Archives Center, National Museum of American History

Guide to the Serge A. Scherbatskoy Papers


Collection ID:
Scherbatskoy, Serge A., 1908-2002
Collection is in
. Some materials are in
Physical Description:
17 Cubic feet
39 boxes
Collection documents the professional career and business interests of inventor Serge A. Scherbatskoy, who specialized in petroleum geophysics. Papers include laboratory notebooks, license agreements, correspondence, blue line prints, patent litigation files, newspaper clippings, reference files, patents, promotional literature, and audio-visual materials.

Scope and Contents

Scope and Contents
The Scherbatskoy papers provide insight into the relationship between inventors and the United States oil industry between the 1930s and 1990s, the evolution of the history of applied geophysics, and the development of technological innovation in oil prospecting, specifically applied and geophysics. One of the strengths of the collection is the patents Scherbatskoy pursued, renewed, or impeded. As sole proprietor of his own company, Geophysical Measurements Corp., Scherbatskoy meticulously constructed an international patenting program which made him a successful player among the giants of the oil industry. Another highlight of the collection is Scherbatskoy's fifteen laboratory notebooks that include his well logging work notes and drawings. Legal files illustrating litigation over the infringement of Scherbatskoy's patents are also found in the collection. The papers demonstrate how the oil prospecting industry worked from scientific, commercial and legal perspectives. The bulk of the papers are arranged chronologically to reflect the timeline of Scherbatskoy's career. Due to the limited number of personal materials, Scherbatskoy's personal papers are placed at the end of the series list.
Series 1, World War II Work, 1935-2002, is divided into three subseries and includes information on Scherbatskoy's relationship with physicists Bruno Pontecorvo (1913-1993) and Jacob Neufeld (1906-2000). Neufeld and Scherbatskoy worked on the application of nuclear physics to geophysical prospecting. Neufeld would later join the staff of Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Materials include a file about Pontecorvo, Neufeld's laboratory notebook, and some correspondence between Neufeld and Scherbatskoy. This series also includes materials on Scherbatskoy's well logging projects during and after World War II.
Series 2, Invention Laboratory Journals and Drawings, 1958-1992, is further divided into two subseries and includes fifteen laboratory journals and a folder of drawings related to Scherbatskoy's well logging work. The journals are arranged numerically by journal number. In some instances, journal numbers repeat. Journals are paginated and include drawings, tipped-in graphs and charts, and notes relating to Scherbatskoy's well logging work. Some of the notebooks include pages signed by a witness, which Scherbatskoy could use as evidence to prove his ownership of a particular well logging invention idea.
Series 3, Radio Corporation of America (RCA), 1946, 1948, is comprised of one folder with a license agreement between Scherbatskoy and Radio Corporation of America for magnetic recording systems.
Series 4, Canadian Geophysical Measurements Corporation (GMC), 1957-2002, is divided into three subseries and provides information on Scherbatskoy's company Canadian Geophysical Measurements Corporation. Materials include license agreements, correspondence, and Canadian Geophysical Measurements vs. Computalog Gearhart, Ltd litigation files.
Series 5, ARPS Corporation (Jan J. Arps), 1960-1995, includes information on Arps Corporation, organized by Scherbatskoy, Jacob Neufeld, and Jan J. Arps in Dallas, TX to develop and practice measurement while drilling. The Arps Corporation materials are comprised of administrative and financial records, business correspondence, contracts of consultation, patents, license agreements, and Scherbatskoy's stock information.
Series 6, Gearhart-Owen Industries (GOI) (Gearhart Industries, Inc., (GII)), 1961-1996, is divided into seven subseries and consists of records generated during Scherbatskoy's measurement while drilling (MWD™) work with Gearhart-Owen Industries, Inc. One of the largest series in the collection, the Gearhart-Owen materials include license agreements, correspondence, litigation files, measurement while drilling reports and blue line prints of measurement while drilling equipment, signal extraction measurement while drilling study reports, reference materials, and United States, United Kingdom, and Canadian patent assignments between Scherbatskoy, Gearhart-Owen, and the Scherbatskoy Family Trust. Included in the litigation subseries is the Scherbatskoy Family Trust vs. Gearhart Industries, Inc., case. The Scherbatskoy Family Trust in 1975 sued for royalty payments due Scherbatskoy under the Scherbatskoy Gearhart-Owen Agreement on nuclear well logging technology and measurement while drilling. The case was settled in the late 1980s, and Gearhart Industries, Inc., paid royalties to the Scherbatskoy Family Trust. Gearhart materials are also present in Series 7, 8 and 9.
Series 7, Halliburton Company, 1978-1999, is divided into four subseries and includes license agreements, lawsuits and patent infringements, patents, and company acquisitions. This series documents Scherbatskoy's relationship with the Halliburton Company pre-and post-Halliburton's acquisition of Gearhart Industries in the 1980s. Halliburton materials are also in Series 8 and 10.
Series 8, Other Professional Work, 1964-1999, is divided into twelve subseries: McCullough Tool Company, Exploration Logging, Inc., Eastman Whipstock, Schlumberger, Ltd., Sperry-Sun Well Surveying Company, Christensen, Inc., Gunn and Kuffner (attorneys), NL Industries, Inc., Baker Oil Tools, Inc., AMF Scientific Drilling International, Inc., Geolink (UK) Ltd., Technolink (Cyprus), Ltd., and Computalog Gearhart, Ltd. In addition to providing information on oil prospecting companies that Scherbatskoy consulted with during his career, materials also include correspondence between Scherbatskoy and attorneys Gunn and Kuffner relating to Scherbatskoy's well logging patent rights.
Series 9, Well Logging Research Materials, 1937-2002, includes correspondence, papers, reports, promotional literature, and general research files relating to Scherbatskoy's well logging research.
Series 10, Licensing Agreements, 1961-1989, contains four folders documenting the nuclear well logging agreement between oil prospecting companies such as Gearhart Owen, Halliburton, Geophysical Measurements, Inc., and Welex Jet Services. Both Marvin Gearhart and Harold Owen of Gearhart-Owen had been employees of Welex before founding Gearhart-Owen Industries.
Series 11, Patents, 1937-1998, includes copies of patents issued to, among others, Scherbatskoy, Robert E. Fearon (inventor), James Upchurch (inventor), John Westlake (inventor), Mobil Oil Corp and Exxon. Materials also include patent applications, patent protests, patent annuities, and correspondence with the United States Patent Trademark Organization and the German Trademark Office.
Series 12, Personal Materials, 1925-1983, includes materials on Scherbatskoy's immigration to the United States, school diplomas, and memorial book. Visual materials include original photographs, and color copies of original photographs of Scherbatskoy as an adult, his family, and his inventions. Also included is a 1944 submarine training 16mm reel-to-reel film and an audio cassette tape of Scherbatskoy discussing his World War II work with his daughter Mary Scherbatskoy.


