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When the modern age for exploration geophysics began more than four decades ago, Norman Paterson was one of its leaders. Today, he is known worldwide for his innovations in geophysical technology and skilled practice of geophysical techniques and interpretation.
As president of Huntec Ltd., then as founder of Paterson, Grant & Watson, Paterson developed advanced instruments and interpretive techniques now used all over the world. Long before many others trekked to foreign lands, he quietly shared Canadian expertise with less-developed nations, aiding significantly in the development of their resources. During his 47-year career, he participated in the discovery of at least twenty commercial or potentially commercial mineral deposits.
Born in London, England, Paterson served his country during the Second World War before emigrating to Canada. He obtained a science degree from the University of Toronto in 1950 and a master’s degree in science from the University of British Columbia in 1951. He then returned to Toronto to obtain his doctorate in geophysics.
Paterson’s entrepreneurial spirit came to the fore in 1963 when he financed and incorporated Huntec Ltd. As president, he built the company from a small division of Hunting Survey into a diversified firm. In 1970, he resigned to start his own consulting business, Norman Paterson and Associates. Three years later, he merged his company with the consulting practices of Fraser Grant and R.K. Watson to form Paterson, Grant & Watson (PGW).
Under Paterson’s presidency, PGW grew to become one of the largest non-petroleum geophysical consulting companies in the world, with commensurate recognition. In 1988, PGW’s software division became Geosoft Inc., which now holds a global position in non-petroleum geophysical software development and sales.
Paterson’s technical accomplishments are many. Early in his career, he took an interest in seismology and helped develop a variety of instruments and techniques. In the area of electromagnetics, his contributions were mainly in interpretation, though he also participated in the development of instrumentation. He pioneered the application of the aeromagnetic methods to determine the depth of basement rocks and magnetic bodies.
Paterson also made contributions to the field of gravity surveying, being one of the first to use the method. In 1960, working with Harry Seigel, he introduced pulse-type induced polarization (IP) methods to Canada. Six years later, he helped discover a technique for quantitative interpretation of IP data based on three-dimensional models.
Paterson’s firm also put Canada on the map as a center of excellence in geophysics. In conjunction with university partners, PGW compiled, for the first time, Africa’s available magnetic data.
Subsequent compilation efforts focused on South America, Russia, Southeast Asia and India. These were mammoth tasks that assisted greatly in mapping the geology and structure of these areas of the world.
Paterson has been praised the world over for the sound balance he achieved between the practical, applied science of geophysics and his professionalism and integrity. No matter where in the world his assignments took him, he always served as an excellent ambassador for the Canadian mining industry.