Rutt Bridges

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Rutt Bridges
S. Rutt Bridges headshot.gif
President year 1997
Membership Honorary Member
BSc Physics
MSc Geophysical Sciences
BSc university Georgia Tech

S. Rutt Bridges is the founder of Advance Geophysics, the developer of the popular seismic data processing software packages MicroMAX and ProMAX, for which the SEG honored him with the Cecil Green Enterprise Award in 1991. Rutt was the 1997-1998 SEG President.

SEG Honorary Membership 2008 [1]

Rutt Bridges is receiving Honorary Membership for his distinguished contributions to the advancement of the profession through service to the Society and for his distinguished contributions to exploration geophysics. Rutt has served as SEG President, Denver Geophysical Society president, and in a significant capacity on other SEG committees. He organized the 1989 symposium "The Future of Desktop Computers in Geophysics" and was Technical Program Chairman for SEG's 1989 Midwest Meeting. He developed the MicroMax, at one time the world's most popular field seismic processing system, and the ProMax processing system, which remains an industry standard system. Rutt is currently developing state-of-the-art geophysical software through his new company.

Biography Citation for Honorary Membership

Contributed by Ken Larner

The unexamined life is not worth living. --Socrates

In 1991, when Rutt Bridges received SEG's Enterprise Award, he already merited this even higher honor. The MicroMAX and ProMAX processing systems into which Rutt and colleagues at Advance Geophysical pounded hundreds of thousands of lines of code, along with published papers, conveyed his conviction that desktop computer applications had geophysical value. This vision culminated in his 1994 Distinguished Lecture "The future role of the seismic method in petroleum exploration."

Later that year, Rutt sold Advance to Landmark Graphics, where he was chief technology officer until 1997, the year that SEG members chose him President-Elect, enabling him to provide his visionary leadership as President in 1997-98.

Then, after finishing his term and cashing out his earnings from Landmark that year, what lay ahead at age 45? A (very) early retirement life of leisure? Rutt struggled with what to do in his life ahead. His very being filled with the words of Socrates, Rutt felt that he had to do something bigger. As a result, in 1999, he founded the Bighorn Center for Public Policy, a nonpartisan think tank focused on quality of life issues and helping state and local government better address them. The goals were to find practical, common-sense solutions and give Colorado's political middle a credible and legitimate voice in the increasingly polarized landscape and get things done. (Both in geophysics and beyond, Rutt has had no interest in other than getting things done.)

For activities related to the founding of the Bard Center for Entrepreneurship Development, Rutt received the Mack Easton Award from the University of Colorado-Denver. He also received the University of Colorado Distinguished Service Award and was honored by the Mental Health Association of Colorado for efforts to combat teenage suicide.

Rutt is past Chairman for Colorado Public Radio, to which he and former wife Barbara donated a building. Rutt also served most valuably on the Visiting Committee for the Geophysics Department at Colorado School of Mines. In 1999, Rutt, Barbara, and Steve Leatherman founded Quest International Management, a venture-capital company. His 1000% supportive wife, Annie, has provided impetus for the energy that Rutt has put into his diverse activities since they were married in 2004.

In 2004, he ran for the U.S. Senate, bowing out when his friend Ken Salazar entered. In 2006, he was a candidate for governor but soon withdrew, having rationally decided that "he had no stomach for politics."

In 2005, Quest invested in Transform Software and Systems and became Chairman. Dean Witte, Transform co-founder, said, "His love for this business and technology and people keeps him showing up day after day, finding and helping to fix a bug, looking into new hardware, designing the next product, and helping with sales and marketing strategy. He doesn't have to. He wants to."

SEG continues to benefit from his visionary, common sense perspective. In 2007, he became Chairman of the Committee on Strategic Finance Policy, critically important to ensuring SEG's long-term fiscal stability. His leadership style was characterized by Dave Hale, in reflecting on Rutt's method at Advance: "After gathering input, he would waste no time gathering consensus before making a decision. The whole process could be over in five minutes.

This was wonderful, even when the decision did not go my way. Advance moved fast. Rutt moves fast."

Also quoting Hale, "What made Advance special were the people that Rutt attracted. I was genuinely honored to work with such a talented group." This holds for every organization that Rutt has led.

Is he a geophysicist? An entrepreneur and businessman? A concerned public-policy activist? A politician? Rutt Bridges is all of these. (Well, leave off politician.) These add up to a consummate leader and visionary - a most thoughtful and caring one.

Both in his life as a geophysicist and in public service, Rutt Bridges has brought great honor to SEG.

Biography for SEG President Elect Candidacy [2]

S. Rutt Bridges, candidate for President-Elect, began his career in geophysics in 1970 as an undergraduate research assistant at Georgia Tech's Engineering Experiment Station, conducting gravity surveys and writing software. He received his BS (physics) and MS (geophysical sciences) while working on potential field methods and earthquake seismology.

During the summers, Rutt worked for Chevron hustling jugs in the swamps of Louisiana. In 1975, he joined Chevron in Houston, initially as a processing geophysicist and later as party chief, processing supervisor, and area geophysicist. In 1980, he founded Advance Geophysical Corporation and led the development of the MicroMAX and ProMAX seismic processing systems. Advance merged with Landmark Graphics in 1994. Rutt is currently the latter's chief technology officer and a member of the board of directors.

