HISTORY OF THE GSH
The origin of the Geophysical Society of Houston dates back to the fall of 1947. On October 7th of that year, Walter J. Osterhoudt was named as temporary chairman of a Constitutional Committee and Dr. E. E. Rosaire was made chairman of a Nominating Committee. At 4:00 PM on Thursday, November 20, 1947, 108 geophysicists met in the Houston Engineers Club to form what was then called the Houston Section of the Society of Exploration Geophysicists (the name was not changed to the Geophysical Society of Houston until about ten years later). The meeting was called to order by Dr. L. W. Blau who presented the proposed constitution and Dr. Rosaire read the list of officer nominees. The constitution was accepted and Walter Osterhoudt was elected the first President of the Section. On December 2, 1947, the Executive Committee of the Houston Section prepared a formal petition for the local section and the formal charter was issued on February 14, 1948. The first technical paper presented at a Houston Section meeting was presented by Wallace C. Thompson on January 16, 1948 and was entitled “Geophysics and Geology of the Discovery of the Esperson Domes.”
On May 28, 1948 the first annual meeting was held at the College Inn and the following excerpt from the proceedings is of particular interest. "Following the dinner, the newly elected officers were introduced and installed in office. In mock ceremony, each retiring officer presented to his successor his symbols and equipment of office. The new Treasurer received a shell game to guess where the funds to run the Society will come from; the new Secretary was given a stock of worn out pencils and a supply of fine stationery rolled in its usual form. The Second Vice President, who is the entertainment chairman, received a set of comic books, broken phonograph records, etc.; the new First Vice President, who is program chairman, received a comprehensive list of all people in the area who might be called to write papers for SEG - the Houston telephone directory. The new President was presented with a bottle of SEG soft soap, the president's needle, chisel and eight pound steel maul for a gavel. Of course, each new officer received generous advice.”
Currently the symbol of authority, which is passed to the new president at the annual meeting, is a gold-plated, long-handle shovel. Upon the handle of the shovel is listed all GSH past presidents.
Initially, meetings were held in the evening at the Engineers Club. Later, as the membership grew, meetings convened in the afternoon at the Carter Music Company auditorium. Rapid growth of the Section occurred in the late 1940's when luncheon meetings were inaugurated in downtown Houston hotels. The old Rice Hotel was the usual meeting location until its closure in March, 1975. We can be assured that we will never again see the $1.50 lunch price that the Rice Hotel charged during the mid 1950's. Following the closing of the Rice Hotel, various facilities were used around the city until the Board of Directors, in 1992, chose to locate in the building of the Houston Engineering Scientific Society (HESS) - the modern name of the Houston Engineers Club where the Geophysical Society of Houston originated. The society remained at HESS through two relocations. In 2004, we moved to the Westchase Hilton at 9999 Westheimer since it is more centrally located for the present membership. Currently, technical and social meetings begin in September and continue through April, ending in May with the Annual Awards Dinner held at Lakeside Country Club and the Annual Meeting and BBQ at which the officers for the following year are installed.
GSH membership has grown considerably over the years. From the slightly more than 100 original founders the level increased in 1957 to about 700 members and held relatively consistent through 1966. The Society then grew at the steady rate of about 7 percent per year until 1979, when it had about 1600 members. Increased activity in the geophysical industry in 1981-82 accelerated the growth of GSH membership and then modest growth continued until a membership of roughly 2,100 was reached, making the GSH the largest SEG Section in the world.
Although that distinction is still true, the industry collapse in the later 1980's and the ensuing mergers through the 1990’s and into the present 2000’s has resulted in a reduction in membership to its current level that varies around 1500.
The GSH is honored to have among its members many who have made substantial contributions to the industry and the SEG. At the time of this writing, the GSH has counted among its members, 7 Life members of the SEG, 21 Honorary members of the SEG, 5 Kaufmann Gold Medal winners, 5 Reginald Fessenden Award winners, 3 Maurice Ewing Award winners, 21 former SEG Presidents, and 12 former Editors of Geophysics. The vitality of the GSH is well represented by the honors bestowed upon our members.
In 1980, the GSH was honored to hold the 50th Annual SEG meeting and selected "Geophysics: A Half Century of Progress" as the theme for the meeting. It was most appropriate that the Houston section, as a major element of the SEG was awarded this honor. The 56th Annual SEG Meeting was held in Houston in 1986 and the 61st meeting in 1991, the 65th meeting in 1995, the 69th meeting in 1999, and the 75th meeting in 2005. Since and including the 61st meeting these annual SEG meetings attracted respectively 10,700, 10,426, 11,103 and 9,284 attendees; 339, 329, 361 and 1,079 exhibit booths; 1177, 1136, 1276 and 2,471 exhibitors; and 55, 70, 87 and 93 exhibiting countries. This last notable statistic reflects the recent international growth of the SEG and the importance of the international showcase which was first introduced at the 65th annual meeting. SEG conventions are particularly successful in Houston because of local business concentrations, SEG membership, and the countless GSH and GAH volunteers who assist the SEG staff in putting the meeting on.
