Vlastislav Cervený

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Vlastislav Cervený
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Membership Honorary Membership
PhD M
MSc university  
PhD university Charles Univerity, Prague


Vlastislav Cerveny has made lifetime contributions to the geophysics through his internationally recognized work in the ray theory of wave propagation. Although his work goes far beyond exploration geophysics and has advanced fundamental aspects of theoretical geophysics, its impact on exploration geophysics has been felt in every area of seismic modeling, imaging, and inversion. Professor Cerveny has spent his entire career at Charles University and has been mentor to many generations of students. In addition, his numerous sabbaticals to such institutions as the Universities of Toronto, California-Berkeley, Stanford, Cambridge, and Bahia have led to fruitful collaboration with leading geophysicists around the world. Cerveny’s life work appeared in the 2001 monograph Seismic Ray Theory, a publication that will have a lasting impact on seismic research. Cerveny has been honored with many previous awards, including Honorary Membership from SEG, the EAGE Schlumberger Award, and the European Geophysical Society’s Beno Gutenberg Award. In 2001, Cerveny received the Ernst Mach Honorary Medal for Merit in the Physical Sciences, the highest distinction that the Czech Academy gives to its scientists, and in 2002 he received gold medal awards from both Charles University and the Slovak Academy of Sciences. Vlastislav Cerveny has long been recognized as one of the outstanding geophysical researchers in the world, and is truly deserving of SEG’s highest award.


Biography Citation for the Maurice Ewing Medal

Contributed by Ivan Psenick, Peter Hubral, and Sven Treitel

Professor Vlastislav (Slàva) Cerveny is well known among exploration geophysicists and seismologists through his many significant scientific contributions which he recently gathered in his comprehensive book Seismic Ray Theory.

Though mainly devoted to the theory of high-frequency wave propagation in laterally inhomogeneous media, either isotropic or anisotropic, this volume also provides much of the foundation for the familiar techniques of seismic stacking, inversion, and imaging. To this day many of our industrial seismic modeling packages continue to benefit from the truly innovative thinking of this creative scientist.


Early Years and Education

Slàva was born in Czechoslovakia. He studied at Charles University in Prague, where he obtained all his degrees and spent most of his career. There, and at several universities all around the globe, he taught and supervised many students. Several subsequently achieved influential positions in academia and exploration geophysics.


Professional Career

Despite the existence of the Iron Curtain, Slàva soon became known in the West through his numerous papers, books, and computer programs. His work gained worldwide prominence through a series of workshops he organized in his country that brought together, in the informal settings of quaint old Bohemian castles, geophysicists from both East and West— and in those days such meetings were rare indeed.

As Slàva’s international reputation grew, he received an increasing number of invitations to universities and research institutions from all over the world. Sadly enough, the onset of an illness several years ago has since forced him to discontinue such travel. Yet, and despite his failing health, he remains as active mentally today as he has always been.

Hard work and perseverance have been the consistent themes of his life. Traits such as these allowed him to cope with so many problems, not the least of which was facing life behind the Iron Curtain. Yet Slàva has not just lived by science alone; he enjoyed hiking and mountain climbing, or demonstrating his administrative skills as the respected head of the consortium Seismic Waves in Complex 3D Structures which he founded in 1992 with a number of his colleagues and former students. Over the years, Slàva has managed to develop ray theory into an efficient tool that embraces much more than the classic foundations of kinematic and dynamic ray tracing.

Its modern version now includes a number of novel concepts, among them the ray propagator matrix technique, the paraxial ray approximation, the superposition of Gaussian beams, the coupling theory, etc.

Slàva is known by his colleagues for his distinctive ability to present the most complicated concepts in simple language, yet without sacrificing either rigor or accuracy. This trait surely explains at least in part why he is today one of the most widely cited geophysicists in seismic wave propagation theory. Throughout his long career he has been well served by his uncanny scientific intuition; for example, he wrote his classic paper on anisotropic dynamic ray tracing