The Rest of the Yarn

Born in Kansas in 1886, this industry pioneer had already discovered the greatest oil well the world had yet seen by age 24. Prior to his college graduation, he had taken a job with Mexican Eagle Oil Co. and mapped the area later called the "Golden Lane." In 1910 he picked the location for the Portrero del Llano #4 well in Veracruz, which produced about 140 million barrels of oil. As chief geologist for Mexican Eagle, he also located the discovery well of the 1.2-billion-barrel Los Naranjos Field.

In 1919, he formed Amerada Petroleum Corp. Under his control, the company became a world leader in reflection seismic. He completed the first successful torsion balance survey in the U.S. and is credited with the first geophysical discovery of a producing oil field in the U.S. He retired from Amerada in 1932 after serving as president and chairman of the board.

In 1939, he formed a leading consulting firm, specializing in third-party appraisals of oil and gas properties, thus filling a void that existed for bankers and investors interested in the oil industry. He also founded a number of other enterprises that were instrumental in the development of the present-day industry: Geophysical Research Corp., Geophysical Service Inc., and Core Laboratories.

His record of public and professional service is long and distinguished. He was a founder of the AAPG and served as its president in 1925. He was also president of the AIME in 1927. He was Distinguished Professor of Geology at the University of Texas in 1940, and during World War II, he acted as director of conservation and assistant deputy administrator with the Petroleum Administration for War.

A man of wide-ranging interests, he published Saturday Review of Literature and was deeply involved in philanthropy.

He is most remembered as a pioneer in applied geophysical exploration, and his name is irrevocably associated with the seismograph. During his 70-year life, he was perhaps the world’s most renowned petroleum geologist. He was Everette Lee DeGolyer. And now you know…The Rest of the Yarn.

Readers are encouraged to submit brief, ostensibly true stories about notable personalities from our industry’s storied past. Submissions should be e-mailed to

History Quiz

As a follow-up to my inevitable proofing oversight in the November Then & Now (astutely caught by Bill Dickson), namely that John D. Rockefeller was the founder of Standard Oil not Superior Oil, what family is credited with founding The Superior Oil Company? (Thanks Bill for the tip on this question.)

If you would like to participate in this month’s quiz, e-mail your answer to by noon January 15. The winner, who will be chosen randomly from all correct answers, will receive a $50 gift certificate to a nice restaurant.

Answer to December’s Quiz

The first full-scale helium plant in the U.S. was built by the Navy in 1921 near Fort Worth. Tie Breaker: The institution that was the primary benefactor of Ponies Oil Co. in the 1950’s was Southern Methodist University.

Answer to November’s Quiz

The wire rope sheaves atop original derricks utilized journal bearings, lubricated with water. The "water table" was the structure located to support numerous, leather water buckets holding the water used for lubrication and cooling.

Congratulations to November’s winner - No correct answer this month, so the gift certificate will be sent to Buddy Bollfrass with the Texas A&M Mechanical Engineering Dept. who submitted the question.