Eugene McDermott (February 12, 1899 in Brooklyn, New York - August 23, 1973 in Dallas, Texas) was a geophysicist and co-founder first of Geophysical Service Incorporated (GSI) in 1930 and later it's parent company Texas Instruments in 1951. One of his most widely acclaimed patented inventions was for oil exploration equipment, related to the early use of reflection seismographs, still widely used today in oil exploration to map underground rock strata using sound wave technology. Other inventions ranged from geochemical applications to antisubmarine warfare, often focusing on the use of sonar.
Early life and career
Born in Brooklyn, New York, McDermott graduated from Stevens Institute of Technology in 1919 with a mechanical engineering degree. Upon graduation, he began working for the Goodyear Rubber Company. In 1923, McDermott began working for Western Electric Company where he first met J. Clarence Karcher. Earlier, Everette Lee DeGolyer, vice president and general manager of Amerada Petroleum Corporation of Dallas, had learned of Karcher's 1921 experiments with the seismograph and held a meeting with Karcher that resulted in the creation of Geophysical Research Corporation (GRC) of Tulsa, where Karcher was made vice president. GRC was created as a subsidiary of Amerada Oil, of which DeGolyer was a board member. McDermott received a Master of Arts in physics from Columbia University in 1925 and immediately began to work for his friend Karcher. GRC introduced the seismographic reflection method which was quickly accepted by the petroleum industry as a promising new tool. The method attempted to locate the domes and anticlines that held oil deposits, by using a controlled explosion on the surface to beam sound waves into the earth and using carefully positioned seismographic surface sensors to record the speed and frequency at which the waves were reflected back to the surface by subterranean layers of rock.
Geophysical Service Incorporated
In 1930, with the backing of Amerada President Everette DeGolyer who invested $100 thousand for a 50% share, Karcher and McDermott launched Geophysical Service Incorporated, a pioneering provider of seismic exploration services to the petroleum industry with Karcher serving as president and McDermott as vice-president. McDermott's early work in petroleum exploration led to multiple papers and five patents. During the first year of operation McDermott hired Cecil H. Green. These two would have a lasting relationship for the next 43 years. In 1939 the company reorganized as Coronado Corp., an oil company with Geophysical Service Inc (GSI), now as a subsidiary. On December 6, 1941, McDermott along with three other GSI employees, J. Erik Jonsson, Cecil H. Green, and H.B. Peacock purchased GSI, During World War II, GSI built electronics for the United States Army Signal Corps and the Navy. After the war, GSI continued to produce electronics. The rugged nature of oil equipment proved particularly suitable for use in the military which required durability in their instruments, so the military become a ready market for the company's products. In November 1945, Patrick E. Haggerty joined GSI.
In 1951, McDermott, along with Cecil Howard Green, Patrick E. Haggerty, and J. Erik Jonsson co-founded Texas Instruments, with GSI becoming a wholly owned subsidiary of the new company. This acknowledged that GSI as a subsidiary would focus primarily on oil exploration and the larger parent company Texas Instruments would be focused on manufacturing. McDermott was the Chairman of TI from 1951-1957, Chairman of the Executive Committee of Board of Directors from 1957-1964 and Director until his death in 1973. During this period, Texas Instruments rose to be one of the world's largest corporations.
McDermott had membership in the American Association of Petroleum Geologists, the Society of Exploration Geophysicists, and served as president from 1933–34, the Seismological Society of America, the American Physicians Society, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, the American Mathematical Society, the American Geographical Society, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
A scientist and businessman, McDermott was particularly interested in improving education, which he called "biological humanics." Along with Cecil Green, he was a co-founder of St. Mark's School of Texas in 1950; their endowment included the donation of a planetarium, observatory, and math-science quadrangle. He was also a major donor to many universities and served on the boards of Southern Methodist University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and Southwestern Medical School in Dallas. He also co-founded the Graduate Research Center of the Southwest in 1961, which became the University of Texas at Dallas (UTD) in 1969. In 2001, his wife Margaret endowed the Eugene McDermott Scholars Program at UTD.
McDermott was actively involved in the arts, serving not only on the Boards of the Dallas Public Library, the Dallas Museum of Art, and the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, but also helping conceive of the Margo Jones Theatre, an early experiment in theatre in the round.
The annual Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts was created at MIT in 1974, and carries a $100,000 stipend as of 2014[update]. The Award celebrates individuals whose artistic trajectory reveals that they will achieve the highest distinction in their fields and continue to produce inspiring work for many years to come. The stipend represents an investment in the recipient’s future creative work, rather than a prize for a particular project or lifetime of achievement. The awardee becomes an artist in residence at MIT, studying and teaching for a period of time.
He died at his home in Dallas on August 23, 1973, after an illness of several months. He was buried at Hillcrest Memorial Park in Dallas after services were held at Dallas's Highland Park Methodist Church.
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