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ASEG Formation


June 2014

Compiled by Mike Smith and Roger Henderson


This article discusses the formation of the Australian Society of Exploration Geophysicists, focusing primarily on the years 1969-1970. The key historical data of the ASEG after the establishment of the first Executive Committee is documented in the annual ASEG Membership Directory and here. Historical compilations are often in a continuing state of evolution, and pertinent additions or corrections to this document would be welcomed.

Before the ASEG was formed

Prior to 1970, exploration geophysicists in Australia were commonly members of the US-based Society of Exploration Geophysicists (SEG). A few geophysicists also belonged to the Australian Institute of Physics (AIP) and some belonged to related geological bodies such as the GSA and AusIMM.

At the time, geophysicists in Australia were mostly overseas trained scientists holding a physics degree – this soon changed with people trained in Australia quickly dominating with strong training in a variety of subjects including geology, geophysics, mathematics, computing and physics.

Australian geophysicists tended to give presentations on exploration geophysics at the congresses of the Australian and New Zealand Association for the Advancement of Science (ANZAAS) such as those held in Sydney in 1962, Canberra 1964, Hobart 1965, Melbourne 1967, Christchurch 1968, Adelaide 1969 and PNG 1970. Geophysical papers would be given occasionally at GSA, AusIMM and AIP meetings

Some monthly technical meetings were held in conjunction with state branches of the AIP. There were initial discussions in the late 1960s with the AIP executive regarding the AIP’s sponsorship of a geophysics section within AIP. However, an obstacle emerged in that most of the likely members from the exploration community, although properly equipped with degrees, could not attain full Member status of AIP as they had not majored in physics, as required.

There was a growing sense of a need to be part of an entity which treated exploration geophysics as a specific discipline; a body that would promote the virtues of exploration geophysics and also provide guidance as to best ethical practice. The late 1960s and early 1970s were heady times of exuberant exploration and entrepreneurial promotion. It was a time to formalise exploration geophysics as a worthy profession and an exciting career to pursue.

The formation of the ASEG

The first International Conference on the Geology and Geophysics of the Earth and Oceans (ICOGGEO) was held at the University of NSW in Sydney in January 1970 and was organised by a committee including David Johnson (UNSW) as Secretary, Cliff Ellyett (Professor of Physics, University of Newcastle), Laric Hawkins (Associate Professor, UNSW), and several others. The Conference was underwritten by grants from the GSA, AIP and AusIMM, which were offered back to these organisations subsequently but with their approval they were used to underwrite the Second Conference. The first ICOGGEO resulted in publication of “Geophysics of the Earth and the Oceans” (Reference 1) edited by B D Johnson (UNSW), R J Henderson (Macquarie University) and D H Hall (University of Manitoba).

The ASEG Membership Directory’s key historical data states that the first ICOGGEO coincided with “the conception of the ASEG”. At this event, Ken Richards, an executive with Esso Australia Limited, acting as a Representative-at-Large for the SEG convened a meeting of geophysicists to explore the alternatives facing the future of exploration geophysics in Australia with a preference towards forming a chapter of SEG. Lee Furlong (pers. com.) attended this meeting of around 20 geophysicists and recalls a robust discussion lasting over two hours concerning the pros and cons of different strategies. The meeting agreed on two important attributes, firstly the emphasis on ‘Australia’, and secondly, the emphasis on ‘exploration’. He particularly remembers Laric Hawkins as a strong vocal supporter of Australian geophysics. Lee says that the meeting resolved to form an Australian chapter of the SEG and to proceed with the formalities later during the year. This was the conception of the ASEG.

The first meeting of the ASEG was held on 4 June 1970 with 45 prospective members in attendance. See the Minutes of the first meeting here. Reflecting the emphasis on Australian, and on exploration, the meeting resolved unanimously that the newly incorporated body would have a distinctive name “The Australian Society of Exploration Geophysicists” rather than simply as a chapter of the US-based SEG. The constitution was accepted and an executive committee appointed. The composition of the first ASEG executive and its initial committee members are given as Appendix 1. A vote of thanks to Ken Richards for his key role in the formation of the ASEG was passed unanimously. (The original Minutes of this meeting and meetings for the following two months are held by the History Committee).

The initial constitution as published in the first ASEG Bulletin v.1 no. 1, Sept. 1970, page 30. (See Reference 2) states; “The name of this society is the Australian Society of Exploration Geophysicists. It shall be affiliated with the Society of Exploration Geophysicists”. It is noteworthy that the current ASEG Constitution (dated May 2008) has dropped the reference to affiliation with the Society of Exploration Geophysicists. The original constitution specified only two grades of membership: Active and Student. However, there was already a proposal to modify the Constitution to add Honorary Member, Associate Member and Corporate Member. These extra classes were adopted in the Memorandum and Articles of Association of the ASEG signed by Lindsay Ingall and Ken Seedsman on 23 June 1971.The Memorandum and Articles were published in ASEG Bulletin v.10, no.4, Dec. 1979 (Reference 3).

