AAPG Annual Convention and Exhibition

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Wallace E. Pratt: An Amazing Figure of 20th Century American Life and a True Petroleum Geologist


Dr. Pratt played a critical role in the growth and success of the petroleum industry during its early evolution. His name and story are familiar to many AAPG members and he is well known outside of our industry for his wide-ranging interests and generosity to society. One of the founders of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists, Pratt was elected fourth president of the association in 1920. He was the first recipient of the AAPG's Sidney Powers Memorial Award in 1945. As a leading petroleum geologist, businessman, thinker and visionary, Pratt encouraged geologists, geophysicists and engineers to explore for and develop oil and natural gas resources with optimism, knowledge, energy, talent and the tools of science and technology. In the later stages of his career, as a reflective man, Pratt came to the realization that those engaged as geologists in the field of petroleum exploration and development have a responsibility to the oil and gas producing industry and to greater Society beyond our scientific contributions and advancements. He clearly believed that it is our responsibility to discharge social and civic responsibilities as professional men and women, to work for the greater good of our society through our participation as professionals within our industry and in civic life. Well, how do we know that this was his belief? In 1965, Wallace E. Pratt, a long standing member of the AAPG also sought membership in the American Institute of Professional Geologists (AIPG), an organization still thriving today, which was and is dedicated to promoting geology as a Profession. In 1965, the AIPG chairman personally asked Pratt to speak to its Texas Section at their Annual Meeting in San Antonio. Pratt chose to speak on the subject of what it means to be a geologist, not only as a scientist, but in terms of what it means in terms of our professional responsibilities. He cast his subject matter in the form of an affirmation and entitled his speech: “Petroleum Geology Is a Profession”. It is an insightful, perceptive and engaging speech that speaks to us even today, more than 50 years after its presentation! Wallace E. Pratt did indeed have a perceptive mind and clarity of vision that we can still learn from as professionals of the 21st century. An original typed written manuscript of his 1965 speech was recently located at U. T. El Paso and has been donated to the AAPG for professional curation and re-publishing.