Ed was born in Cherokee, Texas, May 10, 1918, but was raised and attended schools in Fredericksburg, a German community in the hill country 60 miles west of Austin. After graduation as valedictorian from Fredericksburg High School, he attended UT-Austin, where he received a B.A. in physics in 1940 (with honors and membership in Phi Beta Kappa). On February 1, 1941, while working on a master’s degree, Ed married UT art student Courtenay Brumby, from Houston. When he decided to accept a defense position at MIT in Boston, the completion of his master’s degree in physics and mathematics had to be delayed. He completed his degrees in 1946, when the couple returned to Austin.
During World War II, Ed was director of the Underwater Sound Laboratory of the U.S. Naval Research Center at MIT. He received his Ph.D. in physics and electrical engineering from MIT in 1949. He then spent more than two decades working in industry, first for Magnolia Mobil Laboratories, Dallas, Texas (1949–1955), then as one of the founders of Marathon Research Center, Littleton, Colorado (1955–1969), and subsequently as vice president of Global Universal Sciences (1969–1973), first in Midland and then El Paso, Texas.
Ed’s research in industry resulted in seminal contributions to four areas of seismic prospecting that are increasingly used and valued today: shear-wave prospecting, vertical seismic profiling, full-waveform acoustic logging, and attenuation of seismic waves. Ed’s impressive list of publications in these areas is complemented by three widely used books: Seismic Waves (1965); Underground Sound (1983 and translated into Russian and Chinese); and Production Seismology, coauthored with Ray Sengbush (1986). More than 20 patents were issued to Ed and his associates, and, in 2000, the Society of Exploration Geophysicists (SEG) published Seismic Waves: Collected Works of J.E. White.
Ed’s prolific career did not keep him from contributing his time and energy to many technical societies and government agencies. He was vice president of SEG in 1964, served as president in 1967, received honorary membership in 1976, and was awarded the Maurice Ewing Gold Medal in 1986.