The yearly functions of the Society are varied and designed, as our Articles of Incorporation states, ". . .to promote the science and profession of geophysics, (and) to foster fellowship and cooperation among all persons interested in geophysics..." An important aspect of the GSH has been in the educational area whereby technical advances and information are made available to members. The luncheon meetings have usually included a presentation on a current geophysical subject. Beginning in the mid 1990s, breakfast meetings are held monthly in different locations of the city to attract the members concentrated in these areas such as the Greenspoint, Dairy Ashford/Memorial, and Greenway Plaza areas. Since 1968 there have been numerous symposia sponsored by the Society on topics of timely interest. They have included such subjects as Direct Hydrocarbon Detection, Velocity, Interpretation, Migration, Energy Sources, Seismic Inversion, and Sub-Salt Imaging, Imaging vs. Positioning, Interactive Workstation and the Detection of Naturally Fractured Reservoirs. Many of the Continuing Education Series Programs sponsored by the SEG also have been presented in Houston and supported by the GSH. Each year the SEG sponsors the DISC lecture series as well as a Distinguished Lecturer. Each year these two events are hosted by the GSH and are always well attended.
Another means of broadening our educational efforts has been through the activities of special interest groups, known as SIGS. In early 1974, the Potential Field Group and the Geophysical Data Processing Group were formed within the Society to promote these areas of expertise. Over the years depending on need and popularity of the subject matter, several other SIGS have come and gone. Presently (in 2006) we have 3 active SIGS: Potential Fields, Data processing, and Rock Physics, which is an outgrowth of a previous workstation interpretation SIG. Each of these SIGS holds monthly/semi-monthly meetings, usually in the evening and present speakers on subjects of interest.
Over the years, many types of social/networking events have been held including parties, dances, golf and tennis tournaments, picnics, barbecues, and dinners -- all the "fun" things doodlebuggers enjoy. Presently the social / networking events we sponsor begin with the Sporting Clays event that is held in late summer. This is followed by the Shrimp Peel, the Golf tournament (usually held at Kingwood Country Club) and the Salt-Water Fishing Tournament. In May the Honors and Awards Banquet is held at Lakeside Country Club and a few weeks later the Annual Meeting and BBQ ends the year. The Honors and Awards Banquet at Lakeside CC is our premiere event. The speaker is the sitting president of the SEG who, with the GSH president, present GSH Life and Honorary Awards, SEG 25- and 50-year certificates, and GSH awards to the outgoing officers of the GSH.
In February of 1967, the Geophysical Auxiliary of Houston was formed by women whose husbands were members or who were themselves members of the GSH. Their activities include several social functions each year and contributions to the Scholarship Fund, plus planning and coordination of the ladies program at SEG conventions held in Houston.
In 1981 the GSH received a bequest from the estate of Dave P. Carlton, a former President of the Society. The bequest was in the form of cash and Exxon stock and it is believed to be the first time a deceased member willed such a substantial amount to the society.
Using a part of the Carlton bequest, the GSH established a $3,000 per year SEG scholarship known as the Carlton Scholarship. The SEG scholarship program, which was initiated in 1956, is also supported by GSH with a $1,000 per year scholarship, which is specifically designated for a student who is a resident of the Houston area, and by a $2,000 per year scholarship in memory of W. Harry Mayne, a GSH member who contributed so much to our profession before he passed away in 1990. Since 1982, the GSH has provided 2 additional $1,000 scholarships bringing total GSH scholarship support to $8,000 per year. This active support of the geophysical industry and the Society of Exploration Geophysicists has resulted in the Geophysical Society of Houston becoming the largest of the SEG Section Trustee Associates.
Beginning in 1995, the GSH took advantage of the SEG Foundation’s matching funds program and established the fully-funded Carlton Farren Award given annually for $5,000 and donated $50,000 each to the Robert Sheriff and the Smith awards to take advantage of the matching funds. These funded scholarships have been very successful in helping the SEG build a significant portfolio of student grants.
In addition, for many years, GSH members have given talks at local high schools on subjects relating to geophysics and have acted as judges for science and engineering fairs.
