Otto Ritzmann

From SEG Wiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Otto Ritzmann
Otto Friedrick Ritzmann headshot.png
Membership Honorary Member

Otto F. Ritzmann (1901-1966) was a pioneering geophysicist, noted for his large number of relevant scientific publications in Geophysics, and for his years of service in the Patent Division of Gulf. He was awarded both Honorary Membership and Life Membership in SEG.


by Ralph D. Wyckoff

Otto Friedrick Ritzmann, scientist for Gulf Research & Development Company and Patent engineer in the Patent Department, Gulf Oil Corporation, until his retirement in 1966, died suddenly of a heart attack on February 26 at his home on Bickingham Road, Fox Chapel Boro, Pittsburg, Pennsylvania.

He is survived by his wife, Louise, and daughter Louise Joy, at the home address. The daughter is currently attending College at Wellesley in Massachusetts. Also surviving from a previous marriage are a son, Robert W. Ritzmann of Kensington, Maryland, and two dughters, Mrs. Donald Stover of Waterloo, Iowa and Mrs. H. O. Plaus of Springfield, Massachusetts. A sister, Mrs. Earl Heacock resides in Philadelphia.

"Ritz," as he was known to his associates, was born in Philadelphia in 1901. He received his B. S. degree in Electrical Engineering at Pennsylvania State College and continued there to obtain his Masters Degree in Physics and Mathematics in 1924. During the following three years he held a teaching fellowship at the California Institute of Technology, completing all requirements for a Ph.D. in Physics except the thesis.

Ritz spet the year 1928 as an instructor at the Michigan College of Mines and the following year in the same capacity at Lehigh University where his work in electrical resistivity and electromagnetic prospecting methods undobutedly steered him permanently into the geophysical exploration field.

In June 1929, Mr. Ritzmann joined Dr. E. A. Eckhardt's embryonic Geophysics group of Gulf Research & Development Company. His assighment was interpretation and instrument developments in the seismic field, and in 1931 he acted as party chief of the first G. R. & D. C. seismic crew. With rapid increase in company-operated crews and concurrent instrumental requirements, Ritz was soon completely occupied with seismic instrument design, construction, and maintenance, and headed this phase of operations at the laboratory.

As the geophysical industry gre more patent conscience, Gulf's Patent Department exprienced the need for an expert in geophysical and electronic instrumentation. Ritz's interest and studies in the patend field and his wide experience in all phases of geophysics provided the perfect combination and led to his transfer in 1944 to Gulf Oil Corporation's Patent Department in Washington D. C. When the office was moved to Pittsburg in 1953, he accompanied the move back to earlier haunts and colser contact with his many friends at G.R. & D.C. It should be said that his keen interest in patent matters, coupled with an ability to grasp quickly the technical details of a new develoment, made him extremely effective throughout his twenty-two eyars in the patent service of Gulf. He retired in November, 1966.

Mr. Ritzmann was a member of the American Physical Society, AAAS, AGU, Patent Office Society, Philosphical Society of Washington, and Sigma Xi. He was a longtime member o the SEG and was recently elected to Honorary Member and he will long be remembered for his continous and excellent service in supplying the Geophysical Patent listing for the SEG Journal since that department was started about 1942.

The greatest tribute to Ritz as a man is his host of friends among his co-workers at Gulf and acquaintances in SEG who were shocked by his untimely passing.

We extend sincere condolences to his family.

Biography Citation for SEG Honorary Membership

Contributed by E. A. Eckhardt

Delivered by L. L. Nettleton

Otto F. Ritzmann, familiarly known to his many friends as Ritz, has, by a large margin, contributed more pages to the publication of the Society of Exploration Geophysicists than any other person. In every issue of GEOPHYSICS from April 1942 to June this year, in 111 issues he presented the abstracts of U.S. patents which are of basic interest to the practitioners of, and researchers in, geophysical prospecting. In April 1962, this service was expanded to include Canadian patents as well. His contributions to Geophysics also included two papers relating to patents.

Ritz was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on November 1, 1901, and, after graduation from Northeast High School in that city, attended Pittsburgh State College from which he earned a BS degree on Electromechanical Engineering in 1922 and an MS degree in Physics in 1924. He was an instructor at Penn State 1922-1924, a Teaching Fellow at California Institute of Technology 1924- 1927, an Instructor in Physics at both Michigan College of Mines 1927-1928 and at Lehigh University 1928-1929.

