Moses Widess

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Moses Widess
M. B. Widess headshot.png
Latest company Amoco


Moses B. Widess (1911-1998), was a pioneer in seismic exploration and was a recipient of SEG's Virgil Kauffman Gold Medal Award in 1977,

Memorial [1]

Contributed by Paul Widess

Moses B. Widess (1911-1998), a pioneer in seismic exploration and winner of SEG’s Kauffman Gold Medal, died 16 August 1998 in Walnut Creek, California, at the age of 86. He was born in 1911 in Sverdlovsk, Russia, where his father dealt in emeralds mined in the nearby Ural Mountains. To escape the Russian Revolution, his family crossed Siberia, eventually settling in Pasadena, California. Moe grew up there and attended the California Institute of Technology, from which he received his Ph.D. (cum laude) in 1936.

He met his future wife, Anneliese, while she was visiting her relative, the eminent Caltech seismologist Beno Gutenberg. Contact with Gutenberg inspired Moe to go into seismology as applied to the then young field of petroleum exploration. Upon graduation Moe joined Western Geophysical. In 1941 he moved to Amoco Production Company (then Stanolind Oil and Gas) where he was involved in special projects as division geophysical consultant until his retirement in 1973.

Moe’s long career included many contributions to the field. His first paper, published in GEOPHYSICS in 1940, stemmed from his discovery in 1937 that unmigrated reflection time cross-sections are generally better suited to initial interpretation than the migrated depth sections then in use (each original dip pick being migrated manually). The concept of unmigrated time cross-sections led to a 1943 paper on multiple branches of a reflection horizon timedistance curve in the case of a buried focus. It was not until the advent of CDP profiling and modern migration that multiple branching of reflections became widely recognized by the industry. Other pioneering papers dealt with the effect of overburden on velocity (1946), a definitive treatment of velocity profiling methods (1952), and seismic reflections from layering within the Precambrian complex (1959). In 1977 he received SEG’s Virgil Kauffman Gold Medal for his numerous contributions to geophysics. The citation made special mention of his classic paper on resolution, “How thin is a thin bed?” This paper, originally published by the Geophysical Society of Tulsa in 1958 and then by GEOPHYSICS in 1973, is still regularly cited. During his career, Moe wrote innumerable tutorial and innovative reports for intracompany consumption and received 12 patents.

Moe was an active and influential member of SEG for 60 years. He served four years as Chairman of the Publications Committee where his principal contribution was to inaugurate the SEG Monograph Series. He was elected editor of the Geophysical Society of Tulsa in 1957 and president of the Fort Worth Geophysical Society in 1964. During his term the Fort Worth Geophysical Society began to participate in annual science fairs. Based on this experience, Moe instigated SEG participation in the annual International Science Fair. He also served as program chairman for two SEG Midwestern Meetings. The 1968 meeting featured an outstanding symposium on stratigraphic traps. The final tone, incidentally, was optimistic with regard to ultimate seismic exploration for them. After he retired, Moe manifested considerable talent as a painter. Eventually, he returned to his first love, science, devoting his attention and passion to exploring some basic problems in physics.

He is survived by two sons and a grandson, all of Berkeley, California.

Biography Citation for the Virgil Kauffman Gold Medal Award 1977

The Virgil Kauffman Gold Medal is awarded each year to a person who has made a significant contribution to the most outstanding advancement in the science of geophysical exploration during the previous year. The Honors and Awards Committee and the Executive Committee of the Society of Exploration Geophysicists have selected Moses Widess as the recipient for 1977. Moe is awarded the Kauffman Gold Medal in recognition of his numerous contributions to geophysics, but in particular for the pioneering publication, "How Thin is a Thin Bed?" This revealing paper was first published in 1958 in the Proceedings of the Geophysical Society of Tulsa and again published in GEOPHYSICS. This work has received increasing recognition since 1973 and is considered by many to be fundamental to their investigations. At least four speakers referred to this paper at the 1976 International meeting of the SEG and no doubt many more will cite it at this year's meeting.

