Milford Lee

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Milford Lee
Milford Lee headshot.png
Latest company Conoco
PhD Physics


Milford R. Lee was one of the patent holders, with John M. Crawford and William E. N. Doty on the process known as Vibroseis, which revolutionized the land-based exploration seismic surveys.

Biography Citation for the Reginald Fessenden Award 1967

Contributed by Craig Ferris

In 1954, Bill Doty and John Crawford were granted the patent on vibroseis, which has been developed by the Continental Oil Company. Five years later a second patent was granted to Bill Doty and Milford Lee.

My first recollection of Vibroseis dates back to about twelve years ago. I was visiting one of our gravity crews, in the field, in an effort to better understand one of our gravity anomalies, which was some fifty miles northwest of Carlsbad, New Mexico. As I drove along the road I came upon a strange contraption. I stopped to look it over. I was curious, took a second look and to my amazement Bill Doty came walking up the geophone spread. Bill Doty was equally surprised to see me. He surmised there had been a "leak" regarding their Vibroseis. He thought I was "scouting" their Vibroseis crew. It was some three or four years later before Bill Doty realized I was too dumb to know that I was looking at their Swinging Weight Vibrator.

Another true story. A rancher in West Texas saw a Vibroseis crew working. He told his neighbor of seeing a strange monster, which raised its wheels in the air and then had a "chill."

The development of Vibroseis has been a "team" effort. Two young scientists, John Crawford, and Bill Doty collaborated on an idea. John Crawford and Bill Doty pursued their ideas with Bill Doty assembling and testing the equipment while John Crawford fought the money and priority battles with management. A third young scientist, Milford Lee, who had just received his Ph.D. in Physics, joined Continental Oil Company a few months after the conception of the first ideas on Vibroseis. Milford Lee immediately became embroiled in the thinking and hard work, which went with the development of Vibroseis. Milford Lee is still very active in the many innovations, which are being added to the Vibroseis system. Last, but not least, it was Continental Oil Company that appropriated huge sums of money for the development of Vibroseis.

Although John Crawford, Bill Doty, and Milford Lee were convinced Vibroseis would work, it was an uphill struggle to convince some of their colleagues that Vibroseis was a usable seismic tool. Vibroseis was tried in some of the most difficult NR areas. As in the case of Bill Doty in New Mexico, they had to prove that Vibroseis would produce usable seismic records.

The perseverance has paid off handsomely.

Since 1954, many persons have contributed to the Vibroseis system. Continental Oil Company has licensed Vibroseis to most of the major seismic contractors.

I have talked to many people regarding Vibroseis competitors, colleagues, and licenses say the following:

1. It is an elegant addition to our seismic techniques.
2. It is a versatile, universal, unique seismic tool.
3. It is a terrific advance in seismic prospecting.
4. It is the most important contribution to seismology since the introduction of the reflection seismograph.

These are but a few of the accolades, which denote the high esteem in which Vibroseis is held by your colleagues.

John Crawford, Bill Doty, Milford Lee, by Vibroseis you have made a distinct and unique contribution to the science of Geophysics. You have literally shaken and vibrated the seismic world. You have made an outstanding contribution to mankind. You are gentlemen and scholars. This world needs more men like you.

Oklahoma is proud of you. The United States is proud of you. The international Society of Exploration Geophysicists is proud of you. In recognition of your contribution Vibroseis to the science of Geophysics, the Society of Exploration Geophysicists presents you the SEG Medal Award.