Rutt joined SEG in 1975. He served as chairman of the Computer Applications Committee for three years and organized the 1989 symposium "The future of desktop computers in geophysics." In addition, he served as technical program chairman for the 1989 Midwest Meeting and has published a number of papers on computer applications in geophysics. In 1991, Rutt was presented with the Enterprise Award for the development of MicroMAX. In 1992-93, he served as SEG's First Vice-President. He has been chairman of the Membership Committee and president of the Denver Geophysical Society. Rutt was SEG's Spring 1994 Distinguished Lecturer.

Rutt serves on the Advisory Board of the Gas Research Institute and the Steering Committee of SEG Foundation's Trustee Associates. He is a member of CSEG, EAGE, and various other professional societies.

Biography Citation for the Cecil Green Enterprise Award (1991)

Contrbuted by Ken Larner

Not wishing to be provincial in considering Rutt Bridges for recipient of the Enterprise Award, the Honors and Awards Committee sought the opinion of Mike Cox, chief geophysicist with BP in London. After hearing a description of the nature and intent of the award, Mike's response was, "Do you mean someone like Rutt Bridges?" Such is the international reputation that Rutt Bridges has earned through his dedication to and success in providing technology that works in the day-to-day practice of seismic exploration.

Within only two or three years after its introduction in 1987, the PC-based MicroMAX system, which Rutt conceived and jointly developed with programmer Larry Stoiber, had become the most widely used field seismic processing system in the world. In the words of Mike Cox, "It has set the industry standard in field seismic data processing throughout the world."

Beyond the creativity, ingenuity, and achievement in developing MicroMAX and its successor, ProMAX, Rutt put his personal resources and future at risk by introducing the MicroMAX system in 1987, not a good year for exploration and barely a year after his company, Advance Geophysical Corporation, was almost put out of business as a result of the drastic plunge in oil prices. According to Bill Schneider, President of Golden Geophysical Corporation, "Rutt has that remarkable talent of being able to translate his technical and professional experience into visions of new products and services needed by the industry. The success of MicroMAX (a daring venture undertaken when the industry was heading into a major slump) attests to his business acumen, and ProMAX appears to be headed for the same fate."

That business acumen is founded on Rutt's outlook: When evaluating a joint venture or an agreement with another company, learn to see things as clearly from your potential partner's viewpoint as from your own, and seek a 60-60 deal; that is, one in which both parties can win and are therefore willing to work hard for its success.

With hindsight, it is easy to spot leadership in the making. Two years after receiving a BS degree in physics from Georgia Tech in 1973, where he co-authored the Georgia State Gravity Map, Rutt was awarded the Sigma Xi Award for Best Masters' thesis (in earthquake seismology). During his five years with Chevron Geosciences, he rose from party chief for an experimental three-component seismic recording crew, to processing supervisor for Eastern and Central US, and finally to area seismic applications geophysicist for the Western US, including Alaska. While in that position, although not actually in the programming group, he demonstrated his drive to resolve technical problems of practical importance by authoring a program to detect field geometry errors. Speaking of the Chevron years through the present, Chuck Edwards, director for Landmark Exploitech, describes Rutt as "the most energetic and innovative individual have ever known."

In 1980, Rutt took the bold step of founding Advance Geophysical, with the visionary goal of applying emerging microcomputer technology to geophysical problems. Within a couple of years, the company introduced what has become the most widely used microcomputer-based system for processing survey notes, and a year later, it introduced a PC-based software product for nonlinear vibroseis sweep design and EPROM programming that is also still widely used in the industry.

Rutt attributes his success with Advance to a desire to make technology accessible and understandable to the working geophysicist. Mistakenly considering himself not to be a particularly talented geophysicist or mathematician, he correctly describes himself as tenacious. His management philosophy is simple: Hire the best people available, put them in an environment with the tools to succeed, point them in the right direction, and leave them alone. He adds, "I seldom get exactly the software that I originally wanted; often get something better." If there is a secret to his success with people, it is that he sincerely cares about the people with whom he works; it just comes naturally to him. The fun and enjoyment he gets from finding workable solutions to geophysical problems is contagious- he has fun, and he functions so that those around him can, too.

Sharing Rutt's risk and sacrifice throughout the building of Advance Geophysical has been his wife, Barb, who has always been much more than the understanding and supportive wife. As Advance's vice-president of finance, Barb kept the wolves from the door during the tough years in the middle '80s, allowing Rutt to keep focused on developing MicroMAX at a time when others throughout the industry were cutting back.

Part and parcel of that focus has been Rutt's early and clear vision of the essential role that microcomputer technology could play in exploration geophysics. Rutt stepped down from the presidency of Advance Geophysical a couple of years ago to become its director of technology so that he could devote full effort to leading the development of new products. Nevertheless, in his spare time, while Chairman of the SEG Committee on Computer Applications, he organized the 1989 SEG Symposium, "The Future of Desktop Computers in Geophysics," and was also Technical Program Chairman for the very well attended 1989 Midwest SEG Meeting.

Many elements comprise the criteria for selecting an individual for the Enterprise Award---courage, ingenuity, achievement, risk of one's own resources and future, accomplishment, and distinct and worthy contribution to the industry. Rutt Bridges embodies all of these elements through indefatigable dedication to finding workable solutions to practical technological problems and to working out 60-60 business arrangements where all parties win.


  1. The Leading Edge, April 2009, Vol. 28, No. 4
  2. The Leading Edge, June 1996, Vol. 15, No. 6

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