Collection arranged into twelve series.
Series 1, World War II Work, 1935-2002
Subseries 1, Relationship with Bruno Pontecorvo, 1940-2002
Subseries 2, Relationship with Jacob Neufeld, 1935-1954
Subseries 3, Scherbatskoy Well Logging Project, 1940-1951
Series 2, Invention Journals and Drawings, 1958-1992
Subseries 1, Lab Journals, 1963-1992
Subseries 2, Scherbatskoy Invention Drawings, 1958, 1966
Series 3, Radio Corporation of America (RCA), 1946, 1948
Series 4, Canadian Geophysical Measurements Corporation (GMC), 1957-2002
Subseries 1, License Agreements, 1957-2002
Subseries 2, Correspondence, 1967-2002
Subseries 3, Canadian Geophysical Measurements vs. Computalog Gearhart, Ltd., 1986-1996
Series 5, ARPS Corporation (Jan J. Arps), 1960-1995
Series 6, Gearhart-Owen Industries, Inc., (GOI), (Gearhart Industries Inc., (GII), 1961-1996
Subseries 1, License Agreements, 1961-1996
Subseries 2, Correspondence, 1974-1988
Subseries 3, Scherbatskoy Family Trust (SFT) vs. Gearhart Industries, Inc., 1975-1988
Subseries 4, Measurement While Drilling (MWD) Development Reports and Blue Line Prints, 1973-1984
Subseries 5, Gearhart-Owen Signal Extraction (MWD) Study, 1979-1981
Subseries 6, Reference Materials, 1977-1990
Subseries 7, Patent Assignments, 1961-1987
Series 7, Halliburton Company, 1978-1999
Subseries 1, License Agreements, 1979-1999
Subseries 2, Lawsuits and Patent Infringements, 1989-1996
Subseries 3, Patents, 1978-1997, undated
Subseries 4, Halliburton Acquisitions, 1988-1999
Series 8, Other Professional Work, 1964-1999
Subseries 1, McCullough Tool Company, 1964-1996
Subseries 2, Exploration Logging, Inc., 1966-1998
Subseries 3, Eastman Whipstock, (Gesellschaft mit beschränkter Haftungz-(GmbH)), 1978-1995
Subseries 4, Schlumberger, Ltd., 1967-1999
Subseries 5, Sperry-Sun Well Surveying Company, 1971-1996
Subseries 6, Christensen Diamond Products, Inc., 1977-1988
Subseries 7, Gunn and Kuffner (Attorneys), 1977-1999
Subseries 8, NL Industries, Inc., 1978-1994
Subseries 9, Baker Oil Tools, Inc., 1980-1999
Subseries 10, AMF Scientific Drilling International, Inc., 1984-1987
Subseries 11, Geolink (UK), Ltd., /Technolink (Cyprus) Ltd., 1985-2002
Subseries 12, Computalog Gearhart, Ltd., 1990-2002
Series 9, Well Logging Research Materials, 1937-2002
Subseries 1, Correspondence, 1967-2002
Subseries 2, Papers and Reports, 1960-1990
Subseries 3, Promotional Literature, 1978, undated
Subseries 4, General, 1937-1996
Series 10, Licensing Agreements, 1961-1989
Series 11, Patents, 1937-1998
Subseries 1, Well Logging Patents, 1937-1998
Subseries 2, John E. Westlake (Inventor) Patents, 1972-1996
Subseries 3, James M. Upchurch (Inventor) Patents, 1990-1998
Subseries 4, Other, 1943-1997
Series 12, Personal Materials, 1925-1983
Subseries 1, Personal Papers, 1925-1966
Subseries 2, Photographs, circa 1950s, undated
Subseries 3, Audio Visual Materials, 1944, 1983

