Albert Musgrave

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Albert Musgrave
Albert Musgrave headshot.png
Membership Honorary Membership
BSc Engineer of Geology
PhD Geophysics
BSc university Colorado School of Mines
PhD university Colorado School of Mines

Albert W. Musgrave is an American geophysicist noted for many accomplishments in exploration geophysics, including an analog computer for generating wavefront charts for graphical migration.

Biography for Honorary Membership in SEG

Contributed by John A. Lester

It is one of the pleasures of my life to make this presentation of an Honorary Membership in the SEG to Dr. Albert W. Musgrave. This is especially true since the man is a friend, a former colleague, a scholar and a gentleman, in addition to being an outstanding and contributing geophysicist, for which he has been elected to be the select group of only 27 living Honorary Members.

The SEG Constitution states that a person eligible for election to Honorary Membership, "shall have made a distinguished contribution to geophysics...which warrants exceptional recognition." In the case of Dr. Musgrave, his contributions are singular in concept but plural in number.

Early Years and Education

Albert made his way through Colorado School of Mines with the aid of the G. I. Bill and the support of his wife, Maxine. After obtaining his geologic engineering degree in 1947, he chose to go to work for Magnolia Petroleum Co. He rose through the ranks from truck helper to seismic interpreter until his desire for additional academic training overcame his desire for immediate money and related creature comforts. As a consequence, he returned to Mines in the fall of 1949 and earned his Doctor of Science degree in February of 1952. During this period, the first two of his four children were born.

Albert's doctorate thesis was on "Wave Front Charts and Raypath Plotters." This was the basis for many of his technical contributions after his return to Magnolia. His interest in seismic problems, particularly those related to velocity, led, in 1954, to his transfer to the home office in Dallas to be in charge of a special problems group. In a relatively short period he was responsible for developing a number of innovations, particularly the expanding spread technique and a system for mapping salt dome profiles in the Gulf of Mexico. He scored a remarkable first in persuading top exploration management to drill a nonproductive well in salt in order to place geophones inside the salt for purposes of profiling the salt face. Later, he developed a system for profiling the salt face that eliminated the need for the borehole in the salt.

"Musgrave's Wavefront Chart Plotter. SEG Museum Collection."

Dr. Musgrave's paper on "Wave Front Charts and 3-Dimensional Migration," published in Geophysics, received the 1961 Best Paper Award. He received a similar award in 1958 for a paper on "Directivity Effect of Elongated Charges" (of which he was co-author). It is interesting that Dr. Musgrave was the first man to receive this award twice. There were a number of his other papers and presentations which would be a credit to most of us, but are only mentioned in passing here.

In 1954, Magnolia entered into an agreement with Dr. Burton McCollum involving the Thumper as an energy source. Dr. Musgrave steered this project for about two years, and, as it became operational, turned his attention to other applications of analog magnetic tape. His background and interest in expanding spreads, the continuous velocity log, wave front charts, and analog magnetic tape (by the use of which seismic events could be combined) made him see the potential of sophisticated analog playback machines. He was even "suspected" of dreaming digital!

Early Proponent of Digital

So Albert was very instrumental in persuading management to join Texas Instruments in the development of digital seismic recording and processing. We are all aware of the results of this "revolution."

During the last ten years, Dr. Musgrave has been primarily involved in data processing, the development and application of special projects, coordination between research and operations, and the supervision of certain special projects to advance exploration techniques. Concurrently, he contributed time and effort to both the SEG and civic affairs. He may be best remembered for receiving the Van Deist Award from Colorado School of Mines, or as Editor of the SEG Refraction Volume (1967), or as an SEG Distinguished Lecturer (1967-68). In addition, he has approximately nine patents; he served as First Vice-President of SEG; and he has had several offices (including President) of the Dallas Geophysical Society.

As write this summary of this young man's accomplishments, an re-impressed with how much he contributed in a short time. The wisdom of the Honors and Awards Committee and the approval of the Executive Committee is most appropriate. Albert, you and 27 others make up a true minority group one half of one percent of the present SEG active members. Congratulations!!

SEG Best Paper in Geophysics 1958

Albert W. Musgrave received the 1958 SEG Best Paper in Geophysics Award with G. W. Ehlert, and D. M. Nash, Jr. for their paper Directivity effect of elongated charges[1]


  1. Musgrave A. W., G. W. Ehlert, and D. M. Nash (1958) , Directivity effect of elongated charges GEOPHYSICS, VOL. XXIII, NO. 1 (JANUARY, 1958),PP. 81-96.