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Benioff, Hugo (1899–1968) An American seismologist, and professor at the California Institute of Technology from 1950 to 1964, Benioff designed seismographs and other instruments used to study earthquakes. In 1954 he published a cross-section showing seismicity beneath the Kamchatka Peninsula, which demonstrated that the depths of earthquakes increased with distance away from the trench. This earthquake zone has been named after him. See BENIOFF ZONE.