William Schneider

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William Schneider
William A. Schneider new headshot.png
Membership Honorary Member

William A. Schneider is a geophysicist noted, among his many contributions as a geophysicist, as the inventor of Kirchhoff migration. He is a leader in industry, a noted author, and has achieved distinction as a teacher.

Biography Citation for SEG Honorary Membership 1990 [1]

Contributed by Robert J. Graebner

Thus far in his public life, Bill Schneider has successfully pursued three major careers in geophysics, and possibly a fourth minor one as a consultant. First, he was a research scientist for a large company; second, an educator; and then a business entrepreneur. In each career, he made significant contributions to the earth sciences.

Bill received a BS degree in geology from the University of Wisconsin in 1955 and a PhD degree in geophysics from MIT in 1961. This rather unusual saga began when Bill launched his professional career as a research scientist with GSI. He worked with Milo Backus and his colleagues in the formative years of the seismic digital revolution. Bill emerged from this group as a giant in his own right. Rising rapidly through the ranks, he was promoted to vice-president of GSI in 1973 as manager of all research and engineering.

In the beginning years, Bill was engaged in a broad range of research projects, primarily focused on applications of communication and wave propagation theory to seismic data processing, underground nuclear detection studies (VELA Uniform Project), and antisubmarine warfare.

At GSI, from 1961 to 1977, Bill was one of the most prominent and productive contributors to the two major technologies launched during the period, the digital seismic system and the 3-D imaging program. Bill was a key innovator in many digital seismic analysis processes, i.e., velocity analysis, statics, multiple attenuation, and a number of techniques for signal enhancement. In 1970, Bill became the project manager for GSI's newly developing 3-D program. In his capacity as project scientist, he was instrumental in figuring out how to cast the 3-D imaging problem in a production framework. He pulled together the first full-scale commercial 3-D survey for GSI in 1973, an evaluation of the concept sponsored by six oil companies in a west Texas field site.

A talented and lucid author, Bill authored or coauthored more than a dozen papers in Geophysics, Proceedings of the IEEE, and other professional journals on seismic processing, 3-D imaging, ocean bottom sensing, and related geophysical topics. In addition, prized as a lecturer, he has presented dozens of papers and training seminars at professional meetings around the world. His classic 1978 paper, Integral formulation for migration in two and three dimensions, was widely recognized as a landmark contribution to both migration and 3-D technology.

In 1977, Bill began a second career as an educator, and he served with distinction as the George R. Brown Professor of Geophysical Engineering at the Colorado School of Mines. To this assignment, Bill brought enthusiasm, industrial experience, and a broad base of knowledge about the application of communication theory to geophysical problems. He was a sponsor and friend to more than 40 graduate students, a fourth of whom were at the doctorate level. As his students recognized, Bill had the unique gift for reducing an apparently complicated proposition into its simple elements. He put together and directed a research consortium designed to gain an improved understanding of the wavelet characteristics of land seismic sources. This program, supported by more than 30 companies, not only yielded valuable source material for the participating research organizations but also provided research opportunities for many graduate students working on advanced degrees.

In 1980, Bill switched to an entrepreneurial direction and founded his own commercial company Golden Geophysical. In 1987 this company was acquired by Fairfield Industries where Bill is currently a senior vice-president in charge of data processing. Both as a manager and an individual contributor, Bill has continued to produce innovative ideas and techniques particularly in the areas of velocity analysis and migration and the interaction between these two phenomena. Bill's outstanding performance in multiple careers shows that he can do it all.

While all this activity was taking place, Bill generously undertook many tasks in the professional affairs of SEG. He served as Vice-President on the 1982-83 Executive Committee. He was the General Chairman for the SEG Midwest Meeting in Denver in 1979. He was the Associate Editor of Geophysics for data processing 1971-73, and served on the SEG Research Committee for six years. He contributed to SEG's Continuing Education as a course lecturer a number of times and as the author of many segments on wavelet characteristics. Along with all these professional demands, he still found time to participate in family, community, and society affairs.

Barbara, Bill's wife, has supported him in his wide range of endeavors and helped him maintain his vigorous schedule. Both Bill and Barbara are fond of the outdoors and, as sports enthusiasts, they participate in a variety of activities. They were environmentalists in the valid sense before the word became fractious with connotations of mutual exclusivity.

Bill's ingenuity, his interests, and his considerable efforts in a very broad spectrum of geophysical activities were major factors that have transformed the way seismic methods are used today in petroleum exploration. From my perspective of more than 40 years in the industry, I would surely rank Bill among the top few in his profession for his contributions to seismic processing technology. In making this award, the Honors and Awards Committee has cited Bill's original contribution to the developments of the seismic digital system and the 3-D program, his leadership as an educator, and his service to the Society. This award is indeed richly deserved. On a more personal note, Bill is as well known and appreciated for his wit and warmth as for his scientific wisdom and achievements. Bill's endeavors have enriched the lives of his colleagues, students, and others with whom he came into contact. Happily, I am one of those.

"William A. Schneider, 1965"

Biography 1965 [2]

William A. Schneider joined Texas Instruments in 1961. While performing graduate work at MIT, he was awarded the National Science Foundation Fellowship and the Gulf Oil Company Research and Development Fellowship. He served in the Army as a First Lieutenant from 1955 to 1957. His areas of research since joining TI have included: application of optimum multichannel filter theory to exploration and earthquake seismology, analysis of ocean-bottom seismic data collected in conjunction with the VELA UNIFORM program and underwater sound studies for the ONR.


  1. Program, Awards & Music, A Salute In Sight and Sound Yerba Buena Ballroom San Francisco Marriott Hotel Wednesday, September 26, 1990, Society of Exploration Geophysics
  2. Contributors, Geophysics, Jun 1965, Vol. 30, No. 3.