Born in Sverdlovsk, Russia, Moe immigrated to the United States at the age of nine after spending two years in Japan. He obtained his degrees in electrical engineering at the California Institute of Technology including the B.S. with honors, the Master of Science, and, in 1936, the Ph.D. degree cure laude. He joined the staff of Western Geophysical Company the same year, and in 1941 transferred permanently to Amoco Production Company which was then known as the Stanolind Oil and Gas Company. Moe's early experience included several years as Party Chief. His 32-year career with Amoco Production Company was involved with special projects, primarily as Division Geophysical Consultant until he retired from Amoco in 1973.

The long career includes many pioneering efforts in addition to the cassic study on resolution. Moe's first paper, published in GEEOPHYSICS in 1940, stemmed from his discovery in 1937 that unmigrated reflection time crosssections are generally better suited to initial interpretation than the migrated depth sections then in use (each original dip pick being migrated manually). The concept of unmigrated time cross-sections led to a 1943 paper on multiple branches of a reflection horizon time-distance curve in the case of a buried focus. It was not until the advent of CDP profiling and modern migration that multiple branching of reflections became widely recognized by the industry. Other pioneering papers dealt with the effect of overburden on velocity (1946), a definitive treatment of velocity profiling methods (1952), and seismic reflections from layering within the Precambrian complex (1959). He has written innumerable tutorial and innovative reports for intracompany consumption and has received twelve patents.

Moe has always been an active and influential member of the SEG. He served four years as Chairman of the Publications Committee where his principal contribution was the inauguration of the SEG Monograph Series. He was elected Editor of the Geophysical Society of Tulsa in 1957 and President of the Fort Worth Geophysical Society in 1964. At the latter time he instituted participation of the Fort Worth Geophysical Society in the annual Science Fairs, and based on this experience instigated participation of the SEG in the annual International Science Fairs. He also served as Program Chairman for two Midwestern SEG Meetings. The 1968 meeting featured a symposium on strategic traps which made it an outstanding event. The final tone, incidentally, was optimistic with regard to ultimate seismic exploration for stratigraphic traps.

Moe has always been an active and influential member of the SEG. He served four years as Chairman of the Publications Committee where his principal contribution was the inauguration of the SEG Monograph Series. He was elected Editor of the Geophysical Society of Tulsa in 1957 and President of the Fort Worth Geophysical Society in 1964. At the latter time he instituted participation of the Fort Worth Geophysical Society in the annual Science Fairs, and based on this experience instigated participation of the SEG in the annual International Science Fairs. He also served as Program Chairman for two Midwestern SEG Meetings. The 1968 meeting featured a symposium on strategic traps which made it an outstanding event. The final tone, incidentally, was optimistic with regard to ultimate seismic exploration for stratigraphic traps.

It is a personal honor and a great pleasure to write this citation for the 1977 Kauffman Gold Medal Award presentation to Moe Widess for his many contributions to geophysics and particularly to our understanding of seismic resolution.

Biography 1973 [2]

M. B. Widess received his B.S. and Ph.D. degrees in electrical engineering from California Institute of Technology in 1933 and 1936, respectively. Following a year of training he served as party chief and conducted interpretational research for Western Geophyscial Co. from 1937 to 1941, at which time he was transferred to Amoco Production Co. to direct special field experimentation. He served as a consulting geophysicist within the Amoco organization from 1942 until his retirement in mid-1973.

Dr. Widess served as President of the Fort Worth Geophysical Society in 1965, and as Chairman of the SEG Publications Committee from 1966-69. He is also a member of EAEG, AAPG, AGU, and SSA.

References

  1. Dudley, D., Krider, E., Widess, P., Schmitt, D., Burianyk, M., and Sherif, H. (1999). ”Memorials.” The Leading Edge, 18(2), 275–277.
  2. Contributors, GEOPHYSICS v37 n6 p1250 v38.