'Oftentimes - doing something simply because it's right - not expecting it to instantly pay off, turns out to be the economical thing to do.'
...John Marion Crawford's
sanctum in their garage is cluttered and kaleidoscopic.A visitor, dodging easels, lightstands and buckets, and focusing through the polychromic confusion, finds the beauty of his
paintings astounding.It is even more improbable as the artist, almost by way of apology, admits he
first brandished a brush at age 53. The medium is watercolor - not his
first choice but as a result of an allergy to oil bases and no interest in acrylics.And the style?Well, the measure of realism - the jaded blade of grass - has been surpassed.The minute, circular ripple left in the wake of a trout's dive is not forgotten in one of Crawford's
immortalized fishing ponds.Perhaps this is a clue to the scientist/artist's meticulous mind.
Crawford's belated embrace of the arts was not at first passionate.He
reluctantly attended some classes because of a childhood memory - his
father, a happy, active Irishman, suffered a stroke which impaired his
mobility.The father, having no sedentary interests, turned inward - and John
never forgot it.Thus, later, anticipating his
own old age, he
would have something to foil the fate of inactivity. As it is, at 73 the search for inspiration may take the Crawfords as far away as the Swiss Alps.Numerous juried show awards, exhibits, and some 200 originals plus uncounted prints sold, bespeak his
work - and his
drive. "My idea of hell," Crawford
says, "is a place with nothing to do."
Even as a boy, in Madison, Kansas, he'd rush to his
father's hardware store after school to lend a hand.Merchandising was only a part of the business."We overhauled tractors, repaired farm implements, built windmills, fixed faulty plumbing, and much more.Years later, as a doodlebugger, those skills came in handy.As far as field work, what I learned from dad was probably more valuable than my college education." However, in 1932 he
Bachelor's at Phillips University
in Enid, Oklahoma, and in 1934 a Master's in physics from the University of Oklahoma
way through both.
says: "My brother and I were walking into his
house.Suddenly, we both felt as though someone, or something, had struck us in the small of the back.And sure enough, later that day we got word of a tragic dynamite accident on a Petty geophysical party which had been working miles away [TLE, December 1982]. "The impression that made on me was revived my first day on the job at Conoco
.I rode out to the magazine with the shooter.He
got into it, lifted a 50-pound case of dynamite, and threw it to me.If I could have fainted without dropping the dynamite, I would have."
"I was elated," says Crawford
."They probably chose me because the gravity work I was supervising was winding down and they didn't know what else to do with me. Be that as it may, they told me I could have four men.Some names were suggested by management and I was pleased with their qualifications.But I had a special request.
team's first contribution: "A division geophysicist told us of an area where he
believed there was a structure - but it wasn't showing.The problem, he
thought, was that the velocities were changing fast as they went across the structure.That was before the days of velocity control.
In February 1960 Crawford
, Doty and another researcher, Milford Lee, published Continuous Signal Seismograph in Geophysics.
...John, the elder son, is now a director of Sandia Research Laboratories, and Jim is a physics professor and department head at Southwest Texas University.
On the passing of his
daughter, the senior John
also found himself with his
18-month-old granddaughter, Debbie, to care for, but again, providentially with the help of Latane Tracy Crawford whom he
had married in 1956.Tonnie, a science teacher in Ponca City for 15 years, was well acquainted with children, including Crawford's
switched roles from step-grandmother to mother with ease and grace.
...In 1960, Crawford was promoted to assistant manager of research and development.
But the added prestige was not all-important to him. "While I was director of geophysical research I wouldn't have traded jobs with anyone in the country, including the President.But the new title involved complex labor relations and red tape.In other words - gone were the days of doing my job while enjoying good one-to-one relationships with colleagues. "Furthermore, the upcoming wave of management seemed too concerned with the short-term balance sheet.If ideas were not going to pay off immediately there was no use fooling with them.
Pondering what to do next did not reduce Crawford
to a meditative slumber.It seems to have had the opposite effect - triggering a whirlwind of professional activity without detriment to family, civic, and church activities.In 1963, while keeping up with his
Conoco assignments, he
toured the US and Canada as SEG's Distinguished Lecturer on the development of Vibroseis
presided over the Geophysical Society of Tulsa
.If this were not enough, he
also attended his
first painting lessons.In view of other people's amazement at his
gift for making time, Crawford
simply jokes: "I didn't waste any getting rich." He also was chairman of the geophysical research committee of the American Petroleum Institute, and seismic advisor for the US Defense Department's ad hoc advisory group on the detection of nuclear detonations.
In this latter capacity he
was with scientists such as Drs. W. Panofsky, Frank Press, Jack Oliver, Hugo Benioff, and F. G. Blake
, with Richard Latter - the big-hole advocate - chairing the illustrious panel.Their recommendations are undoubtedly classified material. Then, early in 1964, Crawford became research fellow.
As such, he
administered all Vibroseis
licenses and handled new negotiations worldwide."It was pleasant work," comments Crawford
, "but it became rather redundant."And again, hyperactivity was his
answer to any shortcomings. In between licensing engagements in England, France, Germany or wherever his
method was in demand, Crawford
already held several US patents, including the co-signed Method of and Apparatus For Determining the Travel Time of a Vibratory Signal Between Spaced Points (Vibroseis for short).But in the mid- to late '60s a flurry of new Crawford ideas were filed and patented - Automatic Positioning Device; Floating Support for Seismic Transducers; Chromatography Apparatus; and Process for Transporting Solids in Pipelines, are but a few.
Naturally, a list of kudos had preceded this.In 1947 his
old alma mater, Phillips University
, elected him to the board of trustees, and in 1957 he
was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Science Degree.In 1967, Crawford
and the co-inventors of Vibroseis
, Doty and Lee, became the third recipients of the SEG Medal Award (later the Reginald Fessenden) for their technical contribution to exploration.
was on stage in San Francisco's Civic Auditorium with Howard Breck, Milton Dobrin, Franklyn Levin, Harry Mayne, Vincent McKelvey, Turhan Taner, and Sam Worden.
had chosen early retirement in 1971.After 37 years with the same employer - Conoco
- it was a total divorce from industry except for reading the journals.Since then, he
time to Tonnie, painting, some fishing with friends, Sunday School teaching, traveling and whatever time is left, to rest. While he
indeed divorced himself from the industry, perhaps more conclusively than others, his
name remains wedded to his
is considered the inventor - the father of Vibroseis
, or Mr. Vibroseis (as some in Conoco
called him).Ah - the human tendency to personify an invention, a major battle, a work of art. But as Crawford knows, only the latter can be a one-man show.Yet, talking about those early and exciting days of research, he
drowns the facts in the credit he
Per Doty: "Without the combination of talents that Crawford
assembled, there might not be a Vibroseis as we know it today.Just as important as the science and the technology that go into a project, are the intangibles - and these are hard to assess.Crawford's leadership, his
rapport with management, his
knack for encouraging creativity and thinking, were just as necessary as all the ideas he
Now, setting his
brushes aside for a moment, Crawford
talks on the following pages about something which has no shape or color - a signal - one which shook the world.
These signals were manually positioned with respect to each other at about three millisecond intervals.The correlation value was read out on a meter.Each of these values was plotted by hand and