The subscribers to the Memorandum of Association were:

  • Lindsay Neil Ingall, of North Sydney, Geophysicist
  • Laric Villier Hawkins, of Cammeray, Geophysicist
  • Malcolm Graham Parsons, of St. Ives, Geophysicist
  • John Wardell, of Cammeray, Geophysicist
  • John Eric Burbury, of Woollahra, Geophysicist
  • Val LeRoy Furlong, of Forestville, Geophysicist
  • Eric Ross Crain of, Watsons Bay, Electrical Engineer
  • Joseph Herbert Bordelon, of Seaforth, Geophysicist

On 13 August 1971, the Certificate of Incorporation of ASEG as a public company was stamped by the NSW Corporate Affairs Commission. See a copy here.

In ASEG Bulletin Volume 1, Number 1 (Reference 2), Rob McQueen, the first President stated; “The ASEG was formed, four months ago, by members of the SEG resident in Australia, to promote fellowship and understanding among those, in this country, who are interested in the profession of Exploration Geophysics. Since then we have been privileged to welcome into the Society over 150 earth scientists – both geophysicist and geologists”. The full President’s Page of Reference 2 is appended to this document as Appendix 2.

A feature of the new Society was the strong involvement of the petroleum sector. This sector was more influential in these early days than the minerals sector, in contrast to recent times. In part, this reflected the large size of the oil companies which encouraged their people to participate in ASEG activities in the 1970s.

Original concept and motivation in forming the ASEG

Article II - Objectives of the original Constitution of the ASEG, which is published in Reference 2, page 30 states:

“The objective of this society is to promote the science of geophysics, especially as it applies to exploration, and to promote fellowship and cooperation among those interested in the geophysical industry. In particular this society will endeavour to -

1. Improve the standing of the geophysical profession.
2. To assist in the design and teaching of courses in geophysics.
3. Help in the formation and sponsorship of student sections when sufficient interest justifies such action.
4. Help geophysicists in other Australian cities in the formation of local geophysical societies”.

This showed a strong (50%) emphasis on teaching and student activities at this time.

These four objects were later published, slightly reworded, in the Memorandum and Articles as objects (c), (e), (f) and (g) along with three other specific objects to make up the first seven in a total of thirty objects. These were:

(a) To promote throughout Australia the science of geophysics, especially as it applies to exploration,

(b) To promote fellowship and co-operation among those persons, firms or companies interested in the geophysical industry,

(d) To promote closer co-operation and understanding between geophysicists and other earth scientists.

If these seven objects were considered to be in decreasing order of importance, then (a) and (b) were now thought more important than the original four in the original Constitution.

Notes on key people involved in the beginning of the ASEG

See Appendix 5 for photos of some of these key people.

(More recent information on these people is in Henderson (2005)).

Ken Richards was certainly a significant influence in establishing ASEG under the patronage of the SEG. He was deeply devoted to the geosciences. Ken usually operated very effectively behind the scenes at lunch, in office conferences, at the bar, or over the phone. He did not join the initial Federal Executive because of his role as Representative-at-Large for the SEG. Ken took over as Editor in 1972 when Ross Crain returned to Canada. He was Editor for the Bulletin issues Volume 2 nos 3, & 4, and Volume 3 nos 1 to 4. Don Emerson took over as Editor from Volume 4 no.1 (March 1973) but only after promising Ken and the committee that the focus would be kept on papers of use to the working professional geophysicist and not on esoteric, academic, or overly theoretical material. Ken Richards was awarded the first Honorary Membership in 1977.

Robin McQueen, through his company Anexa, was a consultant to many companies including Esso Australia. He supported Ken Richards’ goals and was elected the inaugural President of the ASEG on the 1970-71 Federal Executive. Robin had the big vision for the ASEG anticipating significant growth over 10 to 20 years. He was an inspiring leader with great presence who set strong goals for the Society. He has been described as “the right person for the time”. See his first Presidents Page in Appendix 2.

Laric Hawkins, Associate Professor 1969-85 at the University of New South Wales, was an inspiring educator and a leading geophysicist in the establishment of the ASEG. He served as the 1st Vice-President on the initial 1970-71 ASEG Federal Executive and the next in 1971/72 and as Chair of the inaugural Education standing committee. Laric was the first recipient of the ASEG’s Gold Medal in 1985 and his contribution to geophysics is commemorated in the ASEG Laric Hawkins Award presented at each ASEG Conference. Notable PhD students supervised by Laric are John Ringis, David Falvey and Jeff Weissel.

Mal Parsons, while working in Esso Australia, was the 2nd VP in the first and second executive and Chair of the inaugural Program Committee, after which he returned to Canada.