During 1927, the well-known resistivity experiments of Gish and Rooney were being made in the copper country of Northern Michigan and Ritzmann's presence at the College of Mines afforded contact with this work. This happenstance aroused his interest in electrical prospecting and ultimately led to his career in geophysics. He followed up the Gish and Rooney experiments with work of his own right at Lehigh. In June 1929 he joined what shortly thereafter became the Geophysics Division of Gulf Research & Development Company.

At the time of his joining it, GR&DC was engaged in a comprehensive study to identify the circumstances, if any, under which electrical prospecting procedures could be expected to be effective in the search for petroleum deposits. Ritzmann fit neatly into this program. Simultaneously GR&DC was engaged in the development of improved instruments for seismic methods of exploration. As the electrical prospecting studies approached their conclusion, Ritzmann was assigned to this work, which was to occupy his attention for a period of years.

Since GR&DC was engaged in geophysical field operations as well as in research and development, it was necessary that careful attention be paid to existing patents in the art, to avoid inadvertent infringement of any of these in the course of its operations. It also required a careful review of its own developments in order to insure available patent protection on the advance made and thus secure a patent position in the art vis-a-vis the patents held by others. Initially, Ritzmann shared the patent surveillance work with a number of colleagues but gradually became increasingly involved in it. Eventually the need for a central point of contact between GR&DC and the patent department of the patent corporation became obvious, and the qualifications of Ritzmann for appointment to the liaison post equally so. The position covered the full range of the activities of the Gulf Research Center. While so engaged, he was an active source of stimulation to his co-workers. He himself was awarded 13 U.S. patents during his activities at Gulf Research.

In 1944, Ritzmann was transferred to the patent department of Gulf Oil Corporation which was then situated in Washington, D.C. He qualified as a registered patent agent in 1947 and was transferred to the Pittsburgh home office as patent engineer in 1954, a position he has held to the date of his retirement this month.

In addition to SEG, he is a member of the American Geophysical Union, American Physical Society, American Association for the Advancement of Science, Philosophical Society of Washington, Physical Society of Pittsburgh, and the Patent Office Society.

His honors include Sigma Xi (1927), Life Membership in SEG (1954), and now Honorary Membership in SEG (1966).

His fellow members, especially those who were privileged to work closely with him, record their esteem and admiration for a distinguished career for which he is now being named an Honorary Member of this Society.

Biography Citation for SEG Life Membership

Contributed by L. L. Nettleton

At this time, the Society of Exploration Geophysicists presents an award which is entirely outside its regular program of recognition of special accomplishment. The recipient, Mr. O. F. Ritzmann, is an old-timer in geophysics, having joined the then very new Gulf Research Department in 1929. His previous career was academic, including B. S. and M. S. degrees at Pennsylvania State College, graduate work in Physics at California Institute of Technology, and teaching at Penn State, Michigan School of Mines, and Lehigh.

At Gulf, he began in the development of their first reflection seismograph equipment when there were about three traces on 35 mm paper and was in charge of the seismograph instrument section until 1944 when his increasing interest in patents resulted in his transfer to the patent department of the Gulf Oil Corporation in Washington. For the last year he has been back in Pittsburgh as Patent Engineer.

Mr. Ritzmann has performed a very special service to the Society of Exploration Geophysicists. Since October 1939, our journal, Geophysics, has carried a Patents section consisting of a classified list, with appropriate brief comments, of the recent patents of interest to the members of the Society. This list has run from a few to as many as 50 pages of closely printed type per issue. The amount of labor and the devotion to the Society represented by this section is much greater than is realized by most of our members. The special recognition being granted at this time is, indeed, well deserved.

Like so many things, the Patents section started in a small way. Originally it was part of a regular operation in the laboratories of the Gulf Research & Development Company, carried out first by Gary Muffly and B. Perkins, Jr., which was generously made available to the Society. When this function was taken over by Mr. Ritzmann in 1942, it was gradually expanded to include the wider interests represented by the members of the SEG. The expansion finally had to be curtailed when Ritzmann found himself burdened with patents on the bus, at home, and at all spare times, which were being perused for the benefit of SEG. The Patent section is a very large chore and the Society should be grateful for its steady accomplishment. Since being taken over by Mr. Ritzmann, the Patents section totals nearly 600 pages, a much greater volume of material than contributed by any other member of the Society.

It is a pleasure to me to have this opportunity to represent the Society of Exploration Geophysicists by presenting to you, Ritz, this life membership in the Society as a recognition of your service to the Society. May it represent in some small way our appreciation of what you have done for us.


  1. Wyckoff, R. D. (1967) Memorial, "GEOPHYSICS" 32(3):567-568.