Einar Kjartansson

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Einar Kjartansson
Einar Kjartansson headshot.jpg
PhD university Stanford University

Einar Kjartansson" is a geophysicist with a broad background in various branches of geophysics. He received his Phd at Stanford University. An early work of Dr. Kjartansson was a seismic data manipulation software package called SY, which later became part of the Stanford Exploration Projects's SEPlib. Because SY was the initial base of code for the Seismic Unix package, Dr. Kjartannson was awarded a Special Commendation by the SEG. Dr. Kjartannson has worked for both the Icelandic Energy Authority and the Icelandic Meteorological Office.

Special Commendation 2002

SEG in honoring the Center for Wave Phenomena, Department of Geophysics, Colorado School of Mines for developing and freely disseminating the Seismic Unix package (SU). Many individuals have contributed and are contributing to SU. However, at this time, SEG wishes to particularly cite four individuals—John W. Stockwell Jr., Jack K. Cohen, Einar Kjartansson, and Joshua (Shuki) Ronen—for their exceptional contributions to this project. The success of SU is understated by the statistics but they are, nonetheless, impressive—the number of verified installs exceeds 3000, representing users in over 60 countries. The objectives of SEG to promote and foster the scientific interests of geophysics are clearly reflected by the SU project. SU is used by exploration geophysicists, earthquake seismologists, environmental engineers, and software developers. The spectrum of users includes oil companies, contractors, government researchers, and academics.

Citation for SEG Special Commendation

Throughout the history of applied geophysics, advances have come in many forms, but mainly as new scientific ideas and technological innovations. Over the past 17 years, the geophysical research has benefited from a novel and powerful tool—initiated and developed within academia with contributions from researchers across the industry—that is neither a scientific idea nor simply a technological invention.

CWP/SU: Seismic Unix (SU) is an open software processing package developed at the Center for Wave Phenomena (CWP) within the Department of Geophysics, at the Colorado School of Mines (CSM). SU provides an instant research and processing environment, in the form of full source code, at no cost. It runs under all UNIX and UNIX-like operating systems, including Cygwin 32 on Microsoft Windows and Mac OS X on Macintosh. SU provides many modeling/data processing utilities, and a base of source code for development of new applications. In recent years, SU has become a vehicle for geophysicists to make their software available to the worldwide community.

Seismic Unix evolved from Jon Claerbout’s Seismic Exploration Project (SEP) at Stanford University in the late 1970s when graduate student Einar Kjartansson wrote a package called SY—12 programs in C to run under UNIX. This, in itself, was revolutionary, as contemporary industry practice was to write code in FORTRAN under the Vax VMS system. Code was also written by Stew Levin, Chuck Sword, and Claerbout himself. To this day Levin contributes importantly to SU. Einar continued to work on SY after joining the faculty at the University of Utah. He brought SY back to Stanford when he visited (as a faculty member) in 1984 and introduced graduate student Shuki Ronen to the concept. With Claerbout’s permission, Shuki brought SY to CSM in 1985 under a postdoctoral appointment at the Center for Wave Phenomena, then directed by Norman Bleistein and Jack Cohen.

In the same year Jack visited Texaco’s Houston Research Center to study how seismic processing was done in industry. Inspired by this experience, Jack and Shuki conceived a bold plan—to create a seismic processing line that would be used by everybody. Of course, in 1985 “everybody” consisted mainly of a handful of expert seismic programmers. The name was changed from SY to SU (standing simultaneously for Stanford University and Seismic Unix) and additional libraries and utilities were written. The package became an instant hit with CWP students, with contributions by almost every CWP member—notably Chris Liner, Brian Sumner, and Craig Artley.

In 1987 John Stockwell became CWP systems administrator and codeveloper of SU with Jack. In 1989, Dave Hale joined and made major contributions that expanded the package’s capabilities and portability. Prior to 1992, SU had been ported to only a handful of sites, mainly oil-company sponsors of CWP.

The first truly public release of SU was in September 1992, via an ftp site at CWP (several years before the World Wide Web was created). Stockwell has subsequently been the main contact for questions related to SU and its principal investigator since Cohen’s death in 1996.

The success of the SU project has been due in large part to John’s skill in helping users, his responsiveness to questions and comments, and his desire and commitment to continually improve the package. Since 1992, SU has been verifiably installed at more than 3000 sites (a gross underestimate of the total use of the package) in 60 countries.

With SU, the geophysics industry experienced a revolution in the way that it works with computer technology. Previously, software developed within universities was lost upon graduation of a student developer or commercialized. The revolution that SU brought was introducing free software to the geophysics community. A walk through the exposition during any SEG Annual Meeting will reveal SU in use on various computers, as well as its ubiquity in technical presentations and papers