Franklyn Levin was
Contributed by Sven Treitel
Suppose somebody asks us to draw up a list of individuals who have made fundamental contributions to exploration geophysics. I would wager my laser wavelet that Frank Levin's name would have to appear early on and in mine, he would be in the top ten!
When I think of Frank, I think of scientific rigor, intellectual curiosity, and a passionate quest for excellence. These, of course, are the qualities that have made Frank into what he is today an outstanding scientist and a gifted mentor. There is hardly a part of exploration seismology that has escaped his concern over the last four decades. His earliest paper in Geophysics, co-authored with H. C. Hibbard, dealt with studies in physical 3-D models, a field in which he made fundamental contributions over the years. He became interested in deephole geophone studies long before the days of vertical seismic profiling and published a classical paper on reverberations in Lake Maracaibo in 1962. Subsequently he and his coworkers at Exxon Production Research (EPR) studied the detailed behavior of the normal incidence synthetic seismogram, with particular emphasis on peg-leg multiples. He became involved with wave propagation in transversely anisotropic media at a time when few of us could spell the words, thereby demonstrating his remarkable ability to anticipate important developments in our field. Neither head waves from beds of finite thickness nor the age-old problem of apparent versus intrinsic seismic attenuation avoided his eye the work is widely quoted as I write. Frank is one of those rare people who is equally at home in the field, in the laboratory, and at the computer terminal. No scientist of Frank's stature works in a vacuum. During his years at EPR, Frank managed to form a team of experts whose contributions made his laboratory into one of the centers of excellence in geophysics. He personally hired and nurtured a group of young scholars who have left their own mark in geophysics John Dunkin, John Ingram, Neal Jordam, Mike Schoenberger, and Pravin Shah, just to name a few.
Above all, Frank is a teacher. He realized the importance of lucid prose and is as demanding of himself as he is of others. Those who were at the receiving end of his reviews as Editor of Geophysics know only too well of what I speak.
Throughout his career Frank has been a perfectionist's perfectionist. During the early '60s while Frank was still living in Tulsa, he and I belonged to a small study group which met every few weeks to work through a book by Lanczos (we called ourselves "Lanczos Lancers"). We were committed to work one problem for every meeting and to show the group the fruits of our struggles. Naturally, most of us did not manage to live up to expectations, except guess who? Frank rarely failed to come through with his part, along with choice editorial comment about some of the book's less intelligible passages. Frank graduated with a B.S. in physics from Purdue in 1943. He was associated with the Manhattan Project from 1943 to 1945 and received his Ph.D. in physics from the University of Wisconsin in 1949. He then joined Carter Oil in Tulsa. Except for a year spent as the assistant director of Hudson Laboratories at Columbia University (1953-54), he worked for various Exxon affiliates until 1986 when he retired as senior research scientist, the highest technical position the company offers. Along the way, Frank was singled out for frequent professional recognition. He is an Honorary Member of the SEG and a Life Member of the Geophysical Society of Houston. He was the 1969-71 Editor of Geophysics and earned two Best Paper awards from our journal as well. He received the Earl McConnell Award from the AIME and the Fessenden Award from the SEG. He was an SEG Distinguished Lecturer and has served on numerous SEG committees over the years. All who worked with him have learned to value his incisive wit and boundless energy. Retirement and Frank failed to mix by now he is back in the midst of things. He consults for Western Geophysical Company and is the Assistant Editor for Geophysics as well. Next to many a successful scholar there stands an understanding and supportive family. My wife tells me that marriage to a scientist is not always easy, and Frank's wife Bea would surely agree. She and their three sons (Michael, Alan, and Philip) share much of the credit for Frank's singular professional achievements.
The Maurice Ewing Medal is the highest award our Society can bestow. In a letter asking me to prepare his citation, Frank writes in part: "I was astonished, rocked from teeth to toes. I certainly never expected to be considered for the Maurice Ewing Medal." Well, I won't rock along with Frank, for here is a man with a lifelong obsession to do good science and to do it well. His work is marred by neither wild claims, nor sweeping generalizations. It has always remained crisp and to the point. By imposing high standards on himself, he has set the pace for his colleagues, both at EPR and in the greater geophysical community. Maurice Ewing knew Frank and was in part responsible for bringing him to the Hudson Laboratories for a year. I think he would agree that the SEG Honors and Awards Committee has chosen wisely and chosen justly.
Clark, D. (1993). ”Franklyn K. Levin.” The Leading Edge, 12(11), 1062–1065.