Thomas Fulton

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Thomas Fulton
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Thomas K. Fulton (20 December 1930 - 7 August 2009) was a well known and well respected geophysicist who, in his long career worked for GSI, Amoco, King Resources, Gulf, Chevron, and Seismic Solutions, his own seismic processing firm. Tom was a member of the Geophysical Society of Houston and the Society of Exploration Geophysicists. In his later years he was interested in promoting science education and historic preservation of geophysical instrumentation and culture.[1]

Memorial [2]

Tom Fulton passed away on 7 August 2009 after a brief illness. He was a well known and respected geophysicist who began his career after receiving a bachelor’s degree in physics from the University of North Texas in 1951. Following seismic work in Venezuela, he completed a master’s in 1955. His professional experience spanned technology changes from eight-trace split-spread marine paper records to digital processing and finally to 3D processing quality control. His employers include GSI, Amoco, King Resources, Gulf, and Chevron. Tom also started Seismic Solutions, Inc. to provide seismic processing services to the industry. Contributions to technology include the “offset panel” display which pointed the way to an interpretive solution of large long-wavelength statics, gave insight into AVO, and aided in the identification of shallow gas hazards. Tom was a 55-year member of SEG and was honored with an SEG Special Commendation Award in 2006. His service to SEG included membership on the Technical Standards Committee (Polarity), Program Chairman for the Second Annual Gulf Coast Meeting, and Chairman and longtime member of the SEG Technical Program Committee of the Offshore Technology Conference. Tom was also the principal organizer of the Living Legends event at the SEG Annual Meeting. Tom, a member of the Geophysical Society of Houston since 1972, served GSH as Luncheon Speakers Coordinator, Chairperson of the Data Processing Special Interest Group, 2nd Vice President, and (in 1993) President. He served as President of the Southeastern Geophysical Society in New Orleans in 1986. Tom was honored by the GSH with Honorary and Life Memberships. He was a longtime champion of the GSH Museum and recently chaired the Museum Committee. Tom was also instrumental in starting the Houston Geoscience Day, an annual event focused on education for employees new to the exploration industry. Tom most enjoyed seeing the professional progress of the many he mentored through more than 60 years, and he was a constant source of inspiration to those who worked with him. His wisdom, energy, guidance, and friendliness will be truly missed. Tom was a unique, warm, and caring person, with a joyful, positive spirit, who always said “not to worry,” and greeted all with “a cheery good day.” He was loved by all those who knew him and his spirit of love will be carried on by his cherished wife Emilie, his family, his church, and his worldwide circle of friends. He was truly a gentleman and a gentle man.

Special Commendation 2006

SEG is honoring a group of individuals—L. C. (Lee) Lawyer, Rhonda Boone, Michael Golding, Thomas Fulton, and D. G. (Gene) Womack— with Special Commendation for their service to our profession, our Society, and the public in their roles as volunteers in development of programs associated with SEG’s 75th Anniversary celebration in 2005. This award is made in recognition of the efforts of a committee chaired by Lee Lawyer, which undertook the design and execution of a one-year celebration that included section involvement, a luncheon on 11 March in Houston at a site near where SEG was founded exactly 75 years earlier, a special publication containing articles emphasizing the history of exploration geophysics and SEG, articles in TLE detailing the history of the profession decade by decade, and a DVD portraying the history of the profession and of SEG. The individuals accepting this award represent the leaders of the efforts, but they do not stand alone. They symbolize the hard work of a large number of very dedicated SEG members and other volunteers who have provided a living collection of our history, accomplishments, and character.

Citation for SEG Special Commendation

SEG’s 75th Anniversary in 2005 was marked by numerous events, publications, and parties. A global celebration of this magnitude does not just happen; it must be designed, promoted, and executed. This very successful year-long celebration was led by the 75th Anniversary Celebration Committee.

Lee Lawyer chaired the committee for the 75th Anniversary for both SEG and the 2005 Annual Meeting. He assembled a committee of Gary Servos, John Sumner, Tom Fulton, David Yarnell, Shane Coperude, Asra Tutuncu, Peter Duncan, Scott Singleton, Matt Ross, Roy Clark, and Fred Aminzadeh to support the effort. The SEG Business Office staff provided assistance for this worthy cause.

The committee strove to engage all SEG constituencies in order to make the year special. Exploration and production companies, service companies, and member sections around the world were encouraged to find a way to recognize SEG throughout the year. Some posted congratulatory notes in their advertisements; others wore colorful pins noting the 75th Anniversary. Celebrations around the globe included guest lectures and birthday cakes throughout the year, often highlighted with pictures and stories in subsequent issues of THE LEADING EDGE. One remarkable celebration, a recreation of the founding meeting, was held in Houston on March 11, SEG’s birthday. The event was sponsored by the Geophysical Society of Houston.

