Carl H Savit () An American geophysicist.
== Carl Savit Memorial by Rhonda Boone of Western Atlas Oilfield Services, appeared in JULY 1996 THE LEADING EDGE ==
For almost 50 years, the name Carl Savit was nearly synonymous with geophysics. He was one of the industry's most distinguished experts, serving as lecturer, writer, editor, negotiator, diplomat, and spokesman. He paved the way for scientists behind him and cleared the view for those in front him. His vision bordered on the uncanny and his experience encompassed the best of solid science and grounded intuition.
Born in New York City, Carl earned a B.S. (cum laude) in mathematics and physics and an MS. in mathematics from the California Institute of Technology, where he also completed three additional years of graduate study in advanced math and was a teaching fellow for four years. During World War II, he was statistical consultant to the U.S. Air Force and USAF project officer in upper-atmosphere physics research.
Carl's career with Western began in 1948 when he was hired as a mathematician in Los Angeles, Western's original headquarters, and spent six months on a crew in California in order to get field experience.
"My first recollection of anything about Carl was receiving a document signed by him as chief mathematician," says former Western President Neal Cramer. "It was an odd title, but one he carried for many years. In those days, Carl was busy creating such things as velocity slide rules and circular dip migration templates....Life was simple then." According to Cramer, Carl also served as "Western's conscience in matters scientific - a one-man department.
"When I first started traveling foreign in the 1950s, Western was hardly a household name even in our industry," Cramer said. "Imagine my surprise making a cold call in some faraway place only to have the resident geophysicist remark 'Oh, that's the company Carl Savit is with, isn't it?' His name and fame were already percolating through the industry:
Carl served as head of the mathematics research department until 1961 when the department was changed to Systems Research and he was designated its director. As the company and his department expanded, he was promoted in 1965 to vice-president, Systems Research and Development. After Western moved its headquarters to Houston, Carl took a leave of absence to serve as assistant to the U.S. President's science advisor for earth, sea and air in the Nixon administration. "During those days in Washington, Carl learned first-hand how things got done in the morass inside the beltway," said Cramer. "When he returned to Western, he brought this canny knowledge to us and the rest of the oil industry. He became an e-officio spokesman for our group and served as an expert witness in crucial matters being debated in Washington.
"He developed to a tine art the ability to confront a bureaucratic obstacle, then rearrange our tactics so that a potential disaster was transformed into an inviting opportunity,"
Cramer continued. "As regulatory fever burst into wildfire during the '70s and '80s, most of Carl's time was spent handling these matters."
After returning to Houston and Western, Carl was named senior vice-president, Technology. By now he was extremely him. His vision bordered on the uncanny and his experience busy, being called to testify before congressional committees and serve on a variety of government panels, boards, and committees. He served on a number of panels pertaining to the geophysical industry and was becoming fairly famous in the industry circles.
A partial list of his career highlights includes: President and Honarary Member of the SEG, chairman of NOIA, and chairman of IAGC where he was presented the first-ever award of distinguished achievement. He was appointed member of the National Academy of Engineering and was awarded the Marine Technical Society's Compass Distinguished Achievement Award. He received the SEG's Virgil Kauffman Gold Medal Award and Litton's Advanced Technology Award. He was editor of GEOPHYSICS and the fourth edition of the classic Introduction to Geophysical Prospecting. By the time of his retirement in 1986, he held 42 patents.
As an employee and an officer, Carl's impact on Western was very powerful. Both Neal Cramer and long-time friend Frank Levin attribute to Carl two major contributions to the
company. One was that he foresaw that digital recording and processing of seismic data was the future of exploration geophysics and he made sure Western was ready. As the digital revolution invaded the industry, "most of us at Western were swimming or drowning in the dark unchartered water," says Cramer. "As our one-man scientific department, Carl kept us from making critical mistakes that could have threatened our survival. Instead, we were able to turn this invading monster into a wonderful business opportunity." The second major contribution was that he "attracted to Western a remarkable group of men and women, including many who became prominent contributors to our science," Levin said.
"Near the end of the 1960s. it became apparent that the oil companies were not going to continue to support research to the extent they had in the past," said Cramer. "The burden was shifting to the contractors, and fast. Carl had the good judgement to hire competent staff to carry out these expanded requirements. That he was a pretty good judge of character is attested to by the fact that he was 100% responsible for hiring Ken Lamer and Damir Skerl -both of whom have contributed mightily to our success and reputation."
"There is no question in my mind he was a most powerful influence in my life:' says former Western vice-president Ken Larner, now a professor at Colorado School of Mines. "For years I considered him my mentor and then I realized he wasn't my mentor-he was mentor to many people."
"He changed my life with one phone call," says Dami Skerl, who was a senior vice-president of Western Geophysical and is now president of the Western Atlas Logging Services Division. "I was desperate. I had a one-way ticket to the U.S. (from what is now Croatia) to look for a job, and my visa had expired. When I walked into the Western Geophysical lobby on December 23, 1968, I had no work and no ticket back. Carl hired me and called the Immigration and Naturalization Service to have my visa changed. He asked me if I had the $10 filing fee; I said I did not. So he gave me a company check and I went to the immigration office the next morning for my visa. There is no word in English or any other language that can express the significance of that action on me and my family."
Technically Carl was very astute. "His technical instincts were uncanny," says Levin. "We rarely disagreed concerning scientific matters, but when we did, I had an uneasy feeling that he was right and I was wrong." But Carl's scope of interests extended far beyond science and even became one of his trademarks. One could ask him a question on classical music, baseball, the theater, medicine, sociology, literature, printing, or anything else and he'd have an answer. He was a renaissance man, a beacon in the industry, a mentor to the people working with him, and a legend in his unfailing devotion and adoration toward his wife, Sandy, who referred to him as "the boyfriend." As Larner put it, "Would that we could all enjoy life as he did."
Carl is survived by his wife of 49 years, Sandra Kaplan Savit; children Mark N. Savit and wife Kim, Deborah Joan and husband Andrew Pearlman, Judy Savit and husband Larry Simon; grandchildren Joshua Savit, Micah Pearlman, Darcy Savit, Adina Pearlman, Zachary Savit, Jessica Simon, Cela Pearlman, Kyle Simon; a host of friends and relatives.
Western Geophysical has established the Carl Savit Scholarship Fund, which will be administered through the Society of Exploration Geophysicists Scholarship Committee and awarded to the top geosciences candidate. Contributions may be sent to the SEG Business Office at P.O. Box 702740, Tulsa, OK 74170-2740 and indicated for the Carl Savit Scholarship Fund.
A personal note from Rhonda Boone
A personal note from the author: With his curiosity, sense of humor; and delight in the ordinary, one never knew what Carl might find worthy of attention. Carl hired me for Western's Art Department in 1974 and I worked for him until his retirement in 1986. One day early on, as I stood nervously outside the office of my new boss, a group gathered nearby to discuss the sound made by a rooster: That's right, a rooster. Carl wandered out to participate in the discussion (as he was wont to do), and told everyone to be quiet, that he would demonstrate the soundproperly. The group hushed, the vicepresident of technology for the world's largest seismic company put his thumbs to his armpits, waggled his elbows, extended his neck, and in his legendary dulcet tones, let out a rooster crow that reverberated for an eternity down the hallway.
Heads immediately popped from doorways and laughter echoed in the
offices. "That," said Carl Savit, beaming at his own prowess, "is the sound a rooster makes!" I laughed too, and my nervousness disappeared. This was going to be a very fun job. - R.B.