Whitman Mounce

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Whitman Mounce
W. D. Mounce headshot.png
Latest company Esso Production Research
BSc university Rice University

Whitman Denny Mounce is noted for many inventions, but he was honored with the Reginald Fessenden Award for his inventions that led to the continuous velocity logger known today as the acoustic velocity logging tool.

Biography Citation for the Reginald Fessenden Award

Contributed by W. M. Rust, Jr.

I consider it a great privilege to act on behalf of the Society of Exploration Geophysicists in presenting the 1972 SEG Medal to Whitman Denny Mounce, for his pioneering efforts in developing a continuous velocity logger. A common saying is that necessity is the mother of invention. If so, the father must be the existing state of the relevant art. The inventor serves as both priest and midwife. Unless the invention fills a practical need it is no invention. Unless it actually works, it is no invention.

The genius of the inventor consists in simultaneously recognizing the need and discovering how by his skill and initiative he can meet the need by the ingenious application of recent advances in the state of the art. The man who sees the need and proposes an impractical solution is a dreamer not an inventor. He merely proves that a solution of the problem is "impossible."

I first knew Whit Mounce as an inventor when we were both in Rice more than forty years ago, when he succeeded in building a radio controlled car which in those days was a near impossibility. After we both were employed by Humble, I had the very good fortune of working closely with Whit in developing a practical electrical well-logging system from scratch. I can testify that the problems were numerous, difficult, and always unforeseeable. I am sure we would have failed at any one of many points had it not been for Mounce's true genius. He not only has an encyclopedic knowledge and a parallel array of skill, but far more amazing is his ability to produce the required knowledge at the appropriate time. He has an uncanny ability to visualize both the problem and an ingenious solution, which usually proves to be nearly optimum in practicality. With his broad background in radio, electronics, and mechanics and his experience in both refraction and reflection seismography, it is not surprising that his work in well logging led him at an early date to recognize the need for a continuous velocity logger to measure subsurface seismic velocities in situ. His experience in measuring earth impedance's down-hole at frequencies from dc to megacycles, in measuring down-hole temperatures with a response time of a fraction of a second, and in designing an advanced casing perforating gun provided him with a sound background and also made him well aware of the pitfalls.

His pre-World War II investigations covered sound sources, sound receivers, timing circuits, data transmission, sound receivers, timing circuits, data transmission circuits, and the effects on these of deep-hole temperatures and pressures. Some very interesting results were obtained, some of which provided useful byproducts. Many of the problems crowded the state of the art so closely that a lesser inventor would have labeled the project "impossible" and never again devoted any time to it. Fortunately Whit Mounce has always been one who distinguished the truly impossible from the currently "impossible." When he returned from The Naval Ordnance Laboratory, where he made many important inventions related to subsea warfare, he immediately recognized that the technical developments during World War II had resulted in an entirely new state of the art. In a very short time he had a practical continuous velocity logger working.

To list all who contributed to the development of this continuous velocity logger would be impossible, but I am sure Whit would like to me to mention two whose help was outstanding, C. J. Charske and H. P. Kuppers. In this instance, as in many others, Whit Mounce displayed the spark of genius that distinguished the true inventor from the skilled craftsman and from the dreamer.


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