Howard Slack

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Howard Slack
Howard Slack headshot.png


Biography Citation for the Virgil Kauffman Gold Medal Award

Contributed by S.H. Ward


A fund has been established by Virgil Kauffman, former President of Aero Service Corporation, to encourage improvement in the science of geophysical exploration. Each year the Kauffman Gold Medal is awarded to a person who, in the opinion of the Honors and Awards Committee, has made a significant contribution toward the most outstanding advancement in the science of geophysical exploration during the previous year, or recognized as such during the previous year.

It is awarded this year to Dr. Howard A. Slack, Director of the Seismic Record Improvement Group, Atlantic Richfield Company, for "perfecting the Airborne Geomagnetic Gradiometer."

Dr. Slack has consistently maintained that "The development of the Airborne Geomagnetic Gradiometer was truly a cooperative venture involving personnel from Varian Associates, Aero Service Corporation, the Pure Oil Company and now the Union Oil Company of California. It is, in my view, the accomplishments of this group, rather than those of an individual, that the committee has chosen to recognize and reward."

It is in keeping with Dr. Slack's integrity and personality that he should expand his own major scientific contribution to include the lesser efforts of others. I have known Howard Slack as a colleague, employer, and friend since 1948. My first recollection of Howard's scientific endeavors centers around a collection of slabs of concrete poured by him adjacent to 49 St. George Street, the Geophysical Laboratory of the University of Toronto.

These were no ordinary slabs of concrete but were delicately controlled radioactive standards. Howard was concerned at the time with radioactivity mapping the Elsevier Batholith in Ontario, Canada. It is indeed a pity that these friendly slabs and all such student poured concrete have been removed in favor of major construction at the University of Toronto. Howard's concrete slabs were friendly and quite possibly as much an expression of his sense of humor as they were of his careful approach to science. Who else owned concrete with known radioactivities and decay times? Howard's sense of humor, leadership, integrity, pleasant and modest personality plus his ability to recognize the significant and reduce it to its elements have characterized his scientific career. The Kauffman Gold Medal is an outstanding award for an outstanding engineer Howard A. Slack.