Introduction to a new series on historical perspectives in Near Surface Geophysics, Burke Minsley, Near Surface Geophysics Section President
The field of Near Surface Geophysics has a rich history of innovation in methods, instrumentation, and software. Some of this history is preserved in the publications and textbooks from our field, but many of the interesting back-stories about the people and groups that led to important developments in our field are often lost. To preserve some of this history, the Near Surface Geophysics section will share seven short stories written by Niels Christensen, Professor Emeritus at Aarhus University, one per month posted in our newsletter and linked for posterity on our website. The stories will also be published in ASEG's Preview magazine. Niels provides a background to these stories, which documents several decades of development in electromagnetic and other geophysical methods at Aarhus University and the HydroGeophysics Group that have left an outsized impact in the field of near-surface geophysics. The links to the full versions can be found on our website below.
Background to 'Adventures of a Geophysicist - Seven Scenes from a professional life', Niels B. Christensen, Professor Emeritus, Aarhus University
During the period ~1980-2000, at the Department of Geoscience, Aarhus University, near-surface geophysics took a great leap forward with the development of several new electromagnetic methods, new instrumentation, novel field practices, and new inversion possibilities. All this happened through a unique combination of the right people at the right time, an explosive development in electronics and computer capacity, and a perceived need for mapping and monitoring groundwater resources. The development was characterised by a combination of research, teaching, practical inventiveness, and collaboration with local and regional administrative bodies who were willing to take chances by financially supporting new developments under the guarantee that, in case of failure, the work would be done in traditional ways.
Around the turn of the century, the successes brought about by the new possibilities - and, again, the right people at the national administrative and political level - inspired a political decision to start a national program of mapping all the most important water resources in Denmark, a program of unprecedented depth and scope when compared with other countries. Around this time, the HydroGeophysics Group was formed at Aarhus University to support and oversee the enormous mapping efforts to be conducted by the consulting companies who had adopted the new methods and approaches. The program went on for 15 years and is now more or less brought to its conclusion.
The legacy of the national program is a HydroGeophysics group that from its first efforts has risen to become among the best and most respected research groups in the world for electromagnetic methods, IP and SNMR, and a nation that has the best possible basis for a sustainable use of its water resources.
It was my privilege to be a part of this development in its heyday, and below are some musings from a geophysical professional career.
SCENE 1 ... in which our protagonist goes to sunny California and comes home with new ideas.The beginning: Berkeley 1987
It's a beautiful walk from the bus stop where I get off through the campus of University of California, Berkeley: well kept green lawns and imposing university buildings each in its own style. I'm going to the Hearst Memorial Mining Building situated at the upper part of campus. It's not particularly big, but when you enter through the big heavy front doors, you arrive in an enormous entry hall that stretches from floor to ceiling through the entire building with imposing broad staircases spiraling along the outer walls; everything (I learned later) in the most beautiful Beaux-Art style. As with most of the university buildings it is a donation, in this case from Phoebe Apperson Hearst, widow of senator and mine magnate George Hearst. It is my first day at University of California in Berkeley. I have received a grant from the Danish Natural Science Research Council, and four months lie ahead of me in sunny California!
On the second floor I find the geophysics section and I'm received by professor Frank Morrison. Some months earlier, I had the audacity to write and ask if I could visit his department for some months. I did not know him beforehand, and he certainly did not know me, I just knew it was one of the hottest places to learn. So there he was, Frank Morrison, suave, with his wavy hair, a touch of gray at the temples, like a movie star from the forties with a big smile and a spark in his eye. He took me under his wing and showed me around:"
Read the rest of Scene 1 here...