Leon Thomsen attended the California Institute of Technology, “a small school in Los Angeles—800 students, 800 faculty,” he jokes, with an outstanding geosciences program. Upon graduation in 1964, Thomsen went to Columbia University, and its associated Lamont-Doherty Geological Observatory, from where he graduated in 1969.

His father before him was a geophysicist with Amoco, and his influence was the primary reason—albeit indirectly—that he entered geophysics, even though young Leon “could not imagine anything more boring than following in my father's footsteps.” Other would beg to differ, since Erik Thomsen was a well-respected oil-finder who discovered bright spots for Amoco in...

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