Paul Wuenschel

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Paul Wuenschel
Paul C. Wuenschel headshot.png
Membership Honorary Member


Biography Citation for SEG Honorary Membership

Contributed by Sven Treitel


Writing a citation for Paul Wuenschel is no easy task, for here is a truly renaissance geophysicist, whose creative contributions to the field have ranged from the ingeniously esoterical to the eminently practical. In fact, one of the more striking aspects of Paul's career is his gift to combine good theory with sound observation (pun intended), and thereby to render beautifully simply what appears complex and unfathomable. A good illustration of what I mean can be found in Paul's paper, "Dispersive Body Waves An Experimental Study," which was published in Geophysics in 1964 and which today, two decades later, is as crisp and fresh as it was when it first appeared.

Exceptional performance in any field is a happy combination of many factors, such as plain old good luck, innate talent, and finding oneself in the right place at the right time. Paul managed to be a graduate student under the legendary Doc Ewing at Columbia from 1946 to 1952. Here he was fortunate enough to study and interact with a generation of students which included Milt Dobrin, Jack Oliver, Frank Press, Nelson Steenland, and Joe Worzel, all of whom subsequently left their imprint on geophysics. Paul did his doctoral work by measuring gravity along transcontinental traverses across South America. He then proceeded to make geological sense from what he had measured in the field.

This theme recurs throughout Paul's professional life. Soon after joining Gulf R&D's Pittsburgh laboratory in 1955, his interest in seismic interpretation led him to undertake one of the earlier attempts to simulate stress wave propagation on the computer. The results were published in the February 1960 Silver Anniversary issue of Geophysics, and are widely quoted to this day. Paul rapidly recognized the crucial value of borehole recordings, and became one of the first proponents of the Vertical Seismic Profiling (VSP) technique. His contributions straddled the instrumental, the interpretational, and the theoretical aspects of the problem. He collaborated in the development of a clamped detector in the borehole, he designed the required signal processing technology, and he did a good deal of the necessary wave-theoretical analysis as well. Much of this work was published in 1976 in Geophysics, and it comes as no surprise that this contribution was honored with the SEG's Best Paper Award for that year. Prior to that time, Paul had also won the SEG's Best Presentation Awards for 1964 and 1973.

Paul's interests are by no means confined to seismology. He has had a long-standing fascination with magnetotellurics: again, he contributed both to the data acquisition as well as to the interpretational aspects of this method.

Professional activities were not neglected. Besides membership in numerous professional societies, Paul served on the SEG's Distinguished Lecture and Research Committees. Since 1972, he has faithfully chaired the SEG's Reviews Committee, and no reader of Geophysics has failed to benefit from the consistently high quality of this group's labors.

Behind Paul the scientist, there stands Paul, the warm and unassuming human being. His distinguished professional career has been complemented by his devotion to his wife, Mary, and to their six children. He has been a continuing source of inspiration, not only to his colleagues at Gulf throughout the years, but also to all of us in the profession who have learned to know and value Paul for his qualities as a scientist, as a teacher, and as a friend.

Paul, who retired from Gulf last year, continues to be active as a consultant, so that we can look forward to many more fundamental contributions from this ingenious mind. By bestowing an Honorary SEG Membership on Paul, we recognize in him one of the outstanding geophysicists of our times.