Burton McCollum

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Biography Citation for SEG Honorary Membership

Contributed by Sigmund Hammer

Four great names dominate the early history of geophysical exploration with the seismograph. These names are William R Haseman, formerly of Norman, Oklahoma, now deceased; John Clarence Karcher of Dallas: E. A. Eckhardt of Pittsburgh; and Burton McCollmn of Houston. Two of the three surviving members of this illustrious team are Honorary Life Members in our Society. Today we complete the well-earned recognition of this historical foursome.

Burton McCollum's leadership in science spans more than 50 years and there is yet no diminishing of his powerful genius. The route which led him into geophysics was circuitous. His first profession was electrical engineering, which he practiced with eminence for 22 cars. Many publications and 11 patents attest his success as an electrical engineer. It is of interest to note that his first invention--an alternating current motor was made while he was still a student at the University of Kansas, which awarded him a B. S. in E. E. in 1903. This first patent was sold to the Electro-Dental Company of Philadelphia for $250, a munificent stun at that time to a young man on the threshold of his profession. Drilling teeth and drilling rock formations arc both beneficiaries of Burton McCollum's genius. Work for electric power companies on the West Coast brought problems of electrolytic corrosion, and his success with these problems brought an invitation to come to Washington organize a department of Electrolytic Corrosion at the US Bureau of Standards. Dr. Eckhardt was employed as Mr. McCollum's assistant at the Bureau, and during World War I they worked together to develop methods and instruments for sound ranging to locate artillery Haseman, Professor of Physics, and his graduate student.

 J. C. Karcher at the University of Oklahoma, joined in the work during summer vacations from their university studies, and it is this fortunate association which inspired idea after the war to develop sound reflection techniques for geologic exploration in the search for oil.

McCollum's interest in exploration geophysics was a by-product of World War I, and, once aroused, his interest and enthusiasm have never faltered. To him alone goes full credit for persevering through lean years of experimentation and technical developments until early discouragements were overcome and success was proven by actual discovery of oil. Today as President of the McCollum Exploration Company his vigorous pursuit of research still continues. He holds 15 geophysical patents in his own name. His latest invention, the so-called "geograph"--popularly known as the "Thumper"?s described in two patents which were issued in recent weeks.

The first geophysical field work to attempt mapping subsurface geological structure by seismic reflections was done in 1921 near Ponca City, Oklahoma, by Haseman and Karcher operating as the Geological Engineering Company with financial backing of Oklahoma oilmen. McCollum and Eckhardt in Washington, D. C., were retained as consultants to help evaluate the anticipated seismic reflection records. The Geological Engineering Company