Bird Swan

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Bird Swan
Bird G. Swan headshot.png
Latest company CONOCO

Bird G. Swan (1907-1999) was a pioneer in exploration geophysics and in the development of the exploration seismic prospecting method. He was a former Director of Geophysics for Conoco.

Memorial 2000 [1]

The geophysical exploration industry lost another of its pioneers with the passing of Bird Swan on 20 September 1999 at the age of 92. He was born in Cleveland, Indian Territory-Oklahoma 3 March 1907 before Tulsa (temporarily) became the “Oil Capital of the World.”

Bird started his career with Continental Oil Company (now Conoco) in 1929 and retired from Conoco as director of Geophysics in 1972. His career spanned 44 years, excluding a time out in 1931-32 to complete a bachelor’s degree in geological engineering from the University of Oklahoma, and allowed him to witness the evolution of exploration geophysics.

His first assignment was on a torsion balance crew operating in the vicinity of Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada for the Hudson’s Bay Oil and Gas Company, then a subsidiary of Conoco. Upon graduation from the University of Oklahoma, Bird was assigned to Conoco’s Seismic Party 1M which used five H. G. Taylor mechanical seismographs purchased from Geophysical Exploration Company. Each recorded a single trace (with the shotpoint one mile from the spread), and each required a separate operator. Costs for the seven-man crew in 1932 averaged $5902 per month. Bird’s job title was “computer.” He was responsible for interpreting the data using what was called “the principle of isolated correlation.” Over the next four decades, Bird participated in the use and sometimes in the development of such technological innovations as continuous pro- file recording and record sections, magnetic recording, digital systems, and vibroseis.

After his retirement, I talked with Bird often. He was always interested in discussing new geophysical developments.

Bird was active in SEG and local geophysical societies. In the 1940s-50s, he realized the importance of recording and trading information on velocities at well bores. For many years he was editor of SEG’s annual Index of Wells Shot for Velocity.He ended his active professional activities as the 1971-72 president of the Geophysical Society of Houston.

Bird is survived by three children and 13 grand- and great-grandchildren. His wife Isabel, died in 1988. She was known for her ceramics, glass and plastic art, oil painting, bridge, and golf.

Bird was a gentle and well-liked person. He loved golf and singing; he was very active in the Oklahoma Kiwanis Glee Club which entertained at Kiwanis national conven- tions for many years. He was a member of the Space City (Houston) Chapter of the Barbershoppers since 1967. I miss not making the phone calls and visits with Bird that I have had over the past 25 years.


  1. “Bill” Laing, W., Peacock, R., and Connor, P. (2000). ”Memorials.” The Leading Edge, 19(5), 548–549.