, well recognized as an outstanding teacher and lecturer, has directed over thirty doctoral students in their Ph.D. thesis research who have gone on to become noted practitioners, university professors and researchers worldwide. Many Fulbright Visiting Scholars have come to Berkeley to work with him. His students and visitors (and their students), have spread worldwide his creative and innovative work on seismic protection of structures. Dr. Kelly has published over 375 papers over the course of his career.


Ph.D. - Civil Engineering, Stanford University, 1962
S.M. - Engineering, Brown University, 1959
B.Sc.(First Class Honors) - Civil Engineering, University of Glasgow, 1956