Curtis Johnson

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Curtis Johnson
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President year 1952

Curtis Johnson (1909-1976) was a pioneering geophysicist, noted for his scientific contributions and his leadership in industry. He served as the 1952-1953 SEG President.

SEG Presidential Biography [1]

Curtis H. Johnson was graduated from the University of California at Los Angeles in 1932 with an A.B. and Honors in Physics, and took postgraduate work in acoustics also at U.C.L.A. From 1933 to 1938 he was geophysicist and later chief geophysicist with Rieber Laboratory. From 1939 to the present date he has been employed by General Petroleum Corporation where he currently holds the position of assistant chief geophysicist.

Mr. Johnson is a member of the Society of Exploration Geophysicists, The American Association of Petroleum Geologists, and the American Geophysical Union. He has served the S.E.G. as vice chairrman of the arrangements committee for the national convention in Los Angeles in 1947, chairman of the program and arrangements committee for the 1947 Pacific Coast Regional Meeting and chairrman of the Pacific Coast program committee for the 1948 annual meeting. In 1948 he participated in the organization of the Pacific Coast Section of the Society of Exploration Geophysicists and was elected its first president. He is at present Vice President of the Society of Exploration Geophysicists, and is General Chairman of the program and arrangements committee for the Twenty-Second Annual Meeting which will be held March 23-26, 1952, in Los Angeles.

His other recent activities on behalf of the society include membership on the Standing Commmittee on Honors and Awards, 1949-50 and 195<>-51, and as member-at-Iarge on the Standing Commmittee on Program and Arrangements for the 1951 annual meeting.


Contributed by Carl H. Savit [2]

Curtis H. Johnson, "Curt" to his friends and associates, is remembered by all who knew him as a kind and warm human being. Always ready, willing, and able to help new arrivals to his world of geophysics, Curt is fondly recalled by senior geophysicists today as the guide and teacher of their younger days. He had the rare gift of being able to explain difficult technical methods and concepts in simple, easy-to-understand terms. Born in Utah in 1909, Curt made Southern California his lifetime home. His quick mind and dedicated effort as an undergraduate student at the University of California at Los Angeles earned him an Honors degree in physics in 1932. After a year of postgraduate work in acoustics at U.C.L.A., Curt entered the field of geophysics by associating himself with the newly formed Rieber Laboratories. Much of the mathematical and acoustical foundation of the Rieber Sonagraph method originated with Curt. During his five years first as geophysicist and later as chief geophysicist with the Rieber Laboratories, Curt gained the reputation of being always quick to lend a helping hand to friends and co-workers as well as to assume and carry to a successful conclusion all of the difficult and unusual jobs that came in.

In 1939 he joined General Petroleum Co. (now Mobil), leaving in 1953 to become European manager for G.S.I. He returned to his beloved California in 1957 where he hung out his shingle as a consultant. Five years later he joined the research staff of Western Geophysical in Los Angeles where he remained until 1969 when he was faced with the choice of moving to Houston. California won.

Curtis Johnson was a natural born organizer and leader. Having joined SEG in 1937, he became the organizer and, in 1948, was elected the first president of the Pacific Coast Section. He was elected an Honorary Life member of the section in 1969. In his nearly 40 years of service to SEG, he served on or chaired many committees, was Vice-President in 1951-52, and the next year was elected President of SEG.

Curt's important contributions to the science of exploration geophysics spanned more than three decades but were largely unrecognized during his lifetime. His work as part of the Rieber team in the 1930s (published, in part, in 1939) placed him among the originators of the phased-array or beam-steering concept while his 1971 patent, "Method of Seismic Prospecting," clearly established him as the original and sole inventor of signature deconvolution, a process whose power and importance are only now being recognized.

We have all lost something in the sudden passing of the brilliant but unassuming scientist, the warm and generous man who was Curt Johnson. We will all miss him but none more so than his understanding wife Helen and their son Douglas.


  1. Geophysics VOL. XVI number 4, October 1951 page 728.
  2. Geophysics, Vol. 43, No. 1, June 1977.

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