Stephen Chelminski

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Stephen Chelminski
Stephen Chelminski headshot.png

Biography Citation for the Virgil Kauffman Gold Medal Award

Contributed by Vincent J. Murphy

When a little heralded development becomes a standard of an industry, the person responsible is truly deserving of an award. Stephen Chelminski developed "the air gun" and is rightly cited for the 1975 Kauffman Gold Medal Award in recognition of his contribution to the advancement of the science of geophysical exploration.

In this day and age of environmental concerns and energy demands, Steve's air gun is both environmentally compatible and a most suitable seismic energy source. Many of us would be lost without it; some of us would not be alive without it. When most of us were totally dependent upon high explosives and lived daily with their inherent dangers and inefficiencies, Steve was readying the pneumatic seismic source for us. He is a versatile man of simple needs and simple demands needless to say, the success of the air gun is due to a versatility and simplicity that is unequaled in energy sources. Singly or in groups, from one cubic-inch capacity to 2000 cubic-inch capacity, somewhere, at all times, an air gun is being fired.

Stephen Chelminski is truly an inventor. He is also an accomplished photographer and a connoisseur of foods and wines. A native New Englander and a family man, he enjoys the seasons and finds time for near-daily horseback riding. A self-made man from a talented family, he is a font of ideas and new developments; a man who, upon discharge from Korean War military service, used his mustering-out pay to buy machine tools therewith began the story of the PAR Air Gun®.

Steve's company, Bolt Associates, was founded as a partnership with John Gilbert and L. deGeoffroy in 1960; shortly thereafter, in 1961, the original patent for the pneumatic seismic source was applied for. The simplicity, reliability, and, of course, the suitability of the air gun were immediately apparent to those privileged to experience the first model. This seismic energy source, which all of us (perhaps without realizing) awaited so long, is now used worldwide for underwater seismic surveys especially for reflection but also for refraction surveys. And it is used increasingly on land for reflection, refraction, and in-situ shear wave studies.

The air gun is just one of Steve's accomplishments; pile drivers, percussion drills, and a metal-forming device are among his less widely known developments. His newest air gun is of a smaller diameter, for engineering applications, and can be inserted into holes as small as three inches in diameter. All of these developments are obviously in keeping with his hobby of building anything from barns to boats.

Our colleagues around the world know the air gun they should be so fortunate as to know Steve Chelminski.