Ian MacLeod

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Ian MacLeod
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SEG Cecil Green Enterprise Award 2017

Ian N. MacLeod has shown vision, tenacity, and leadership to an extraordinary extent over the past 30 years by building Geosoft, which is the industry-leading potential fields/geochemistry/GIS software system. Geosoft began at the birth of the personal computer in 1982 when MacLeod and Colin Reeves, attracted by the interactive graphics capabilities of these new computers, developed the first geophysical applications for the IBM PC. Under MacLeod ’s leadership these early applications were adopted and expanded at Paterson, Grant and Watson Ltd., and later spun out as an independent business that has grown to a dominant worldwide status, with more than 130 employees and thousands of customers.

Biography Citation for the SEG Cecil Green Enterprise Award 2017 [1]

by Colin Reeves

Ian N. MacLeod recognized at an early stage the emergence of personal computer (PC) technology and its potential application to data processing and interpretation in nonseismic geophysics.

Despite significant starting difficulties — not the least of which were financial — he made a successful business out of delivering the solutions that have become Geosoft, the software of choice for geophysicists worldwide. His hard work, integrity, and personal modesty combined with a strong intellect delivered a computational workbench that is now, after more than 30 years, second nature for thousands of users, supported by a company infrastructure that has won awards for employee friendliness. As its self-designated chief technologist, Ian still shoulders the responsibility of looking into the future of information and communication technology to ensure that Geosoft retains its place there.

The IBM-PC broke new ground with its launch in August 1981. Ian and I saw its potential for geophysical applications with its affordability, new-age screen graphics, and the promise of becoming an accepted office accessory worldwide. Inside was an operating system by a little-known company called Microsoft.

We pooled our resources and bought our very own IBM-PC on 5 March 1982. Important for context in our present age of rapid data transfer, my diary records that three nine-track aeromagnetic grid tapes were dispatched from Ottawa to us in Toronto the day before — by bus! We had our new hardware and immediately set about writing, out-of-hours, the geophysical software that might find application in our day jobs at Paterson, Grant and Watson Limited (PGW). Somewhere along the line, our software initiative acquired the name Geosoft. The embryonic Geosoft was left with only one parent when I left Toronto in August 1983. But Ian was exactly the right man to nurture the concept to fruition. The spawning of a PC-based software house from within an established consulting practice with a history of offsite mainframe computer use was not easy. Few people realized that such new-fangled hardware, with appropriate software, could undertake grown-up tasks like drawing contour maps. Making the business case for it took a lot more than determination, including not only putting his own job at risk but also investing from his own financial resources to solve cash-flow problems. Eventually, Ian took the brave decision to incorporate Geosoft, separate from PGW, in 1986.

From such small beginnings, the enterprise grew into a structure with offices on all the main continents of the mineral exploration world and expanded into related fields where data processing and map-making expertise were required. “Knowledge from data” became the masthead, and the quality of the product and back-up service became legion from the outset. The needs of the client were always paramount, and a company structure where only those on the payroll could own shares ensured that their needs were never subordinated to those of shareholders.

For more than 30 years, Ian has provided the foresight to remain at the forefront of clients’ software needs and continues to look to the future in a rapidly changing world so that he and the company’s 120 staff members retain Geosoft’s relevance and preeminent market position. One measure of success is that rival software boasts of being “Geosoft compatible,” another that Geosoft formats are routinely specified for data delivery in survey contracts worldwide.

It is a de facto standard that the whole industry benefits from, in other words. Recently, Geosoft has assisted countries in Africa with web-accessibility of their precompetitive national geophysical and geologic data sets. Explorers everywhere benefit from such ease of data distribution in general and having Geosoft at hand to organize, process, and present the data. In this way, the added value of the intellectual input from thousands of users is maximized. We are all indebted to Ian for his singular contribution to this.




  1. (2017). ”Honors and Awards.” The Leading Edge, 36(10), 806–819. http://dx.doi.org/10.1190/tle36100806.1
  2. Whaley, J., 2017, Oil in the Heart of South America, https://www.geoexpro.com/articles/2017/10/oil-in-the-heart-of-south-america], accessed November 15, 2021.
  3. Wiens, F., 1995, Phanerozoic Tectonics and Sedimentation of The Chaco Basin, Paraguay. Its Hydrocarbon Potential: Geoconsultores, 2-27, accessed November 15, 2021; https://www.researchgate.net/publication/281348744_Phanerozoic_tectonics_and_sedimentation_in_the_Chaco_Basin_of_Paraguay_with_comments_on_hydrocarbon_potential
  4. Alfredo, Carlos, and Clebsch Kuhn. “The Geological Evolution of the Paraguayan Chaco.” TTU DSpace Home. Texas Tech University, August 1, 1991. https://ttu-ir.tdl.org/handle/2346/9214?show=full.