Biography Citation for SEG Honorary Membership
Contributed by Jack Smith
Still technically active and original in his thinking at the age of 80, Al Fitch must be described as one of the Grand Old Men of British geophysics. During a long and distinguished working career of 53 years, with 44 years of membership in the SEG, Al Fitch has made an outstanding contribution to the profession of exploration geophysics.
Al graduated with a 1st Class Honours degree in geology from the Royal School of Mines in London in 1928, and he continued academically at the Imperial College in London, to earn firstly, an Imperial College diploma, and then a Doctorate in geology in 1930. This period was followed by three years of research at the University of California.
In 1933, Al started out on a career in geology, initially in West Africa and later in East Africa in gold mining geology for four years. This was followed by a further two years of geological work with Shell in South America, but this time in oil.
He switched to geophysics in 1940 when he joined Seismograph Service Corporation as a chief computer and shortly thereafter became one of their party chiefs. In 1946, after this experience of the seismic industry in the U.S., he returned to Britain to help set up the British subsidiary Seismograph Service Limited (SSL) and he started SSL's first seismic party in Trinidad. Returning once more to London in 1947, Al held successive executive positions with SSL until his retirement in 1972. But this was not the end of his career, for he continued as a consultant with SSL from 1973 to the end of 1986, apart from a short period in the mid-70s when he became a United Nations consultant (geophysics) in Ecuador, followed by a short period as a consultant for the parent company in Mexico and Tulsa.
Al was a founder member of the European Association of Exploration Geophysicists, served on the council for many years, and was president of the Association in 1966-67. He played an active part in forming the Petroleum Society of Great Britain in 1965, and was chairman of that Society in 1972. Other professional affiliations include the AAPG and the Geological Society of London.
Al Fitch has had many technical papers published, ranging from geology, aerial photography in petroleum and mineral prospecting, to seismic geophysical papers. In addition, he authored a standard textbook on seismic reflection interpretation in 1976 which has recently been updated in a second 1985 edition with M. K. Jenyon as coauthor. Since 1979, he has edited seven books in the series "Development in Geophysical Exploration Methods."
In original research, Al was the first to attempt a rigorous estimation of the errors of geophysical measurements, the first to note (in 1959) the benefits of the median stack, and the first with several accepted techniques in vertical seismic profiling.
As an international geophysicist, he has of course traveled extensively throughout the world and in doing so has acquired a most widespread geological and geophysical knowledge of our planet Earth. This combined knowledge and his ability to integrate these two sciences has been a major and outstanding practical contribution to our industry and profession.
As a teacher, Al has lectured widely, in formal courses and informal presentations, spreading his profound worldly knowledge as well as providing considerable understanding of the interrelation between geology, the acoustic log, the seismic section and the VSP.
Returning to Britain as he did in 1946 when there were very few practicing geophysicists one can only suggest that at least two full generations of British geophysicists owe some of their training to Al Fitch. In this sense, his influence on the profession has been enormous and he is, therefore, a most suitable addition to the present distinguished group of Honorary Members.