Roland Henderson

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Roland Henderson
Roland G. Henderson headshot.png
Membership Honorary Member


Biography Citation for SEG Honorary Membership

Contributed by Elizabeth R. King


Roland G. Henderson's contributions to the development and application of potential field methods have earned him worldwide recognition and make him a most fitting recipient of Honorary Membership in SEG. As a friend and colleague of Roland's, I heartily concur with the decision of the Honors and Awards Committee to add his name to the roster of that small but distinguished group of geophysicists who are Honorary Members of the Society.

Roland was born just over 65 years ago on October 21, in Iowa, and received his Bachelor's degree from the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee in 1935. He earned his M.S. degree in mathematics from Atlanta University in 1939 and continued graduate studies in mathematics and physics at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

During his 31-year career with the U.S. Geological Survey, Roland Henderson became one of the world's foremost authorities on the application of potential theory to the interpretation of aeromagnetic and gravity anomalies. Much of his work has been a pioneering effort in the field of airborne magnetic measurements. Early in his career, when the aeromagnetic method was in the initial stages of development, he and others wrote the classic volume Interpretation of Aeromagnetic Maps which has served as the bible for the profession for many years. It is highly significant that, as far back as 1949, he coauthored a paper that laid the foundation for much of the interpretation of magnetic fields observed from satellites. In the course of his research, he devised new approaches for the interpretation of total magnetic anomalies and for making optimum use of the greatly increased volumes of data generated by this new exploration technique. His publications constitute a sizeable portion of the literature in the fields of potential theory and computer applications, no less than four of these appearing in SEG's 1967 Mining Geophysics volumes. Among his major achievements are: upward continuation of anomalies in total intensity magnetic fields, computation of second vertical derivatives of geomagnetic fields, and development of a comprehensive system of automatic computation for magnetic and gravity interpretation. Prior to retirement in 1973, he was investigating methods of utilizing spectral techniques to derive the physical properties and geometric parameters of causative geologic bodies.

In the course of his long and distinguished career, Roland Henderson received many honors and awards, including the Meritorious Service Award of the Department of the Interior. As a measure of his stature in the scientific world, he was often called on to serve in various capacities by the principle scientific organizations in geophysics and related fields. For example, he was Associate Editor for Gravity and Magnetics of Geophysics from 1967 to 1969 and for nearly ten years prior to that served on the Reviews Committee of SEG. He was a program chairman on numerous occasions for meetings of SEG and AGU, as well as the International Geological Congress of 1972 in Montreal. Always generous of his time and talents, he conducted many seminars and workshops on interpretation methods, and was unstinting of advice and encouragement of others in their work, from those in subprofessional levels and the student assistants getting their first taste of geophysics to the Director of the U.S. Geological Survey.

He was an active participant in the affairs of the Society, serving as Representative-at-Large on the Council of SEG from 1972 to 1974, and was among those who organized a local section of SEG in the Washington, D.C., area, the Potomac Geophysical Society.

Roland's achievements are even more remarkable when one considers the tenor of the times in which he lived and worked. In addition to providing a model and inspiration to those who came after him, he found time to work extremely effectively with young people, to encourage and guide their interest in scientific careers. For many years he also worked with the Boy Scouts. For these activities, he received a Presidential Citation in 1970.

SEG should be proud to give Roland G. Henderson suitable recognition by conferring on him Honorary Membership.