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Muawia Barazangi, PhD

Dr. Nimat Hafez Barazangi, Dr. Nobl Barazangi and Mr. Isaac Smith sadly announce the passing of our dear husband and father, Dr. Muawia Barazangi. He passed away on March 30, 2022 and was laid to rest in a small, family funeral on March 31, 2022 according to Islamic tradition in Ithaca, NY in the presence of his beloved brother Dr. Zeyad Barazanji and his wife Rawaa Sadaat, and dear nephew Dr. Majed Barazanji. He is additionally survived by his brother Bade’e and sister Hind and his adoring granddaughter Safa Smith Barazangi.

Muawia Barazangi was born to Badeah Sukkar and Muhamed Nor Al-Deen Barazangi in 1941. He grew up in the city of Damascus, Syria, a notebook always in his hand. He graduated from the University of Damascus with a bachelor’s degree in Physics and Earth Sciences with distinction in 1965. Subsequently he received a scholarship from the University of Minnesota to pursue his higher education, earning a master’s degree in Applied Geophysics in 1967.  Following graduation, he received a scholarship from Columbia University, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in New York City earning a doctorate in Seismology in 1971. He is recognized as the first scientist to produce a digital global seismicity map in 1968.

Dr. Barazangi continued his research at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY, where he was invited to become a Research Associate in 1971, eventually attaining the rare title of Senior Scientist, and his subsequent promotion to Full Professor at the department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences. He served generations of students even after his retirement into a Professor Emeritus position. His most renowned research at Cornell was on seismotectonics at regional and global scales, including seismicity of the earth, geometry and structure of subducted plates at converging plate boundaries, intraplate structure and tectonic activities, active continental collisions zones, historical earthquakes, paleoseismology and trenching of active faults, and evaluation and assessment of earthquake hazard. He also initiated and participated in the development of a comprehensive Geographic Information System (GIS) for the Middle East and North Africa.

His research spanned the world from the South Pacific (Tonga, Fiji, and Vanuatu), to the rugged Northern California coast, from the Himalayas to South America. Most of the last 25 years of his research focused on the Middle East, specifically Syria and Lebanon and North Africa, particularly Morocco. He was instrumental in training innumerable graduate students, research staff and scientists, mentoring them in assessing the probabilities of earthquakes in order to raise awareness among officials and environmentalists about the risks and the imperative of enacting building codes. As important, he mentored researchers in analyzing the data and writing scientific reports, helping them to author and coauthor over 130 research papers in numerous and diverse refereed scientific journals and edited monographs.

Muawia, as he preferred to be addressed, was a humble human, generous, trustworthy, truthful and exceedingly principled person with a witty and at times mischievous sense of humor. One key value he displayed in his scientific work and in his personal relationships, was treating with respect all people, from all walks of life. He was loved and respected across the world, wherever his research brought him. When asked he always gave as the most important advice, specifically to the younger generation, to read and learn in all subjects and not only their narrow discipline, and first and foremost to be open-minded, and to think critically for themselves, and not to simply accept the status quo—he advocated pushing one’s self and reaching for the most challenging questions of our time.

In lieu of flowers, the family has asked for contributions to Cornell University’s Institute for the Study of the Continents, which Muawia helped found and guided through much of his career. Contributions can be made via this link. Please indicate that this in honor or memory of Muawia Barazangi, and type “INSTOC” in the “other designations/special instructions” box.




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My deep condolences to Nimat. For many years Muawia was one of the best soccer players among the "old guys" in the informal weekend games up on the fields next to Tower Road. Courteous, competitive, but always remarkably calm. I will very much miss running into him on campus.

Bill Goldsmith Apr 21 2022 6:41 PM

I had the chance to meet Prof Muawia Barazangi a few years ago in Algiers, a huge person, and a great scientist. RIP Muawia.

Jugurtha Kariche Apr 14 2022 7:25 PM

Mrs. Barazangi and family,
I am so saddened to learn of Mr. Barazangi’s passing. He was one of my most favorite patients and my day was always brighter when he and Nimat came to my office. I will forever remember him as a kind and generous man. My deepest condolences to you Nimat and your family. I will hold you in my heart, thoughts, and prayers. May his memory never fade. With all my love.

Kristin Young Kelly - Westtown Optical Apr 11 2022 7:03 PM

Dr Muawia Barazangi was a person of the highest ethical standards. Dedicated to his work and his family, unfailingly generous to his friends, a delightful conversation partner with a marvelous sense of humor. Muawia was a rare kind of person and will continue to live in all of us who were lucky to know him.

K.E. von Wittelsbach Apr 8 2022 10:38 AM

I am so sorry to hear about Dr. Barazangi's - Muawia's - passing. He was a wonderful human being a true gentle renaissance man. My deepest condolences to his family.

Sharon Ziegler Apr 7 2022 3:47 PM

I, too, was saddened to hear about Dr. Barazangi's (Muawia's) passing: his combination of quiet elegance and deep enjoyment of his work life and teaching life were memorable. I was only at INSTOC for one year, but he left a life-long impression on me. He always knew how to have fun while getting a lot of work done. I particularly remember crossing paths in George Hade's office on a daily basis to quickly discuss world news, and then the playfulness he brought to our seismology seminar. I had played a 'trick' on another person in the department once, and he decided to co-conspire with that other colleague to pretend he was giving us a written test during our weekly seminar. Everyone else was given a test sheet that said "pretend to be taking a test. This is a joke on Vali." My test sheet, instead, had about five impossible questions to answer. It took me a good five minutes to figure out what was going on: five minutes in which he (and others) delighted in like school children! It was always so fun being around him. You just knew you were in the presence of greatness. Thank you, Muawia!

Vali Tamm Apr 7 2022 9:10 AM

I was saddened to learn of the passing of Dr. Barazangi, whom I got to know when he attended the weekly seminars of Cornell's Peace Studies Program for many years. He regularly participated in the discussions, offering thoughtful and critical comments that reflected a deep sense of humanity. I offer my condolences to his family and friends.

Matthew Evangelista Apr 7 2022 8:32 AM