William Zwart

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William Zwart
W. J. Zwart headshot.png
BSc Mathematics
MSc Physics
BSc university University of Wisconsin
MSc university University of Wisconsin

William J. (Bill) Zwart (1918-1994) was the 13th recipient of the Virgil Kauffman Gold Medal Award for his work in compiling the successive editions of the Cumulative Index of Geophysics. He was SEG’s Secretary-Treasurer in 1972-73 and was a candidate for President in 1975.


(1995). ”Memorial.” The Leading Edge, 14(3), 214–214.[1]

Bill Zwart, 13th recipient of SEG’s Virgil Kauffman Gold Medal, died on 24 September 1994 in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Bill began his career in geophysics in 1953 when he joined Amerada, the predecessor of Amerada Hess. He enjoyed, and excelled at, analyzing geophysical data. Most of his work involved seismic refraction and reflection records. but he was responsible for interpreting most of his company’s gravity and magnetic data. He also evaluated exotic expawords. Bill examined the entire data set (the titles of all papers in GEOPHYSICS, Geophysical Prospecting, and Ear/y Geophysical Paper) and inserted key words when necessary. He also arranged the Index so that errata and discussions were flagged and included in the Bibliography immediately after the appropriate paper. Before such indexing, these often vital items were eaily overlooked because they appeared at various times following publication of a water. Bill was mental methods.

Those who worked with Bill will remember the cm with which he organized data and his insistence that it be meticulously analyzed and interpreted. Early in his career, while working in an area of potential stratigraphic traps, he addressed the problem of determining the geologic boundaries which generated the reflections that appeared on wiggle trace seismograms. He established a consistent identification procedure using wells shot for velocity and suggested that SEG reorganize the compilation of its Index of Wells Shot for- Velocity which was built around (then state-of-the-art) punched card and related data processing equipment. As a result, he found himself heading a Computer Applications Committee to do just that. He continued to be responsible for updating and compiling the Index throughout its existence. Another of Bill’s initiatives led to The Cumulative Index of GEOPHYSICS and made SEG one of the first Societies to offer such a product.

W.J. Zwart was SEG’s Secret&Treasurer in 1972-73 and was a candidate for President in 1975. He was awarded the Kauffman Medal in 1978.

Bill was a native of Sheboygan Falls, Wisconsin. He received a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and a master’s in physics from the University of Wisconsin. He served in the US Army in both World War II and Korea and was awarded four Bronze Stars.

He was a professor of physics at Milton College prior to joining Amerada, and later taught that subject at the University of Tulsa as an adjunct professor.

Bill delighted in his home and family. He enjoyed gardening. his church choir, his children’s activities. the companionship of his many friends, and the challenges of his profession. He and his wife Bonnie had three children, daughter Ruth and two sons. Both sons studied geophysics and entered our profession. David is now a Denver-based consultant and the original plan was to key the entries to the words in the titles of the various papers; but it was soon apparent that many titles included words of no value for indexing and others did not include suitable key Clifford is in the computer industry.

I and his many friends cherish memories of Bill’s gentle and helpful ways and his chuckles about human foibles.

Biography Citation for the Virgil Kauffman Gold Medal Award

The 1978 Virgil Kauffman Gold Medal was awarded to William J. Zwart for his work in preparing and compiling the successive editions of the Society's Cumulative Index" and the "Index of Wells Shot for Velocity." This recognition of Bill's accomplishments as major contributions to the profession of geophysical exploration follows the 1978 publication of the latest edition of the Cumulative Index and the fifteenth edition of the Index of Wells. These works represent the culmination of sixteen years of dedication to his Society and his profession.

In its recommendation for Bill's award, the Committee on Honors and Awards wrote: it occurred to us that Bill Zwart's accomplishments were truly deserving of the Virgil Kauffman Medal on two grounds. First, we felt he deserved the award on the ground of the utility of his accomplishment because our members use his work product more often than is the case for any other published contribution to the profession of which we know. Users state that they can rely on the accuracy and proper classification of any item in the Cumulative Index. Second, on the ground of the intellectual effort involved, we note that the choice of indexing words of a vast number of papers. The resolution of conflicting items and the elimination of duplicating or useless entries also required a deep understanding of geophysics and of the needs of a great variety of users.

To date, SEG has published five editions of the computerized Cumulative Index of GEOPHYSICS, with Bill as editor. The forwards of the five editions chronicle Bill's struggles as editor to convert a simple and crude KWIC index (Key Words in Context) into a sophisticated comprehensive cumulative index of GEOPHYSICS, Geophysical Prospecting, and the special publications of SEG. Bill is convinced that Murphy wrote his "law" after trying to have a computer program written for an index. The foreword of the latest edition (GEOPHYSICS, April 1978 Supplement) is Bill's announcement of final triumph that modestly understates the innumerable problems solved so ably and the enormous amount of his own time and effort expended.

If SEG could have keypunched data on the entire membership to select by computer the best qualified editor for the Cumulative Index, Bill's name would no doubt have headed the list. When Larry Faust sponsored Bill for Active Membership in SEG twenty years ago, he said of Bill, ?Results of several of his research projects have already been incorporated into Amerada?s exploration procedures, and among other things he has been my expect on electronic data processing?. Author of his bosses, Buddy Lawrence said Bill was Amerada?s magnetic, gravity, seismic velocity, and seismic refraction specialist, in addition to his area responsibilities for seismic exploration. Buddy with all that, he never fails to brighten my day with his smiling good humor?.

Certainly, Bill's contribution as editor of the Index of Wells deserves accolades also. Between 1944 and 1960 the Society had published an "Index of Wells Shot for Velocity," plus nine supplements. Bill, responsible for coordinating Amerada's seismic velocity information, was bugged by the burdensome task of searching for well velocity surveys through ten separate lists. He suggested to Larry Faust that there was a better way. Since Larry was President of SEG that year, as well as Bill's boss, one can easily understand how Bill became the first Chairman of a new SEG Committee on Data Processing. Bill delivered. He persuaded company representatives in all the well shooting associations of the time to contribute to a fund to keypunch all the available well listings and print out by computer the needed information in a logical order. With Bill as editor, the Index of Wells Shot for Velocity is updated and reprinted annually, as a service to the industry.

Bill has already tasted of the esteem of his peers when elected Secretary-Treasurer of SEG and when nominated as a candidate for president. His wife, Bonnie, and their three children, David, Ruth, and Clifford, will also savor the recognition Bill has earned. However, even before Bill won the Kauffman Gold Medal, he rated mighty high at home. Both sons have chosen to enter their father's profession. Doesn't that say a lot about the man?


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