Biography Citation for SEG Honorary Membership
Contributed by Jon Claerbout
We who practice the profession of exploration geophysics are profoundly aware of the great changes that have taken place during the past half century in the way our science is practiced. We are accustomed to honoring the scientists who publish the pioneering papers, and the inventors who devise the new instruments and techniques that have effected those changes. It is only fitting, therefore, that we should honor a businessman-scientist who has laid the groundwork for a significant part of the postwar flowering of geophysical technology.
The changes pioneered by Booth B. Strange have contributed in a fundamental way to the vast improvements that we have experienced in the past 40 years in both the efficiency and technical prowess of seismic exploration. When geophysical exploration returned to normal after World War II, all contractor-owned geophysical crews operated under time-and-materials contracts from oil companies. The successful contracting companies were those that could do an acceptable job at the lowest cost per month. The overwhelming pressure was to reduce capital, labor, and overhead costs to a minimum while retaining acceptable quality. Most of the serious research and development that was done by the oil companies was kept proprietary or licensed at high royalty rates. There was little or no incentive to increase productivity; i.e., miles per day. Company crews operated along standards common in the industry and did not appreciably alter the situation.
In the early 1950s it was Booth's introduction of turnkey operations, contracting on a per-mile basis rather than on a per-month basis, that shifted the incentive toward increased productivity. It became profitable to invest in better equipment and more equipment, and to add manpower to increase productivity and lower the cost per mile. Results have been dramatic, particularly in marine operations.
Not long after the introduction of turnkey contracting, Booth persuaded the management of his company, Western Geophysical, to gather data without having a contract. Within two years several other companies were following suit and gathering "spec" data. At this point it became profitable to invest heavily in research and development because spec data not only competed in price, but more importantly, in quality. In recent years, the major contracting companies have vastly increased their R & D budgets and activities. The rate of progress in our profession has been at an all-time high, a circumstance that owes a great deal to the drives and profits from spec shooting.
Not content with creating the incentives and atmosphere for increased efficiency and effectiveness of seismic exploration, Booth continued to apply his background and training received by earning an engineering degree (with highest honors) from the University of Oklahoma. Booth joined Western Geophysical after his graduation in 1936. During his years with Western, he not only carried out his ever-increasing administrative and executive responsibilities, but he used his problem-solving talents to devise methods and apparatus for which he received 11 U.S. patents. Even after he became president of his own company in 1965, and chairman of the board 13 years later, he continued to apply his inventive talents to petroleum industry problems, receiving his most recent patent in 1981.
Throughout his career, Booth demonstrated the validity of the recognition he received from the University of Oklahoma as the "outstanding student" of his class. His natural administrative talents enabled him to choose able employees and to allow them to exercise their abilities to the fullest. He was consistently quick to recognize promising new technologies and to back their development. Under Booth's leadership not only did Western support many university programs, but its own research and development establishment grew to unprecedented size and quality.
Booth Strange, while not personally active in SEG affairs, encouraged and facilitated active participation by Western employees and set new standards of corporate support for the scholarship and public-service activities of the SEG foundation.
I am pleased and proud to have been asked by Booth to prepare this citation for his well-deserved award.