Cecil Green

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Cecil Green
Cecil H Green headshot.gif
Latest company Texas Instruments
Membership Honorary
BSc university University of British Columbia
MSc university Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Cecil Howard Green (August 6, 1900 – April 11, 2003) was a British-born American geophysicist who trained at the University of British Columbia and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He was a founder of Texas Instruments. With his wife Ida Green, he was a philanthropist who helped found the University of Texas at Dallas, Green College at the University of British Columbia, St. Mark's School of Texas, and Green College at the University of Oxford. They were also major contributors to the Cecil H. Green Library at Stanford University, the Cecil H. & Ida Green Graduate and Professional Center at the Colorado School of Mines, the Cecil & Ida Green Building for earth sciences at MIT (designed by I.M. Pei), and the Cecil and Ida Green Tower, the headquarters building of the SEG, in Tulsa.

Green served as vice president (1941-1951), president (1951-1955) and chairman of GSI (1955-1959). He also served as vice president and director of Texas Instruments and in 1976 was named honorary director of the company. He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1970. In 1979 Green and his wife were awarded the Public Welfare Medal from the National Academy of Sciences. Cecil Howard Green died in 2003 at the age of 102.

The growth of TI made Green an enormously wealthy man, and he and Ida quickly set about giving his wealth away. The Greens' philanthropic efforts totalled over $200 million, and most of this money was given to education and medicine. He was given an honorary knighthood in 1991 (at age 91) by Queen Elizabeth II.

One gift was the founding of the Cecil H. and Ida M. Green branch of the University of California Systemwide Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics (IGPP). This branch is located at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. It was because of Green’s generous gift that Green College, Oxford was founded in 1979. Green College merged with Templeton College in 2008 to become Green Templeton College, on the site of what was previously Green College.

Some of Green's philanthropy at the University of British Columbia (UBC) was encouraged by William Carleton Gibson, a neurologist in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. Both Gibson and Green referred to Gibson as "Cecil Green's most expensive friend" due to his encouragement to fund the Cecil and Ida Green Visiting Professorship and Green College, University of British Columbia. In 1998, the UBC Alumni Association gave Green and Gibson alumni "Lifetime Achievement Awards" in recognition of their support for the University.

Biography Citation for the Maurice Ewing Medal 1978

Contributed by Robert C. Dunlapp, Jr.

The Maurice Ewing Medal has been established as the highest award given by the SEG in honor of one of the greatest scientists of our times Dr. Maurice Ewing.[1] We know that he would be delighted that Cecil Howard Green is the first recipient of this award. Maurice and Cecil became friends during the World War II days when Maurice was struggling to obtain recognition and support for his oceanographic research. This developed into a very warm friendship that lasted until Maurice's untimely death in May 1974. It is significant that Maurice was the first scientist to occupy the Cecil and Ida Green Chair at the U. T. Marine Biomedical Institute. We believe that Maurice Ewing would strongly support the recommendation of the Honors and Awards Committee when it stated:

Cecil H. Green was active in SEG in its early years and served on the Executive Committee four years, being President in 1947-1948. He has made a number of technical contributions to the profession and has actively supported and endowed major geophysical schools, institutes, and chairs at several outstanding universities. He has done more to advance the profession of geophysical exploration than any other living person.

Cecil H. Green, born in Manchester, England, August 6, 1900, emigrated at the age of two with his parents, first to Eastern Canada, then to San Francisco just in time to experience the earthquake of April 18, 1906. We have on good authority that this was his first seismological observation.

This event precipitated an earlier decision by the family to move back to Canada--but, this time to Vancouver, B.C. So, Cecil's impressionable years, from age five to twenty-one, were spent in Western Canada where the scenic environment gave him a strong appreciation for nature and its importance to mankind. There he also received his basic education, from elementary school to halfway through his undergraduate years in applied science at the University of British Columbia. Practical experience was obtained during these years with summertime jobs as riveter's helper in a World War shipyard and as an electrician's helper in a copper smelter near the Alaska border.

In 1921, he transferred to MIT, where he obtained his B.S. and S.M. degrees in Electrical Engineering in 1924. In a cooperative educational program with General Electric Company, he completed his Master's thesis requirements at the GE plant in Schenectady, New York, where he also had the good fortune to meet his future wife, Ida Mabelle Flansburgh.