The GSH formed a Museum Committee in 1960, 25 years before a similar committee was formed by the SEG. The GSH’s current collection of over 900 items are now on display at four sites in Houston, two in Austin, and one in Canmore, Alberta, Canada with other items stored at two Houston sites: 5603 S. Rice (courtesy Iron Mountain) and at 11611 W. Little York Road (courtesy the Bureau of Economic Geology of the John A. and Katherine G. Jackson School of Geosciences of the University of Texas at Austin). Fifty companies contributed to the collection and contains torsion balances, gravity meters, magnetometers, seismic instruments dating to the 1920s, a seismic "dog house" recording trailer of the 1950s, an original Landmark Workstation and a Key Punch machine. The GSH was entrusted with the O. Scott Petty Museum formed in the 1930s in San Antonio by Petty Geophysical Company. It was in the GSH-Petty Museum at Geosource and then at North Harris College from 1979 until shipment to the University of Texas Geology building in 2006.
The initial committee was headed by C. C. Hutchinson for the first twenty years who collected artifacts and prepared displays for SEG Conventions such as Oklahoma City in 1967, the Museum of Natural History, Conoco, etc. Items were also sent to the Smithsonian and others in the time period. The first semi permanent GSH-Petty Museum was established adjacent to the lobby of Geosource (formerly Petty-Ray) in 1979 on the SW Freeway. In 1993 instruments from that museum and others were returned to the GSH. An excellent museum was established in the Windship Building of North Harris College at that time with the most significant pieces with the remainder being stored at Farren & Long at 5603 S. Rice courtesy of Paul Farren. This transfer and the subsequent establishment of a smaller display at San Jacinto College occurred because of the good work of Bill Gilchrist with Bill Swart Jr. providing muscle & design of cabinets.
The GSH was contacted in 2000 about artifacts to be displayed on the 4th floor Petroleum History Exhibit of the Texas State "Bob Bullock Museum". We provided artifacts and continue to renew the loan every two years. Our Canadian display came about from the selection of artifacts by Jerry Spring and help from Veritas and Mitcham Industries to respectively pack and transport the artifacts to Calgary in 2002. The need for artifacts to be placed in an entrance of ExxonMobil was satisfied in 2003.
2005 was a significant year for the GSH. Pressure to end the rent free storage and the need to prepare for SEG75 required a search for new storage and a place to stage the exhibit. The GSH was key in the display of artifacts to reduce shipping costs from Tulsa. The Bureau of Economic Geology (BEG) volunteered staging space and a committee was formed to implement ideas of Tom Fulton, Susan Henley of SEG's Geoscience Center, and others. The need for the replication of the Tulsa center in Houston was in the back of everyone's minds. The SEG75 task was to fill a 1,600 square foot area with eleven display cases and 14 triangular Decade Kiosks to be dispersed about the exhibit hall with artifacts. Louis Schneider arranged for a model of the Gary Chouest seismic vessel to be displayed and WesternGeco agreed to bring our '50s recording trailer from their storage to the convention center. An Apollo space program display was a hit with Tim Hartnett assisting in getting a moon rock and Joel Watkins with displays of actual data and plans.
Significant research accompanied the preparation to display when it became obvious that we had equipment illustrated in the 1936 Geophysics volume 1, number 1. John Farr and Tom Fulton determined that Frank Rieber has received relatively little credit for being the first to record reproducible seismic data which he could then process. They also gained more information on the Seismic Immunities Group formed in 1937 to deal with geophysical patents.
Gene Womack generated an interesting display featuring the hats or caps from both oil and service companies. The hats were attached to 10 foot long dynamite loading poles to form an arch over the entrance to the display. Other significant committee members included Tom Fulton Chairman, Bill Gafford, Stephanie Hrabar, Benegene Kring, and Reid Carter. Displays for SEG75 were very well received and raised the awareness of our heritage.
The BEG rewarded the GSH for its close cooperation with the above mentioned storage and with a display area. The museum activity has incorporated as a 501(c)(3) organization under the name of the Geophysical Society of Houston Museum Foundation, Inc. and is currently active in consolidating it's storage, loaning additional artifacts, and raising funds for a traveling museum and a Houston Geoscience Center in conjunction with the BEG.
The GSH has operated as a non-profit organization since it was founded in 1947, and it was incorporated as a non-profit organization in the State of Texas effective February 16, 1981. Through the efforts of the late Hugh Hardy, effective on April 30, 1993 the State of Texas issued a certificate to the Society designating the GSH as a foundation under Section 509 (A-2) of the United States Internal Revenue Code, making it tax exempt and providing that grantors and contributors to the GSH can deduct such contributions from their tax liabilities.
Updated 2006 by Art Ross, GSH Historian
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