George McGhee

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George McGhee
George C. McGhee headshot.jpg
Latest company McGhee Production Company
Membership SEG
MSc Geology
PhD Physical Science
MSc university University of Oklahoma
PhD university Oxford University



George Crews McGhee (March 10, 1912 – July 4, 2005) was a leader in the petroleum industry and served as a US diplomat.



Biography Citation for SEG Special Commendation 1992

Contributed by Dean Clark "Awards Citations of the SEG page 188"

There are, of course, many men and women who have made major contributions to geophysical exploration for hydrocarbons and the oil industry. But it is doubtful that any have contributed so significantly over such a wide range-from pinpointing the location of a wildcat to delicate diplomacy among nations and major companies in different hemispheres (which would determine the course of the entire industry and the flow of astronomical amounts of money)-as George McGhee.

McGhee spent less than a decade of his professional life as a full-time exploration geophysicist, but that was sufficient to make a distinct impact. He worked as a subsurface geologist while a college student, which caused him to pick exploration as his profession. Following graduation from the University of Oklahoma (as a Phi Beta Kappa) in 1933, he joined Conoco's geophysical staff. He was a computer on the crew which made Conoco's first discovery in the Gulf Coast via reflection seismology. He also developed, in collaboration with the late E. V. McCollum, original ideas for estimating weathering corrections, ideas the company deemed of sufficient import to patent. He left Conoco to accept a Rhodes Scholarship at Oxford, where in 1937 he earned a doctorate in physical sciences based on the first seismic reflections obtained in England. After returning to the US, he became vice president of National Geophysical Company, conducting the first reflection seismic survey in Cuba. He left National in 1940 to become a partner in the celebrated consulting firm of DeGolyer and MacNaughton, to which was added "McGhee."

McGhee served in the US Navy during World War II and, after earning the Legion of Merit and three battle stars, launched a new career in the diplomatic service. His success was virtually instantaneous and he spent nearly all of the next 25 years in a succession of key positions including coordinator for aid to Greece and Turkey-our first Cold War effort to contain Communism; ambassador to Turkey (I 951-53); Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs (1961-63), and ambassador to West Germany (I963-68).

This second career was not completely divorced from geophysics and the oil industry. The US Government reguu1arly took advantage of McGhee's expertise during the periodic "crises" which occurred. The most important such incident happened in late 1950 when McGhee, then Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, brokered the complex "50-50" negotiations between Aramco and Saudi Arabia. The final agreement, which in pure cash terms must rank with the biggest business deals in history, was agreed to by the Aramco parents in his office.

Despite his distinguished diplomatic career after World War II, McGhee never lost interest in geophysics nor ever completely left the oil business. He has operated, with an enviable record of success, as an independent oil explorer / producer since 1940, having explored seismically 70 areas, leading to 34 wildcats which resulted in 13 oil fields.

He still lists McGhee Production Company as his professsional affiliation on SEG's membership roster. He also served as a director of Mobil Oil Company and Mobil Corporation from 1969 to 1982, as well as 11 other boards, and was chairman of Saturday Review.

Incredibly, McGhee has at least two other careers that are worthy of significant mention-heavy involvement in civic affairs (locally, nationally, and internationally) and as a writer. The list of respected organizations which McGhee has assisted or served in a leadership capacity covers the better part of two typed pages. They include the chairmanship of the English Speaking Union, the Smithsonian National Associates, the National Academy of Sciences Advisory Committee to HUD, and membership in the President's Circle of the National Academy of Science. He served on four university boards and received four honorary degrees.

McGhee's writings are similarly diverse. He has published articles in peer-review scientific journals as well as in Foreign Affairs, the Washington Post, the New York Times, US News and World Report, and Reader's Digest. He has also been the author, editor, or co-author of at least eight books. One of these, the 1989 novel Dance of the Billions, is an extremely realistic and informed treatment of the oil industry-ranging from sophisticated seismic exploration to executive suite maneuvering to complex litigation-during the boom of the '70s. This book merits much wider readership than it has received.

SEG created the Special Commendation Award to reccognize meritorious services to the public, the scientific community, or to the profession; and these services may have been performed via community leadership, professsionalleadership, or even outside the mainstream of geoophysics. The biggest problem in giving this honor to George McGhee is to decide under which category to award it. He is qualified, supremely so, in every one! I suspect the creeators of this award never imagined that a recipient would put the Society in such a dilemma.