Ida and Cecil were married in 1926, and as the years passed, this became a true partnership in every sense of the word. Their desires are parallel; their goals are mutual; their consultation one with the other in continuous. Thus, when we speak of Cecil's accomplishments, we think of Ida as well.

In 1926, Cecil entered the emerging field of electronics by joining the fledgling Raytheon Manufacturing Company located on the edge of the MIT campus. However, he had a strong desire to live in the west, so in 1928 we find him in Palo Alto as an electronics development engineer in association with Charles V. Litton in Federal Telegraph, a unit of IT&T.

Still possessed by a spirit of adventure, Cecil became intrigued with reports of a new enterprise; the advent of reflection seismology in petroleum exploration. So, in October 1930, we find Ida and Cecil driving from Palo Alto to Maud, Oklahoma where he became party chief of one of the first crews launched by the newly organized Geophysical Service Inc. (GSI). In 1936, he became a field supervisor, which entailed pre-World War II travel to all domestic areas, Canada, Latin America, the Middle East, and Indonesia.

In late 1941 he became one of four partners in the reorganized GSI. Within days, World War II started with the attack on Pearl Harbor. During the war years, GSI also manufactured magnetic aerial detectors for the U.S. Na W Bureau of Aeronautics. This was the birth of what was to become Texas Instruments.

In the post-war years, Green was President and later Chairman of the Board of GSI and also Vice-President and a Founding Director of Texas Instruments. He recognized that with increased sophistication of instruments and techniques, the exploration industry required the addition of highly qualified and motivated people. He also recognized that conventional recruiting would not fill this need. In collaboration with Professor Robert R. Shrock, head of MIT's Department of Geology and Geophysics, an innovative Student Cooperative Orientation Program was initiated in 1950. For the following 17 years highly qualified students from all universities with strength in geophysical education were brought together annually. The chief purpose was to allow the students to test themselves regarding their degree of interest in exploration geophysics. This was accomplished by their involvement in field work following seminars conducted by leaders in all branches of the earth sciences from universities, governmental agencies, petroleum companies, and GSI. Many of today's leaders in geophysics are alumni of this program.

Cecil discovered there is no real dividing line between industry and education, or between work and pleasure. Thus, he found it natural to become directly involved in the problems and future plans of his educational associates. Also, as a generalist, he did not confine his interests to a single discipline. Thus, we find the interests of the Greens ranging from the earth sciences to general educational improvement and more recently to medical research.

It is well known that the Greens' philanthropy is extensive, but we doubt if even they could quickly compile a complete list. A few examples are MIT's Center of Earth Sciences, support of education and research at the Colorado School of Mines, Stanford University, IGPP at Scripps Institute of Oceanography, and the U.T. Marine Sciences Institute. In addition, they have endowed more than a dozen chairs and professorships in some of the world's leading educational institutions. The Greens do not think of their philanthropy as gifts but rather as "investments in pleasure." The entire scientific community has received rich dividends from these wise investments.

Philanthropy is just the beginning of Cecil's involvement. He gives something equally important--himself. He is deeply interested in people--their problems, their programs, their objectives, and anything else that concerns them. It matters not the nationality or status in life of the individual. He is equally at ease with an eminent scientist, a president of a great university, an exploration manager, or a helper on a seismic field party. Moreover, two years later he can recount the previous meeting and all that transpired. Cecil's love of people results in a very personal relationship which many have experienced but none can adequately describe. One of our great scientists said recently that without question Cecil is the most beloved person in our profession.

SEG is grateful for the leadership and contributions of Cecil Green over many years and already has honored him with Honorary Life Membership and as the first recipient of the Caveman Medal Award. He has served on many committees and was on the Executive Committee for four years. During his presidency, two very important events took place. The first was the launching of our local sections, first in Tulsa and then in Dallas. The second was the organization of the business office in Tulsa under Colleen C. Campbell.

Cecil has served on many universities' boards and visiting committees. He has received nine honorary degrees and many prestigious awards. As important as these are, we recognize him today not for the awards but for his many contributions to science, to engineering, and to mankind.

As Cecil H. Green receives The Maurice Ewing Medal, we know that he will be recalling many pleasant experiences in the thirty years of close association with Maurice Ewing. If Maurice could be present today, we know who would be standing tall and leading the applause as this medal is presented.