Dean Clark and the TLE staff supported the celebration with a series of articles in successive TLE issues, each covering a decade of the growth and development of SEG. Complementing this series, a special publication appeared before the 2005 convention containing articles and a graphic time line emphasizing the history of exploration geophysics and SEG.

Further, a DVD, titled “Reflections in the Field,” was distributed at the 2005 Annual Meeting. Commissioned by SEG as a part of the 75th Anniversary celebration, the video portrays the history and development of the profession. Extensive interviews with prominent geophysicists and energy experts from around the world showed the global influence of geophysics. The DVD also included a copy of a previous SEG video “Seeing the Unseen” and all profiles published in THE LEADING EDGE.

At the 2005 Annual Meeting in November, in Houston, celebrations were brought to a fitting climax. The exhibit floor included a 900 square foot exhibit with artifacts and exhibits provided by the Geophysical Society of Houston and the SEG Foundation GeoScience Center in Tulsa. Geophysical instrumentation from the 1920s through today was displayed at the exhibit, which was staffed by a large group of volunteers, many of whom are retired and had not been to a recent annual meeting. Kiosks prominently placed around the exhibit floor showed pictures and equipment for each decade of SEG’s past. Many exhibitors added to the spirit by displaying historical artifacts in their booths. The festivities culminated in a birthday celebration at the Wednesday night gala.

The year’s festivities were a large success. This commendation serves to recognize the following individuals for their service to our profession, our Society, and the public in their roles as volunteers in development of programs associated with the SEG 75th Anniversary: Lee Lawyer for his leadership, Tom Fulton and Gene Womack for organizing the special historical displays at the convention, and Rhonda Boone and Michael Golding for successfully shepherding the DVD production.

Exploration in the 1920s

by Tomas Fulton

An examination of the pictures of Schander, the prospect reports of GRC to Pure Oil and the history collected by Sweet allow one to make the observations that our industry continues to change as a function of time. First, in April of 1924, Gulf Oil brought the Seismos' Mintrop crew headed by Otto Guessenhainer from Mexico to Ft. Bend County for several weeks of testing at the Blue Ridge and Boling domes discovered, respectively in 1921 and 1923. They were then sent to near Orchard where a bend in the Brazos River (remember creekology) suggested an anomaly and where two wells had failed to find oil. After shooting Gulf's program and finding nothing, Guessenhainer moved 5 miles the Southwest to shoot a line which revealed an anomaly. Guessenhainer wired Mintrop then in New York about the discovery who took the next train to Houston--all before reporting to Gulf.

Additional shooting in late June determined a drill site and prediction of a top of dome at about 350 feet. On November 19 the well hit caprock at the predicted depth and then in December, oil. The seismic industry had it's first US discovery. The Long Point Dome was the second found in the US by the same crew. A similar Seismos crew had been dispatched to Oklahoma in July of 1923 to work for Marland but had not yet been successful.

1925 was a busy year for our industry with Karcher putting out crews for Geophysical Research Corporation, a part of Amerada, with more sensitive instruments. Petty Geophysical was formed with It's new instruments and word was getting out about the work of Rieber in California. Some GRC crews went to work for Pure Oil to generate prospect reports which we have. The refraction shooting took advantage of an idea of Gulf's L. P. Garrett, to record data about a fan from the shot point. As such, refraction was used as a reconnaissance tool to indicate a general area where a salt dome could be found. The Torsion balance was then brought in to actually locate the dome. Other companies were also building new instruments to compete with Seismos and American Oil companies were hiring Seismo people to run their own crews. Burton McCollun had purchased his own Torsion Balances to complement his instruments to add to the competition for both North American Exploration (primarily for Torsion Balance Exploration) which had brought over Dr John R. Schander to be VP & General Manager and to Mintrop's Seismos (responsible for refraction work).

Sweet indicates that a meeting between Everette De Golyer and John Karcher determined that in the period from 1924 through 1929 44 salt domes had been found by refraction and 11 found by Torsion Balance. These discoveries coupled with other discoveries in Texas from 1894 to 1930 (Corsicana, Spindletop, Burburnett, Desdemona, Mexia, Breckenridge, Santa Rita, Borger, and Odessa) produced a glut of oil resulting in the departure of the German Companies (North American in 1930 and Seismos in 1931. Schanders photos document refraction work with Mintrop instruments like those we have on display at North Harris College.


  1. Thomas K. Fulton Obituary, Houston Chronicle[1]]
  2. Northwood, J., Jr., Gafford, B., and Stringer, H. (2010). ”Memorials.” The Leading Edge, 29(1), 108–108