The Schlumberger brothers were the first (and thus far, only) persons to receive the SPWLA Pioneer Award. It was presented to them posthumously during the SPWLA Annual Symposium in Paris in 1995. Marcel Schlumberger has also recently been honored by École Centrale Paris. This school, also known by its original name École Centrale des Arts et Manufactures, was founded in 1829. It is one of the oldest and most prestigious engineering schools in France. Since 2007, École Centrale has selected one of its best students to decorate the yearly alumnus card, successively: Gustave Eiffel, of Tower fame, Étienne OEhmichen, the inventor of the helicopter, Louis Blériot, who crossed the Channel by air for the first time in 1909, and now Marcel Schlumberger. École Centrale gave SPWLA permission to use the text and the pictures from an article recently published in their internal magazine Centraliens. This allows our members an opportunity to know more about the history and traits of this exceptional man.
Unlike many entrepreneurs who started from humble beginnings, blue blood flowed in Conrad and Marcel Schlumberger's veins. On their paternal side, they belonged to a dynasty of protestant businessmen who thrived around Mulhouse, in Alsace. Nicolas, the grandfather, a textile businessman, was the president of the local parliament of Strasbourg, and was ennobled von Schlumberger by the Kaiser. On the maternal side, their great-grandfather was Henri Guizot, a minister of Louis-Philippe, the last king of France. Henri was the founder of the primary school system in France. He also launched the idea of protecting the French historical monuments, a first for Europe.
Conrad and Marcel had three brothers: Jean, co-founder with André Gide (1947 Literature Nobel prize) of Nouvelle Revue Française, a major French publisher; Maurice, founder of the eponymous bank; and Daniel, who died on the World War I battlefields. Their sister Pauline completed the group of siblings. Conrad began at École Polytechnique in 1898 and ranked second. He then took a complementary degree at École des Mines de Paris. In 1907, he became Professor at the young age of twenty-nine. During the summer of 1912, in the Guizot family property of Val-Richer in Normandy, he spread miles of copper wires over the lawn, connected them to an electricity generator, and established a map of the underground scaled by levels of resistivity. In August 1914, as World War I began, he joined the French artillery. When the war was over, he became a hardcore pacifist and contemplated embarking on a speaking tour to spread his ideas.
Younger than Conrad by six years, Marcel was more of an extrovert. His niece, Anne Doll, described him as tall and good-looking. He loved mechanics and liked to visit his father's plant to experiment with spinning machines. At ten, he won a prize given by the magazine Mon Journal for the design of a churning machine. At fourteen, he fixed his father's car.