Biography of Cecil Green for SEG Honorary Membership 1954

Contributed by George E. Wagoner

Early Years and Education

Cecil H. Green was born in Manchester, England, in 1900 and came over to Canada at an early age. He attended grammar school and high school in Vancouver, British Columbia, and took a portion of his undergraduate work at the University of British Columbia. He then transferred to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where he obtained a Master's degree in Electrical Engineering in 1924.


His first position was with the General Electric Company at Schenectady where he served as a development engineer for the A. C. Engineering Division. During this time he also instructed in the G. E. Advanced Engineering Course.

It was on the banks of the Mohawk River that Green met and married Ida Maybelle Flansburgh in 1926. Miss Flansburgh little realized at that time what a nomad Green would turn out to be. The awakening came shortly though, and Green left GE to join the Raytheon Manufacturing Company, which an MIT classmate had helped to organize.

With Raytheon, he took part in the development of gaseous tube devices which had important applications in the first batteryless radio receivers.

A love of the West then took the Greens to Palo Alto, California, where Cecil joined the Federal Telegraph Company, a subsidiary of the International Telephone and Telegraph Company. This was a connection which Green enjoyed until the company moved its facilities back to Newark, New Jersey. Although he was in charge of the department devoted to making power transmitting tubes, Green decided against the move.

Another former associate, Roland F. Beers, who had also been an engineer with Raytheon, began telling Green about a new, rather fantastic business of applying physics to geology in the search for oil. Here was an entirely fresh challenge in a new technical field--and besides, it involved work in the wide open spaces. With this in mind the Greens settled down in earnest to this business of moving around and Cecil joined the newly formed Geophysical Service, Inc., as Chief of Seismic Party 310 at Maud, Oklahoma, in 1930. W. E. McDermott and Chester J. Donnally were key members of this party, and Ronald J. Cullen client representative of Twin States Oil Company, was the fellow who initiated Green's geological education.

After several years as party chief and then supervisor on various domestic operations, Green was given special assignments which fit in well with his love for travel. Prior to World War II he fulfilled supervisory assignments Canada, Colombia, Ecuador, India, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Sumatra.

In 1941 he was promoted to Vice President and in 1950 he assumed his present duties as President of GSI. Green has been proud of his Society of Exploration Geophysicists affiliation since the time that he, Fred Romberg, Hewitt Dix, Curt Johnson, Frank Morgan, Gene Vallat, and others formed the first geophysical study group in Los Angeles in 1939. He has the distinction of having served the SEG Executive Committee for four years, starting Secretary-Treasurer and ending as President of the Society in 1947-1948. As Vice-President, he and Henry Cortes were instrumental in establishing the first permanent office of SEG and employing Colin Campbell as SEG Business Manager.

Also during his term in office Green greatly encouraged the development of local and student sections in Society. Green has shown a strong personal interest education in the field of exploration geophysics.

Together with Dr. Robert R. Shrock of MIT. Green was instrumental in inaugurating, in 1951, a summer cooperative program designed to give selected college students the advantage of an extensive orientation session in applied geophysics and the opportunity of studying geophysics first-hand by performing summer work with a geophysical field party.

To date more than 100 students from colleges and universities across the nation have taken part in the plan. Success of the program in the United States prompted establishment, in 1952, of a similar plan in Canada. The Canadian plan was set up with the help of Dr. J. Tuzo Wilson of the University of Toronto.

Green has long maintained that geophysics is an art as well as a science, and, being an art, it is very dependent upon people. In inaugurating the student plan Green went on the theory that a person can watch an expert for years without becoming expert on anything but watching.

In recognition of his strong personal interest in education in the field of exploration geophysics and for service to the industry in general, he was presented with an honorary Doctor of Engineering degree from the Colorado School of Mines in 1953.

Cecil, it gives me great pleasure to present to you, on behalf of the Society of Exploration Geophysicists, this certificate which signifies the highest award that the Society can bestow upon an individual--a Life Honorary Membership.[2] [3]


{{#evt: service=youtube |id=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2MI5F_qQllg }} One hour interview of Cecil H. Green "How I became a Geophysicist, Part 1".

{{#evt: service=youtube |id=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b8limo7cC2s }} One hour interview of Cecil H. Green "How I became a Geophysicist, Part 2".


  1. "Maurice Ewing Medal" in Awards Citations of SEG (1998) SEG Press, Tulsa, Oklahoma. p.2-18
  2. Cecil H. Green Wikipedia article
  3. Texas Instruments web site, Founders' biography

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