John Northwood

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John Northwood
E. John Northwood headshot.jpg
Latest company Shell Oil Group, Standard Oil Group of California, Chevron West in Denver, Standard Oil Co. of Texas in Houston
President year 1977
Membership SEG, CSEG, EAEG, and AAPG
BSc University of Toronto 1944

E. John Northwood (1922-2009) was the 1997-1998 SEG President.


The family of E. John Northwood is deeply saddened to announce that the long-time SEG member and former president (1978-79) passed away in Tiburon, California on October 26, 2009 at age eighty-seven.

John Northwood was born in Toronto, Canada in 1922. He attended Upper Canada College, Trinity College, and the University of Toronto, and graduated in 1942 with a bachelor’s degree in engineering physics. He soon joined Canada’s Naval Reserve, received special training in the use of radar, and spent the remainder of World War II on escort vessels for convoys in the North Atlantic. Near the end of the war, he married his lifelong partner Carol. After the war, he had a brief stint in mining geophysics before joining Shell. Shell asked if he was interested in a foreign assignment and gave him the choice of New Guinea or Venezuela. He went to Maracaibo and worked there until 1949 when he and his family were transferred to Calgary. He moved to Edmonton in 1952 to work as chief geophysicist for Shell in Alberta. However, after a year of the Edmonton weather, he left Shell to join Dominion Oil and moved to Port-of-Spain, Trinidad where he spent six years.

In 1958, he transferred to Denver and became the chief geophysicist for Chevron’s Rocky Mountain Operations. In 1965, he transferred to Houston, Texas as chief geophysicist for Standard Oil Company of Texas (Chevron). His last move within Chevron was to San Francisco in 1968 as chief geophysicist of the newly formed Chevron Overseas Petroleum, Inc. His highest position there was exploration manager, Africa. He retired from Chevron in 1982 and joined Transcontinental Energy of Shreveport, Louisiana as exploration manager. After two-three years, he returned to his home outside San Francisco in Tiburon and began a consulting business. In the 1990s, he began a long-time relationship as a consultant for Japex. He enjoyed that work, made several trips to Japan, and continued the association until he was eighty-four. He is survived by his beloved wife Carol (of sixty-seven years), three children, three grandchildren, and a great-grandchild.

John Northwood was a dedicated scientist, businessman, and a generous family man. His intellect spanned several fields; he authored several scientific papers for Geophysics and, on many occasions in his senior years, volunteered as a docent for the California Academy of Sciences Museum. He also served as a judge in science fairs and pursued his love of classical music, sailing, and travel. His accomplishments over a long life only begin to describe what a remarkable person he was, and his life serves as a beacon to all those who knew him. —John Northwood Jr. [1]

Biography for SEG President Elect Candidacy

E. John Northwood, candidate for President, had been an SEG member for 26 years. He had been Chairman of the Governmental Affairs Committee for the past three years when the Society had shifted from a passive to an active role in government relations. He served as the first vice-president of the society in 1969-70 and was chairman of the Digital Format Standards Committee, which developed the SEG ?A& B?Formats. He had been active in the Denver, Houston, and Bay Area Sections, as vice-president of the Denver Society and president of the Bay Area Geophysical Society.

He has published in GEOPHYSICS and has presented a number of technical papers. He was a contributor to the SEG textbook on refraction. He was a member of the SEG, CSEG, EAEG, and AAPG.

Northwood's professional career involved research, operations, and interpretation. After receiving his B.A.Sc [B.A.Sc]. in engineering/physics from the University of Toronto in 1944, he began with Lundberg Associates in Toronto, and then joined the Shell Oil Group in 1946 as a seismologist. He worked with Shell in Texas, The Netherlands, and Venezuela, where he progressed to party chief. He then moved to western Canada in 1949 and became division geophysicist with Shell in 1952.

In 1953 he joined the Standard Oil of California Group in Trinidad, becoming chief geophysicist of Dominion Oil Ltd. in 1956. He was chief geophysicist for Chevron-West in Denver in 1959 and chief geophysicist of Standard Oil Co. of Texas in Houston in 1963. Since 1969 he had been in San Francisco as chief geophysicist of Chevron Overseas Petroleum Inc. [2]


  1. Northwood, J., Jr., Gafford, B., and Stringer, H. (2010). ”Memorials.” The Leading Edge, 29(1), 108–108.[1]
  2. Geophysics Vol. 42, No. 4, June 1977.

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