Samuel Allen

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Samuel Allen
Samuel J. Allen headshot.gif
President year 1972
Membership Life Membership
BSc Physics
MSc Physics
BSc university Carson Newman College
MSc university University of Kentucky

Samuel J. Allen, an American Geophysicist and the 1972-1973 SEG President.

Biography for SEG Presidential candidacy [1]

Samuel J. Allen, candidate for President, graduated from Carson Newman College with a Bachelor of Science Degree in physics and mathematics in 1942 and from the University of Kentucky with a Master of Science in physics in 1948.

In 1943 he joined the U.S. Navy, took meteorological training at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and from 1943 to 1946, he served as an aerological officer, in which capacity he also participated in the Navy's Hurricane Microseismic Research Project.

After an absence of four years for military service during World War II, he returned to the University of Kentucky and served as an instructor in the Physics Department for two years. In 1948 he joined United Geophysical Corporation where he held successive positions of seismologist, party chief, supervisor, and area manager in Alaska, Canada, the continental U.S., and Eastern Hemisphere. He was executive vice-president and director of United Geophysical from 1961 to January 1972, at which time he resigned from United and is presently doing independent consulting work.

He is a member of SEG, AGU, EAEG, AAPG and AIME, and Sigma Pi Sigma and Sigma Xi physics and science honor societies.

He has been a member of the SEG Safety Committee since 1967 and was a member of the Geophysical Activity Committee for 1967-69, serving as Chairman in 1968-69. He was SEG Vice-President for the 1970-71 term.

Biography by J. Dan Skelton for S. J. Allen's Life Membership Award

. . he who humbles himself shall be exalted.

Luke 14:11

By constitutional definition, Honorary Membership is awarded for "distinguished contribution" to the exploration geophysics industry to the geophysical profession and to the Society of Exploration Geophysicists. Sam Allen has made outstanding contributions in all three of these areas and most surely merits Honorary Membership.

Sam's contributions to the geophysical industry span three decades of service as a working geophysicist, as an industry executive, and as a founder of a new geophysical service company. As a working geophysicist, he served as a seismologist and party chief in the early years of his career. Later he became a manager and executive of a major geophysical contractor United Geophysical Corp. With United from 1948 to 1972, he rose to the position of executive vice-president. During this time, Allen made numerous contributions to the industry's petroleum-finding efforts in Alaska, Canada, the continental U.S., and the Eastern Hemisphere. As the Eastern Region manager for United, Sam played a key role in the industry's pioneering exploration efforts in Egypt and other Mid and Far East areas. More recently Sam co-founded a new company, Geophysical Systems Corp., whose existence is based on an entirely new recording concept sign bit recording. This revolutionary technique, conceived and implemented by Sam and his company, is making 1000-channel recording practical. He is president of this new, growing firm. Allen's contributions to the geophysical industry have been of a most distinguished and varied nature.

Sam Allen has contributed heavily to our profession. He played a key role in securing the modification of an onerous discriminatory licensing law in California. For this service, Sam was given one of SEG's most prestigious awards, the Kauffman Medal, in 1971. In the citation for that award, the late Milton Dobrin said:

...Samuel J. Allen, almost single-handedly obtained the modification of a law which severely limited the opportunity for geophysicists in his state to carry out their work as true professionals. Because this law was being used as a model for similar legislation in other states, his success in having this law replaced with legislation more equitable to geophysicists was a victory for all members of our profession.

As a member of the board of the American Geological Institute for two years, Allen was instrumental in improving professional relationships between the geophysicists and other geological scientists. Another significant professional contribution occurred when Sam chaired the Society's Geophysical Activities Committee. He led the committee in developing improved methods of data collection and analysis which provided more meaningful statistics on worldwide geophysical activity and operational areas. Obviously, our profession is much stronger as a result of Sam's distinguished contributions.

Sam Allen's contributions to SEG are so well known they hardly need to be mentioned here. After executive committee service, he was elected Vice-President in 1970 and then President two years later. As a member of Sam's Executive Committee, I can personally testify that he was a dedicated, hardworking officer who molded our Society into a more effective organization. Probably his most significant contribution as an SEG officer was the great emphasis he placed on true professionalism and ethical practices. Sam is probably the most sincere, honest, and ethical person I have known. These traits are the keystones of his service to the Society. This is illustrated by Sam's Presidential Address in which he said:

This only emphasizes the burden of responsibility and sense of dedication we should accept in our chosen profession and as members of the Society of Exploration Geophysicists. To the question, "What are you doing? we can then truly answer that we are working to discover a much needed mineral or energy source, to provide urgently required geophysical engineering data, to evaluate earthquakes, and the like. In general, we are adopting our SEG Code of Ethics which obligates each member "To interest himself in the public welfare, and be ready to apply his special knowledge, skill and training in the public behalf for the use and benefit of mankind."

Even though Sam has held many positions of influence and authority, he exhibits an extraordinarily high degree of humility. This is evidenced by an event that took place following his successful campaign to improve California's geophysicist registration law. Knowing of his outstanding efforts in getting that law changed, the California Registration Board offered Sam the "Number One" certificate of registration. Typically, Sam declined such preferential treatment feeling that no geophysicist should receive special handling in the registration process. I suspect that even today Sam, with his great humility, is "almost embarrassed" to be set apart by this Honorary Membership. However, as John Ruskin has said, "I believe the first test of a truly great man is his humility."

Surely our industry, profession, and Society have been strengthened and made a great deal more honorable through Sam's many distinguished contributions. Recognition by our Society of a geophysicist with Sam's traits and contributions can only reflect honor on the Society and our profession. He truly merits Honorary Membership.


  1. Geophysics, Vol. 37, No.2, April 1972

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