Louis Slichter

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Louis Slichter
Louis Bryne Slichter headshot.jpg
Membership Honorary

Louis Bryne Slichter (May 19, 1896-March 25, 1978) was prominent physicist and geophysicist who made many contributions to our understanding of the Earth.

Honors and Awards

  • 1969 Honorary LL.D., UCLA
  • 1967 Honorary D.Sc., University of Wisconsin
  • 1966 Dedication of Slichter Hall at UCLA
  • 1963-1978 Professor Emeritus, UCLA
  • 1960 the chair of Geophysics Section at the National Academy of Sciences
  • 1960 the Jackling Award of the American Institute of Mining and Metallurgical Engineers (AIME)
  • 1959 an Honorary Life Membership in the Society of Exploration Geophysicists (SEG)
  • 1946 Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship
  • 1946 Presidential Certificate of Merit

Biography Citation for Honorary Membership

The constitution of the Society of Exploration Geophysicists states the object of the society shall be to promote the science of geophysics especially as it relates to exploration and research, to foster the common scientific interests of geophysicists, and to maintain a high professional standing among its members. The Society is privileged today to express its sense of appreciation and high esteem for one of its distinguished members, Dr. Louis Byrne Slichter. On every count and to an exceptional degree his work and contributions give real meaning and impetus to the fulfillment of the goals of the society.

Dr. Slichter was born in Madison, Wisconsin on May 19, 1896. He received a B.A. degree from the University of Wisconsin in 1917, and Ph.D. degree in Physics in 1922. From his boyhood days he was fortunate in being exposed to the stimulating influence of a university atmosphere and a challenge to excellence in all pursuits. Louis' father, Charles S. Slichter, was Professor of Mathematics and Dean of the Graduate School at the University of Wisconsin for many years. Louis was one of four sons, and it is no matter of chance that all four Slichter brothers succeeded to positions of eminence in the professional and business worlds.

Twice in his career, during World Wars I and II, Dr. Slichter took extensive "time out" in the service of his country. From 1917 to 1919 he served as Ensign in the U.S.N.R. and worked closely on submarine detection methods with Dr. Max Mason, who had been a student of his father at Wisconsin. Some of the acoustic detection devices they developed resembled "super stethoscopes" and were the forerunners of more sensitive devices used during World War II. From 1922 to 1924 Dr. Slichter continued these activities as a physicist for the Submarine Signal Corporation in Boston. Again in 1940 and 1941 as the clouds of World War II gathered he applied his full energy and talents to national defense efforts, and from 1941 to 1945 gave distinguished service in the development of magnetic and electromagnetic devices for detection of ships and submarines, as a member of Division Six of the National Defense Research Committee. In 1946 he was awarded the Presidential Certificate of Merit for these services.

Although Dr. Slichter's academic training was in the field of physics, his broad range of interests covered the fields of geology and exploration. Perhaps, because he came from the "hard rock" country of Wisconsin, and partly because the development of geophysical exploration methods for minerals somewhat preceded those for petroleum, Dr. Slichter switched his targets after the World War period from submarines to ore bodies. From 1924 to 1931 he was an active partner in the firm of Mason, Slichter, and Gauld This firm conducted extensive mining geophysical surveys in eastern and western Canada, in the western United States, and in South America. It is easy to imagine the wonder and amazement of mining geologists, in those relatively early days of geophysical prospecting, at attempts to apply Maxwell's Equations of Electromagnetism to the location of elusive ore bodies. Dr. Slichter's ability to manipulate equations in the rarefied atmosphere of Mathematical Physics was matched by his ability to carry on geophysical measurements in the thin air of the high Andes. It is a delight to hear Louis relate his experiences with geophysical operations at 16,000 fl elevations in Peru. His strong interests in mining geophysics have continued to the present time. He is the author of several outstanding papers in this field, and he has participated in and kept abreast of developments in the commercial field as a consultant to major mining companies.

It is evidence of his interest and service to the SEG that he is the invited speaker at the Mining Geophysics Luncheon of this national convention; and that he has been a valued member of the SEG since 1937.

Likewise Dr. Slichter has had a strong interest in the fields of seismic wave transmission, reflection, refraction, and scattering, and has contributed to the fields as author of several noteworthy papers, and as Director of the Institute of Geophysics at the University of California at Los Angeles since 1947. The selection of the Institute of Geophysics to carry out the oil industry supported American Petroleum Institute Project 59 in the field of Seismic Wave Scattering is evidence of the high regard in which Dr. Slichter and his staff are held by professional exploration geophysicists. Much excellent fundamental research in seismic scattering has been and is being carried out by the Institute of Geophysics.

Last but certainly not least worthy of mention is Professor Slichter's long and distinguished academic career as a scientist and teacher. After a year as Research Associate from 1930 to 1931 at the California Institute of Technology, Dr. Slichter served at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as Associate Professor of Geophysics from 1931 to 1932, and as Professor of Geophysics from 1932 to 1945. In 1944 he was elected a Member of the National Academy of Sciences. He served as Professor of Geophysics at the University of Wisconsin from 1945 to 1947 and received a citation "in recognition of eminent professional services" in 1947. During 1946 he held a Rockefeller Research Fellowship. Since 1947 he has served as Director of the Institute of Geophysics at UCLA. As Director of the Institute he has organized and sponsored a number of conferences on geophysics of the earth. These conferences at Rancho Santa Fe and UCLA have attracted outstanding geophysicists from all parts of the world, and have covered a wide range of subjects including evolution and development of the earth and continents, thermal history of the earth, rock magnetism, earth tides, and oscillations.

Truly Dr. Slichter's influence and contributions have been stimulating and of great and permanent value.

Dr. Louis Slichter, member of the SEG, inspired teacher and leader, distinguished scientist, and geophysicist, it gives me sincere pleasure and a high sense of honor to be the spokesman for our Society in handing you this Certificate of Honorary Life Membership in the Society of Exploration Geophysicists. It is a token of our high esteem and respect.