Reginald Neale

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Reginald Neale
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Latest company Geophysical Development Corporation

Reginald N. (Reg) Neale (1934-2000) was a geophysicist who was one of the founding members of Geophysical Development Corporation. He was honored posthumously with the Cecil Green Enterprise Award with co-founders Fred Hilterman adnd John Sherwood in 2004.


Hilterman, F. (2001). ”Memorial.” The Leading Edge, 20(2), 215–215.[1]

Reginald (Reg) N. Neale , 66, of Houston, passed away peacefully at home on 5 November 2000 surrounded by his family.

He was born in Manchester, England in 1934, attended King’s College (London) and the Sorbonne (Paris) for undergraduate and master’s degrees, and achieved a PhD in geophysics from Imperial College (London) in 1959. He spent time with BP in the United Kingdom and Libya, before emigrating to the United States to join Chevron in 1965.

He held several senior technical and management positions with Chevron, and subsequently with Tenneco (chief geophysicist) and Digicon (vice-president). In 1981, Reg cofounded Geophysical Development Corporation (GDC) where he served as president until 1999 when he stepped down to spend additional time traveling. Reg was a practical geophysicist who understood theory but didn’t let it interfere with delivering the best possible product in a timely fashion. He will be remembered for his passion of solving rugged-terrain seismic problems, especially the “dune problem” that he encountered while in Libya and again when he established a GDC office in Algeria. During the last year, Reg was still active at GDC as vice-president of Business Development.

He was a long-time member of SEG, AAPG, EAGE, GSH, HGS, and IAGC. Reg served the geophysical community in numerous capacities: chairman of the Distinguished Lecturers Committee, Associate Editor of GEOPHYSICS, geophysical committee representative for the Advanced Computation Technology Initiative, organizer of numerous geophysical workshops, and invited speaker at many professional meetings.

Reg spoke three languages fluently and several others well, read voraciously and was a life-long believer in challenging conventional beliefs. He was an active “social-lite,” an avid sailor, a devoted patron of the local arts, a loving father and grandfather, and a good friend to a large and diverse circle of people. Reg will be missed by both the Houston and geophysical community and will be remembered for his humor, intellect, and his active passion for traveling to the farthest and most exotic corners of the earth.

Cecil Green Enterprise Award 2004

The founders of Geophysical Development Corporation (GDC) are being honored with the Cecil Green Enterprise Award for their courage and risk of personal resources and for its distinct and worthy contribution to the geophysical industry. GDC was founded on 21 April 1981 by Fred Hilterman, John Sherwood, and the late Reg Neale. Much of the financing came from the sale of personal assets like life insurance policies and annuities, and taking on personal debt. The group underwrote expenses the first year by teaching training courses at major oil companies and other such “odd jobs.” During GDC’s first nine months, none of the principals received a salary, and client projects and software development often kept them working until late in the evening and sometimes into the next day. Early projects included hazard studies in Alaska and conventional projects in the Bering Sea, Africa, the North Sea, West Texas, and Algeria. GDC was highly respected in the seismic community as a company that was on the forefront of developing new technology. In addition to SOLID, an early 3D elastic modeling program, GDC developed tomography, depth imaging, anisotropy, and AVO techniques that both advanced the state-of-the-art and added to profitability. GDC was purchased by Geokinetics in the fall of 1997. Sadly, Reg developed cancer in January 2000; he fought a tough battle until his death in November of that year. John left the company in the fall of 1998 to become a partner in Applied Geophysical Software. Fred stayed with the company through his five-year contract and left recently to teach full time at the University of Houston.

Biography Citation for the Cecil Green Enterprise Award

Contributed by R. Christopher Neale

Reg was widely recognized as a talented geophysicist and a skilled entrepreneur who always added wry humor to his work and play. He started life in Manchester, England as Reginald N. Neale, but all his friends and associates knew him as Reg. He was the son of a butcher, and was proud of being the first in his family to attend university. He did his undergraduate studies at King's College in London. His childhood dream was to become a meteorologist, but the earth sciences captured him with a balance of soft theory and hard rocks. He moved to Paris for his MSc at the Sorbonne, where he learned French and was imbued with a bon vivant attitude that lasted the rest of his life. He returned to London to complete his PhD in geophysics at Imperial College.

Reg began his professional career as a staff geophysicist with BP. He was transferred almost immediately to Libya in an attempt by BP to round off any overtly academic corners he might have. He spent much time in the desert with acquisition crews, gaining a hands-on knowledge of then current acquisition techniques. Unfortunately, he also acquired a case of tuberculosis. After a recuperation period, he transferred back to London and its dreary weather. But he soon answered the siren's call of good weather and outstanding opportunity by taking a job with Chevron in 1966 at its research facility in La Habra, California, U.S. Two years later he moved to Houston to work for Chevron Geophysical on data processing applications and practical problem solving. Spanning his time at La Habra and his early years in Houston, he made annual visits to Britain where he recruited a number of geophysicists and so contributed to the British brain drain. While in Houston, Reg managed the SAS Group, a team of diverse, talented, and occasionally unruly applied researchers. In 1977, after a two-year tour in San Francisco with Chevron Overseas, he left Chevron to join Tenneco in Houston and in 1980 moved on to Digicon.

It was upon leaving Digicon in 1981 that his true entrepreneurial ambitions were realized. Reg co-founded Geophysical Development Corporation with Fred Hilterman and John Sherwood. This was a time of extreme personal stress for Reg. He had recently lost family back in the U.K. and he had put much of his own personal net worth at risk and timed the market quite imperfectly (1982, remember?). But with the combined skills of Neale, Hilterman, and Sherwood, the company proved highly successful. Reg, at the helm as president, was responsible for bringing in the bread and butter projects that laid the foundation for the brilliant research-oriented work performed by Fred and John. In 1986, while other companies were cutting back, GDC made a strategic decision— rather than laying off staff, GDC reduced everyone's salary with Reg, Fred, and John shouldering most of the burden. When times improved, the result was a company with unheard of company loyalty. An often said phrase was that "GDC was just like one big family."

The combination of solid business skills and an acute sense of the market and customers' needs, while maintaining a reservoir of good humor, allowed Reg and partners to guide GDC to industry recognition as a boutique processing house that was the go-to company for problems too thorny for others to solve. In addition to adding value for their customers, GDC laid the groundwork for AVO and depth imaging which became a significant part of its technology in the 1990s and today.

In 1998, Geokinetics acquired GDC to complement its strong acquisition capabilities. Reg's involvement began to wane as he looked toward retirement where he could spend more time with his grandchildren and build a beach house in Galveston. Tragically, Reg succumbed to cancer in late 2000 before he could enjoy the full fruits of his labors. He is sorely missed by family, and by his many friends and colleagues, some of whom helped with this citation.