Yaghoubian has made a huge impact on the field of engineering in the United States and around the world. The Armenian-Iranian-American invented and holds the patent for an ingenious earthquake base isolation system that enabled the Getty Museum’s broken Kouros statue of a nude male to stand on its own two marble feet after 2,500 years.
His memoir touches on many personal as well as professional subjects: growing up in the Armenian minority in Iran during the 1950s, the challenges of adapting to student life in America, the ways in which careers are shaped, playing a role in innovative engineering initiatives, and what it means to be an informed citizen in one’s adopted country.
Yaghoubian’s parents met as children in an Iranian orphanage set up to help children whose parents died in the Armenian Genocide. Growing up in Tehran, he chronicles the beginning of the Armenian Youth Cultural Organization, later known as Ararat, being instrumental in the phenomenal growth of the Armenian Scout Organization.
Arriving in the U.S. to study civil engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, Yaghoubian writes with humor and warmth about his early experiences, which are familiar to many immigrants: The shock of communal showers, amazement at the tea bag and confusion over the “hot dog”.Yaghoubian was, he says, born to be an engineer and his memoir chronicles a journey of a life fulfilled. After graduating from college, he went on to design engineering solutions for the largest geo-tech firms in the world. Closely working with giants such as Dr. Charles Richter, the inventor of world famous earthquake Richter Scale, Yaghoubian became increasingly specialized in earthquake engineering.
On a visit to the Getty Museum in Malibu he saw that the antiquities were vulnerable to earthquakes and developed the base isolation system to protect them. The system made art objects behave as if suspended in air and remain unaffected by shaking. This pioneering method reverberated through museums worldwide.
Based on the success of this new technology, Yaghoubian was asked to evaluate the fragmented Getty Kouros dating to 530BC – “Kouros” being the ancient Greek marble statues of male nudes. The earthquake base isolation system he had developed, combined with a mechanical joint system, was what made it possible for the Getty Kouros to stand again after 2,500 years.
“… And Then I Met The Getty Kouros” is a compelling and beautifully written memoir presented in an open and factual manner. It is not a typical memoir of being trapped between two countries; rather, it is a celebration of culture and history and moving seamlessly between two contrasting worlds.
The book signing event at the Armenian Society of Los Angeles, 117 Louise Street, Glendale, is open to the public.