Biographical / Historical

Biographical / Historical
Serge Alexander Scherbatskoy (1908-2002), a petroleum geophysical engineer, held more than 200 patents worldwide in petroleum exploration. Scherbatskoy was born July 18, 1908, in Buyuk Dere, Turkey, a suburb of Constantinople where his father, Alexander Ippolitovich Scherbatskoy, was Third Secretary to the Russian Embassy. After the Russian Revolution of 1917, Alexander Ippolitovich planned to accept a post in the Kerensky government. When that fell, he joined the League of Nations offices in Berlin. Later, he moved the family to Paris where he was employed by Yokohama Specie Bank. Young Serge completed his education at the Sorbonne, earning a degree in physics in 1926.
In 1929, only months before the stock market crash, Scherbatskoy immigrated to the United States. He worked for Bell Labs in New York City from 1929 to 1932. While there, Scherbatskoy worked on the Type C Carrier telephone system, assisted in the Reproduction of Music in Auditory Perspective (the first Hi Fi) and invented an automatic volume control using copper oxide semiconductors, for which the patent was denied. About this time, he met Mary Ellen Dunham; they married in 1938 and had four children: Mary, Serge, Timothy, and Jonathan.
After being laid off from Bell Labs in 1932, Scherbatskoy held a number of odd jobs. He organized the "Bureau of Radio Engineering" to repair radios house-to-house. In 1933, he went to the University of Pennsylvania under a grant from the Works Progress Administration (later Work Projects Administration; WPA) and assisted with developing a "sound prism" (i.e., spectrometer). He worked for PHILCO Radio and Television Corporation from 1933 to 1934 where he developed a "sweeping frequency" oscillator for testing radios. About 1936, Scherbatskoy headed west to Tulsa, Oklahoma, and joined Seismograph Services Corporation. While at Seismograph, he developed the "Expander" and the "Automatic Signal Control" for use in seismographic exploration.
Scherbatskoy left Seismograph Corp. and, with Bill Green and Jerry Westby, started Well Surveys Incorporated in 1937 to develop his idea of nuclear logging of cased wells. In nuclear logging, logs are obtained by using radiation sources in the logging tool. Well Surveys was one of the first American companies that applied nuclear physics to oil prospecting. Standard Oil of New York financed the project, but various parties could not agree and they dissolved the Well Surveys Incorporated.
According to an audiotaped interview conducted by Scherbatskoy's daughter Mary, during World War II Serge Scherbatskoy worked for the U.S. Navy as an independent prime contractor to develop the lethal probability integrator (aircraft gunner training simulator) and other projects. Scherbatskoy also was involved tangentially with the Manhattan Project. As part of the Project, Scherbatskoy was recruited by Gilbert LaBine (1890-1977), a Canadian prospector who discovered radium and uranium deposits at Port Radium, Northwest Territories in 1930. Known as the father of Canada's uranium industry, LaBine was president of Eldorado Mining and Refining Limited from its start in the late 1920s to 1947. Scherbatskoy developed a portable radiation detector and headed a team pioneering this form of uranium exploration near Great Bear Lake, Canada, during 1944, locating deposits used in atomic weapons production.
In 1948, Scherbatskoy formed Geophysical Measurements Corporation (GMC) in Tulsa, Oklahoma. During this time, Scherbatskoy worked on the development of well logging technology. "Well logging is the process of exploring systematically the entire length of a drill hole by means of an instrument capable of measuring physical factors associated with the rocks traversed and producing a graph."1 In December 1960, Scherbatskoy, Jan J. Arps (physicist), and Jacob Neufeld (physicist) joined together with Reinholdt & Gardner (a brokerage firm) to form a limited partnership named Arps Corp. to assign, sell and license patents. The purpose was to lease to the oil industry, equipment utilizing the patented Arps process for continuous telemetering to the earth's surface of measurements made at the bottom of a borehole while drilling.
