Walter Lynn

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Walter Lynn
Walt Lynn headshot.jpg
Latest company Lynn Inc.
President year 2001-2002
Membership Honorary Member
BSc Geology and Geophysics
MSc Geophysics
PhD Geophysics
BSc university Princeton University
MSc university Oregon State University
PhD university Stanford University

Walt Lynn served as the 2001-2002 SEG President a crucial transition period and helped develop a strong Strategic Plan for the Society. He demonstrated strong leadership and wisdom during the San Antonio Annual Meeting when the horrific September 11 tragedy was unfolding. Lynn has also made significant technical contributions including his work on imaging through complex water bottom, prestack f-k migration, marine seismic source arrays, and pioneering work on seismic acquisition that can be considered as the foundation for the multisource-multireceiver or multi-azimuth/wide-azimuth 3D seismic surveys. Walt received the SEG Honorary Membership in 2010.

During the course of his geophysical career, Walt has been active in numerous SEG-related functions including: several years on the SEG Research Committee, co-chairman of the First Annual Gulf Coast SEG, co-general chairman of the 1998 SEG-CPS Conference and Exposition in Beijing, and first vice-president of the Geophysical Society of Houston.

Examples of his success in communicating valued science are the Best Paper Award he received at the 1986 Pacific Coast SEG Meeting for “Experimental evidence for interference from other seismic crews” [1], and the Best Paper Award at the 1990 Canadian SEG Meeting. The paper “Migration from irregular surfaces” [2], presented by co-author Craig Beasley, received the 1989 Best Paper Presented at the Annual Meeting. Also, he received 1989 Honorable Mention (Geophysics) along with Beasley and Ken Larner for their paper "In quest of the flank". [3]


Early Years and Education

Walt Lynn received a bachelor's degree (with high honors) in geology and geophysics from Princeton University in 1973, completed his master's degree in geophysics while studying at the Oceanography Department at Oregon State University in 1975, and received his Ph.D. degree in geophysics from Stanford University in 1979. Walt's association with exploration and reservoir seismic technology began while working as a research assistant under the auspices of the Stanford Exploration Project.

Professional Career

Upon completing his doctorate, he moved to Houston and began an 11-year stint with the R&D group of Western Geophysical. During that time, he and his colleagues made significant contributions to numerous technology breakthroughs and advances, particularly in seismic imaging, velocity analysis, and noise identification and suppression. Walt left Western in early 1991 to be an independent consultant, but was soon convinced to return to the corporate world as senior vice president of Technology with Grant-Tensor in mid-1991. In 1993, he joined Petroleum Geo-Services (PGS) when the data processing part of Grant Tensor were purchased by PGS. In 1994, Walt became president of PGS Tensor and ran and grew PGS's worldwide data processing operations. From 1999 through 2002, Walt was Senior VP of Technical Marketing for PGS Corporate.

He is currently Chief Operating Officer for Lynn Inc., specializing in multi-azimuth, multi-component 3-D seismic acquisition, processing and interpretation. Walt is also a member of NSG, EAGE, ASEG, GSH, Sigma Xi and Phi Kappa Phi. [4]

Biography Citation for SEG Honorary Membership 2010

Contributed by Ken Larner and Mary Fleming

What he long had wanted to do in life was to teach, a passion one can sense in the way he presents ideas, both technical and nontechnical, in both formal presentations and informal one-on-one settings. But, while always the teacher, Walt Lynn has excelled in virtually every aspect of the profession of exploration geophysics—as researcher, project manager, company president, SEG President. It might have been different: upon graduation from high school, Walt had offers to play baseball from two major league teams. He chose to go to Princeton, and he’s never looked back since. Geophysics initially entered his blood there via an interest in environmental studies. His B.A. in geology and geophysics at Princeton was followed by an M.S. degree in geophysics at Oregon State University, with particular emphasis on plate tectonics. Walt then capped his formal education in geophysics with a Ph.D. degree at Stanford. From early on, his motive in working on and receiving a Ph.D. was to pursue a career as university professor.

Following graduation, Walt’s initial path took him some distance from that envisioned career. In 1979, Walt joined Western Geophysical Company as a senior researcher, rising to Project Manager. During his 11 years with Western, Walt, an especially valued consultant to both company and client personnel, served as R&D training liaison, and became a frequent speaker at local and international geophysics meetings—roles that put his talents in and passion for teaching into regular, much-appreciated use.

Walt’s managerial, organizational, and leadership strengths came into full fruition at PGS Tensor, which he joined in 1991, initially as Executive Vice President Technology, responsible for seismic data-processing and acquisition technology. In 1994, Walt became President of PGS Tensor, responsible for overseeing PGS data processing worldwide. The company grew by 65% per year in personnel and revenue through the next four years. From 1999 until 2002, as Senior Vice-President Technical Marketing for PGS Tensor’s parent company, Petroleum Geo-Services, he was responsible for packaging and presenting all PGS technical products, services, and strategies.

In 2002, Walt left Petroleum Geo-Services to join his wife Heloise in her geophysical consulting company, Lynn Inc., which specializes in multidimensional (i.e., multicomponent, multi-azimuth, time-lapse) 3D acquisition, processing, and interpretation problems. As President-elect in 2000–2001, he worked with President Sally Zinke to create a strategic plan to guide the Society into the future. His breadth of experience and expertise prepared Walt eminently for leadership of the Society, making him the right person to address unusually challenging issues both within and outside SEG that year.

Just two days prior to the start of his term and shortly after the start of SEG’s Annual International Meeting, the tragic 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center occurred. So the first issue faced by Walt and the Executive Committee was the difficult one of whether to continue the meeting. As President, he was instrumental in putting in place processes and procedures that strengthened the governance of SEG and improved the effectiveness of business operations. Walt’s recognition of the importance and role of technology provided the impetus for improvements in Web content and SEG services, and his management experience stood him in good stead as he led SEG through the transition at the executive director level.

Returning to his initial dream—to teach in a university—in 2009 Walt joined the Colorado School of Mines Department of Geophysics as adjunct professor, teaching the senior-level Advanced Seismic Methods course. And, true to that dream, he says that he has never had more fun. Likewise, the beneficiaries of his course, the students, have had just about as much fun learning from him. Any of various subsets of Walt Lynn’s accomplishments and contributions to the science and community of exploration geophysicists would provide ready justification for his being recognized for the Honorary Membership Award of the Society.


  1. Lynn, W., Doyle, M., Larner, K., and Marschall, R., 1987, Experimental investigation of interference from other seismic crews: Geophysics, 52, no. 11, 1501-1524
  2. Beasley, C. and Lynn, W., 1989, Zero-velocity layer: migration from irregular surfaces: 59th Annual International Meeting, SEG, Expanded Abstracts, 1179-1183.
  3. Larner, K., Beasley, C., and Lynn, W., 1989, In quest of the flank: Geophysics, 54, no. 6, 701-717.
  4. Lynn Inc. Website

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