Norman Neidell

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Norman Neidell
Norman S. Neidell headshot.jpg
Membership Life Member


Norman S. Neidell is a geophysicist noted for being a leader in both the science of geophysics and a leader in industry.


Biography Citation for SEG Life Membership

Contributed by John W. C. Sherwood


Norman Neidell and I first met in the mid 1960s at a UCLA summer course on dynamic programming. Although I now have only vague recollections of the course, I vividly remember this period of acquaintanceship with Norman because it was evident we approached and viewed geophysics so differently.

We both had studied at Imperial College in London, but Norman had also obtained a degree in mathematics at New York, followed by graduate studies in physics at Brown, a Ph.D. in geodesy and geophysics at Cambridge (where he was obviously influenced by Sir Edward Bullard), plus six months of practical oceanography aboard various research vessels.

Norman's versatility, broad range of interests, and superb ability to express himself on various topics were particularly noteworthy and contrasted with my expertise in a relatively narrow field. Norman exhibited an uncanny ability to extract the significant issues in a description of complex research and would then proceed to describe them far more lucidly than the research originator. In 1965 Norman was already an expert in stimulating discussion, a unique quality that has since been evidenced numerous times at SEG technical sessions and through articles and letters in The Leading Edge.

With his broad range of interests, it was not surprising to see Norman leave Gulf R&D after four years and join Seiscom Delta in 1968. Here he became technical assistant to the president, following similar activities with the chairman and director of research.

Since 1971 Norman has lived a diversity of experiences that could be contemplated by only a few. At that time he founded the still flourishing N. S. Neidell and Associates, a consulting firm oriented to signal processing with special emphasis on locating and defining hydrocarbon reservoirs. He also became a lecturer, and later an adjunct professor of geophysics, at the University of Houston. In 1973 he helped found GeoQuest International and was associated with the GeoQuest companies until 1982. During this time he conceived and contributed directly to the AIMS modeling system, still widely used today.

From 1977 to 1987 Norman was director, chairman, and president of Zenith Exploration which he co-founded. Zenith began as an operating oil and gas company based on high technology methods for stratigraphic exploration and later offered its technology on a service basis to industry clients.

Gandalf Explorers International, another company co-founded by Norman in 1989, was merged into MMS Energy PLC where he has since served as a director and technical advisor. His theory of dolphin echolocation led him to found Delphian Signals, which helps to occupy some of his spare time! Most of Norman's recent attention has been devoted to Wavefield Image Inc., his vehicle for developing wavefield imaging technology. Here Norman has aggressively pushed an unconventional philosophy for acquiring sparser, higher fold seismic data in an attempt to cut acquisition costs but also improve imaging resolution. His efforts have stimulated wide interest and attention to this important topic and have promoted healthy discussion from which the geophysical profession must ultimately gain. It is only recently, in July, that Norman joined Zydeco Energy as vice-president of innovations, merging his Wavefield Image into that company.

Despite this overwhelming set of activities, Norman has found time to act as an expert witness in numerous oil and gas disputes. His wealth of publications, reports, and presentations around the world is awesome. With this intense level of activity, it is not surprising that Norman has always been keen to contribute his talents and time to SEG, AAPG, SPE, and other organizations, particularly through continuing education programs. With his dedicated efforts, inquiring mind, and active stimulation, it is indeed appropriate that SEG should honor Norman with Life Membership.