John Wardell from the seismic processing company GSI took over the initial role of Secretary from Jim Sundquist of GSI, when Jim returned to the USA. John served very effectivelyand courteously as ASEG Secretary for 3 more years and provided great support to fellow ASEG members, during that period and for many years afterwards as well. John Wardell was awarded Honorary Membership in 1991 and still reads the Society’s publications after 41 years.

Lee Furlong was Treasurer of the initial Federal Executive and later served as 2nd VP, 1st VP and then as President for 2 terms (1974-5). At the time, he worked for Placer Exploration and later Pancontinental Mining and thus represented mineral exploration in those early days. In 1974, he was General Manager Exploration at Amdex Mining working under the irrepressible Ike Shulman. Lee authored two publications on borehole geophysics and became the president of several public exploration companies. Lee is also still a paid-up member in 2012.

Ross Crain was the first Editor of the ASEG Bulletin, and his first editorial (Appendix 3) encouraged ASEG members to communicate with all segments of the geophysical world and stated that the Bulletin would provide a forum for new ideas, and a vehicle for dissemination of methods which have proved useful to Australian explorationists, thus appealing for case studies to be submitted.

Joe Bordelon served on the first Executive as an Advisor and as Chair of the inaugural Public Relations Committee. He left Australia in mid 1971 to become Senior Geophysicist with Esso in Malaysia.

Lindsay Ingall was also on the initial Federal Executive as Chair of the Liaison Committee, and he was elected as the second President of the ASEG in 1971-72. He served on many subsequent executives and was re-elected President in 1979. He was awarded Honorary Membership in 1988 and was the first recipient of the Service Medal in 1998. While managing his very successful contracting company, Wongela Geophysical, Lindsay had a key role in the formation of the Australian Institute of Geoscientists, and his vast service to the geosciences is remembered by the ASEG’s Lindsay Ingall Memorial Award, started in 2000, for the promotion of geophysics to the wider community.

Notes on subsequent ICOGGEO conferences

The Second International Conference on the Geology and Geophysics of the Earths and Oceans (the 2nd ICOGGEO) was hosted by Sydney University from 15-19 January 1973. The ASEG, together with the AIP and the GSA and AusIMM co-sponsored its organisation. The Conference was in effect an initial ASEG Conference although it was much broader in scope – there was a formal meeting of the ASEG during the conference. Again Dave Johnson was the Secretary of a committee including several notable Sydney-based geophysicists. Keynote speakers included Stan Ward (Utah), Keeva Vozoff (Macquarie University) and D. S. Parasnis (Finland). A Conference Report appeared in Geoexploration, Volume 12(2/3) 1974 entitled “Proceedings of the Second International Conference on Geophysics of the Earth and the Oceans”, edited by B.D. Johnson, K. Vozoff, and D. S. Parasnis.

A Third ICOGGEO was held as a symposium of the International Geological Congress at Sydney University during mid 1976. This was a low-key affair compared with the previous ICOGEOs, a notable feature of which was that it was run entirely from funds resulting from the previous conferences. The ASEG was a formal sponsor but did not provide any funds. Dave Johnson was the Secretary with help from other Sydney-based geophysicists – it was determined at the conclusion of this 3rd ICOGEO that the ASEG would mount their own conferences. Accordingly, the First ASEG Conference was held in Adelaide in 1979 with Don Emerson, Ted Tyne and John Webb as co-conveners. Independent ASEG conferences were then held every two years until 1988 after which they were held every 18 months. The dates of the conferences and other important milestones in the history of the ASEG are given in the annual Membership Directory.

References & further reading

(1). GEOPHYSICS OF THE EARTH AND OCEANS. Geoexploration, 9, no. 2/3, June 1971, 63-179. Special Issue. (containing five full-length review papers by eminent geophysicists as specialists in their fields at the time plus 28 abstracts).

(2) ASEG Bulletin v.1, no. 1. Sept. 1970. 40 pages. Containing Editorial (Appendix 3), President’s Page (Appendix 2), a feature article – “Petroleum Geophysics – Four Decades of Progress”, Short Notes from Chairs of the Standing Committees, (see full list of first participants in Appendix 4) and the original Constitution. The text of Bulletin no.1 was from typewritten copy. The “Bulletin” became “Exploration Geophysics” in 1984 with v.15, no. 1.and was the only publication of the ASEG until the “Preview” started in January 1986.

(3) ASEG Bulletin,10, no.4, Dec. 1979, 264-270 Contains the ASEG Memorandum and Articles of Association.

(4) Henderson, R.J. 2005 “A snapshot of the members of the first ASEG Federal Executive 35 years later” Preview, February 2005, p.12.


1.First ASEG Executive and Committee

2.President's Page, ASEG Bulletin, Volume 1, Number 1, September 1970

3.Editorial, ASEG Bulletin, Volume 1, Number 1, September 1970

4.ASEG Standing Committees, September 1970

5.Photos of some of the ASEG Committee Members

6.Key historical dates