Roy Johnston

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Roy Johnston
Roy C. Johnston headshot.png


Biography Citation for the Reginald Fessenden Award

Contributed by Edwin B. Neitzel


It is a pleasure to introduce Roy C. Johnston, one of this year's Reginald Fessenden awardees for marine air-gun technology. Roy's contribution in the mid-1960s was his pioneer analytical work in the handling of coalescing air bubbles in marine air-gun array design. This work served as a base from which the industry has evolved its use of air guns for the majority of all offshore seismic work.

Roy has enjoyed a diverse technical career. After four years in the U.S. Air Force and then graduating from Texas A & M University, he joined Texas Instruments. His first job as a mechanical design engineer was in missile design. After three years he took a leave of absence and worked on his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in mechanical engineering at Purdue University. He finished in 1963 and returned to TI's Central Research Laboratory.

Roy and I first met when he joined the Science Services division of TI in 1965. Shortly after we started working together, he obtained some signatures from a Navy publication of Bolt Associates 10-in3 PAR (Pneumatic Acoustical Repeaters), later aka air guns. Soon thereafter at an internal meeting, he presented the air-gun array concept which is still in use today, including the use of coalescing smaller air guns to simulate larger ones. Among those present at that initial meeting were Milo Backus and myself.

Roy continued to work on seismic source and streamer development and design problems for about 15 years and was awarded 12 U.S. patents. He made presentations at SEG meetings and coauthored papers during those years, including "Electroacoustic characteristics of marine seismic streamers," (Geophysics, 1970) with John W. Bedenbender and Edwin B. Neitzel, and "System approach to air gun array design" (Geophysical Prospecting, 1973) with Ben F. Giles. Marion Bone was responsible for programming the mathematical model that calculated the air-gun array signature.

Roy and I later worked at ARCO in its research department where he continued his work on problems related to marine seismic exploration. In 1983, he was recognized by ARCO as a Research Advisor one of its highest technical appointments. After he left ARCO in the mid-1980s, he was an independent consultant on marine technology problems. Following this, he spent three years as head of a newly created Transducer Concepts and Modeling Section at the Naval Research Laboratory in Orlando, Florida, which was responsible for advancing the state-of-the-art in sonar transducers. He also acted as technical manager for the development of a high-power, low-frequency sonar source to detect submarines.

In 1990 he was appointed professor of Mechanical Engineering at McNeese State University in Lake Charles, Louisiana, in the heart of petrochemical-industry country. His present position, and the one he has held since 1994, is head of the Department of Engineering which includes chemical, civil, and mechanical. He also teaches a sequence of machine design courses.

His past SEG activities include membership on the committees on Source and Detector Standards that resulted in a publication in 1988. He also acted as co-chairman of a "Marine Seismic Sources" session at SEG's 1982 Annual Meeting. He is a member of American Society of Mechanical Engineers, the American Society for Engineering Education, and is a registered professional engineer.

An award which exemplifies Roy's dedication to others was given to him in 1982 when he was recognized as the "Big Brother of the Year" for Dallas. This civic volunteer award is for providing a role model, guidance, and mentoring for young men in fatherless homes.

Roy's integrity, personal warmth, and technical achievements are a great example for the Reginald Fessenden Award.