In 1964, GMC conducted a stock swap with McCullough Tool which then went bankrupt in 1968. During the 1970s, Scherbatskoy's activities included consulting with Jacob Neufeld of Oak Ridge National Laboratories. In 1973 he began a relationship with Marvin Gearhart of Gearhart-Owen Industries of Dallas, Texas. Gearhart-Owen was an instrument and oil services firm originally founded by Marvin Gearhart and Harold Owen in 1955. In 1980, Marvin Gearhart changed the name from Gearhart -Owen to Gearhart Industries, Inc., "The GO Company." Scherbatskoy was named Director of Special Projects and continued his own patent program which developed "Measurement While Drilling" and directional drilling patents.
"Measurement While Drilling" (MWD) refers to measurements acquired down hole while drilling that specifically describe directional surveying and drilling-related measurements. "Logging While Drilling" (LWD) refers to petrophysical measurements, similar to open hole wireline logs, acquired while drilling. Wireline logs are a cabling technology used by operators of oil and gas wells to lower equipment into the well. Directional drilling is the science of drilling non-vertical wells. These systems—MWD and LWD—are based on mud telemetry which is the transmission of encoded data through a drilling rig's drilling mud system using rapid fluctuations in the pressure of a closed loop circulating system.
When Gearhart-Owen went bankrupt in 1986, it was acquired by Halliburton. Scherbatskoy worked at Gearhart-Owen until 1988, when he opened his own office in Fort Worth developing Measurement While Drilling patents. Scherbatskoy died on November 25, 2002 in Fort Worth, Texas.
Oil and Gas Journal, February 22, 1940, p. 62.


Caitlan Maxwell.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
The collection was donated by Serge A. Scherbatskoy's daughter, Mary Scherbatskoy, and three sons, Serge Scherbatskoy, Jr., Timothy Scherbatskoy, and Jonathan Scherbatskoy, on 2007
Processing Information
Processed by Caitlan Maxwell, intern, August, 2007; supervised by Alison Oswald, archivist.

Using the Collection

Conditions Governing Use
Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning intellectual property rights. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions.
Conditions Governing Access
Collection is open for research but is stored off-site and special arrangements must be made to work with it. Contact the Archives Center for information at or 202-633-3270.
Preferred Citation
Serge Scherbatskoy Papers, 1925-2002, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution.

Related Materials
The Scherbatskoy Papers complement the Philip Bishop Collection documenting petroleum prospecting and extraction in the Museum's Modern Physics Collection and the American Petroleum Institute (API) Photograph and Film Collection (AC0711) in the Archives Center. The API Collection documents all aspects of the production of oil, including exploration, drilling, cracking, refineries, pipelines, tankers, storage tanks, service stations, and the numerous products other than gasoline produced by the petroleum industry.
The Division of Science, Medicine and Society (now Division of Medicine and Science) holds three prototypes related to this collection. See accession 2007.0212.


Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Contracts Genre Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Seismology Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Agreements Genre Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Physicists Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Seismic prospecting Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Physics Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Petroleum -- Prospecting Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Petroleum industry Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Patents Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Licenses Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Inventors Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Inventions Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Geophysics Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Notebooks Genre Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Correspondence Genre Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Diazo prints Genre Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Laboratory notebooks Genre Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Patent applications Genre Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Reports Genre Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Neufeld, Jacob, 1906-2000 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

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