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Kenneth Waters
Kenneth Waters headshot.png

Biography Citation for the Virgil Kauffman Gold Medal Award

The development of any new geophysical tool for exploration requires an individual with a great deal of insight, experimental fortitude and unrelenting drive who is convinced of the eventual value of obtaining such new data.

Virgil Kauffman established a fund to be administered by the SEG, to encourage new developments in the science of geophysical exploration. The Kauffman Gold Medal is awarded to a person who, in the opinion of the Honors and Awards Committee, has made a distinguished contribution to the advancement of geophysical exploration.

For 1982, the SEG Executive Committee has unanimously elected Kenneth H. Waters, along with J. T. Cherry, to receive this Gold Medal in recognition of his "outstanding contribution to the advancement of the science of exploration geophysics through development of the shearwave VIBROSEIS, which made practical the use of shear waves in seismic exploration." Ken Waters, as Director of Geophysical Research for Conoco from 1955 to 1976, had the insight, the experimental fortitude and was the driving force for developing the shear-wave VIBROSEIS during the early years of experimentation with the system.

There were several reasons for wanting to develop a shear-wave system. Foremost was the fact that the shearwave velocity was an independent measurement which would provide additional information about the subsurface geology. From the outset, it seemed clear that the ratio for shear-wave velocity to compressional-wave velocity (the V?/V? ratio) was directly related to Poisson's ratio and could, in turn, be related to rock type and help discriminate sands from shales from carbonates. Similarly, shear waves do not propagate in a fluid and therefore a shear-wave reflection record might be more sensitive to detecting porosity and/or the fluid content of the porosity-gas, oil or water. Experimental work showed other possible advantages. For example, good shear-wave reflections might be obtained in areas where existing compressional- wave systems get poor data.

Ken led the endeavor for testing shear-wave concepts in a research environment for many years. That the acquisition and interpretation of shear-wave reflection data is not easy is illustrated by the fact that Conoco began experimentation with VIBROSEIS generated shear waves in 1960 and was not able to offer it to the industry until the late 1970s. For fifteen years, Ken, and his research staff, devoted time to shear-wave field experiments. Early effort was presented in "Shear-Wave Recording Using Continuous Signal Seismograph," Part 1 and Part 2, GEOPHYSICS, Vol. 33, No. 2, 1968.

Ken received degrees in physics and applied geophysics from Imperial College in London 1934-36. From 1938 to 1955 (minus three years in the British Army) he worked for National Geophysical Company as a Party Chief and Field Crew Supervisor.

In 1955 he joined Continental Oil Company's Exploration Research Division. As Group Leader, Section Supervisor and finally Director of Geophysics Research, he was involved in a wide variety of geophysical research and operations problems.

Ken holds some fourteen patents, has authored eight articles and the well known text Reflection Seismology: A Tool for Energy Resources Exploration, the second edition published in January 1981.

Ken took early retirement from Conoco in 1976. During his semi-retirement years, Ken has oscillated between teaching, consulting and retiring. As a teacher, he was the Phoebe Apperson Hearst Visiting Lecturer at the University of California, Berkeley, doing research on "Ultrasonic Shear-Wave Detection of Cracks in Igneous Rocks" and "Reflection Seismic Work Across the San Andreas Fault."

In September 1981, he returned to Conoco as Senior Advisor on Technical Methods Evaluation. He is an Adjunct Professor on Exploration Seismology at Rice University and has lectured on Shear-Wave-Exploration for the University of Houston's "Geophysics for Geologists" seminar.

The use of shear-wave reflection geophysics as an exploration tool is in its infancy, but still provides the promise of improving our ability to predict hydrocarbon reservoirs. Ken's long and dedicated research in this endeavor make it particularly rifling that the Society should honor him as a recipient of the 1982 Kauffman Gold Medal Award.