Paul Weaver

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Paul Weaver
Paul Weaver headshot.jpg
President year 1932
Membership Honorary Member

Paul Weaver was a pioneering geophysicist/geologist who served as the 1932-1933 SEG President. Paul Weaver served as the first Editor of ''Geophysics'' 1931-1932.[1]

Biography Citation for Honorary Membership

Contributed by L. L. Nettleton

It is doubtful that there is a geophysicist-geologist in the profession today who is as well known for the great breadth and variety of information at his command as the "walking encyclopedia" who is the third recipient of an honorary membership in the SEG to be granted at this time. How does a mind with such an unusual capacity for assembling information get to be that way?

Born at Carrolton, Kentucky, on the Ohio River, Paul Weaver's father and mother both were teachers. As a boy of nine his interest in science was first aroused when a Professor Miller, from Transylvania, a small college in Kentucky, came to collect fossils and happened to engage the boy to drive a surrey, take care of the horses and help with the collections. There were Indian mounds and, under the Professor s guidance, he began to pick up Indian relics. Later, when his father became head of Brooklyn Boys' High School, this interest was continued and expanded by special classes and collecting trips for plants, insects and rocks, conducted by an inspiring woman of the children's Museum of the Brooklyn Institute. An early manifestation of his varied capabilities was a study of Greek with his father which led to his entering Columbia University with the highest entrance examination grade in Greek ever made there. Then, to show another facet of a diverse mind, while at Columbia, he won a mathematics prize for papers on partial differential equations and on the theory of probability.

His first job out of college was as a mathematician with the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey in Washington. After he had been there a year or so a small group of geologists of the Land Classification Board, within the U.S. Geological Survey, decided that they needed a mathematician to carry out some rather complex calculations for the evaluation of coal lands, which required an analysis of thickness, quality, and depth of the coal beds. Bill Heroy, of that group, who later became a geophysicist also, was commissioned to find a mathematician. He took his problem to William Bowie, whom many geophysicists know of for his work on Isostacy, and Paul's name was suggested. He was transferred to the Survey and thus began his first professional work in geology.

In another year, young Weaver became a good enough geologist to go to Trinidad and Venezuela with an oil company. This expedition ended in a year or so when he became so seriously ill with black water fever that he was about to be buried by the natives in his camp. But after being home a month or two he was back on his feet and went to Mexico for S. Pearson & Sons. His stay there was interrupted in 1914 by a revolution and Paul went to London with Whitehall Petroleum Corporation. This job was soon ended by the beginning of the First World War. He then joined British Intelligence and was sent to Japan to investigate mineral resources there and in Siberia. After that job was done he returned to Mexico where for some ten years he was superintendent and technical advisor for the Mexican Eagle Oil Co. While there he pioneered in devising equipment to handle the gushers of the Tampico area and also started torsion balance surveys before they were used in the Gulf Coast. In 1926 he came to Houston with the Gulf Oil Company as geophysicist, later chief geophysicist and finally technical advisor to the Vice President until his retirement two years ago.

Paul had been known to geophysicists and geologists for his writings and also for his many lucid and fascinating talks and lectures. He has always had a fund of new ideas and suggestions in many fields. For instance, at the time of a visit to Europe in the early 1920's the only torsion balance was the Zuess instrument, manufactured in Hungary under the direction of Professor Eotvos himself. This instrument was read visually through a small telescope. Paul thought it would be practical and much better if the instrument could be designed to be automatic in operation and with photographic recording. From this suggestion came the well known Bamberg torsion balance which shortly thereafter was put to work in Mexico.

After coming to Houston, Weaver became interested in water supplies in the Houston area and in Texas in general. His ground water studies made him one of the first to realize that a priceless resource was being wasted and he began to preach water conservation. After retirement from the Gulf company he began teaching at Texas A & M and has continued his water conservation campaign. His public service has been recognized by his being named to the Governor's Water Committee of Texas, on the water committee of the South Texas Chamber of Commerce, and as a delegate to the United Nations Conference on Natural Resources. He has been honored both as a geophysicist and a geologist, having been President of the SEG in 1933 and of the AAPG in 1948.

Anyone who has known Paul Weaver or his friends has heard anecdotes about him will mention two that seem typical.

One time he was discussing the manner by which a young man read very rapidly by scanning two lines of type at a time. Paul said "that is pretty good but take three going across and one coming back." Presumably this was for reading in English and may not apply to his reading in Spanish, Portuguese, French, German, Italian, Russian or Greek.

Another comes from an experience when he was on Saldqalin Island for British Intelligence during the First World War. It was desirable to make a hydrographic map of certain harbor entrances to see if they were deep enough to accommodate large ships but such mapping would have to be done secretly. How would you do that in mid winter with the harbor frozen over? Paul hired natives to fish for him through the ice at places he selected. He equipped them with fish lines marked with a code of knots to map his fishermen's locations, noted the positions of the colored knots on their lines and had depth points because, in winter there, the fish feed on the bottom. The fishermen never knew why they were moved around so much, regardless of whether they caught fish or not, but Paul had his map.

I am happy and honored to have been selected to present to Paul Weaver, scholar, scientist, geologist, pioneer geophysicist, public servant, and highly regarded personal friend, this honorary membership in the Society of Exploration Geophysicists.


  1. Clark, D. (2010), Out of the past. The Leading Edge," 75(5), 75A263-75A271.

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