Norman Bleistein


In Memoriam

The geophysical community has lost one of its brightest lights with the passing of Dr. Norman Bleistein, University Emeritus Professor at Mines. He was 83. Dr. Bleistein was recognized as one of the world’s leading applied mathematicians in the field of exploration geophysics. Dr. Bleistein received a PhD in mathematics from the Courant Institute for Mathematical Sciences at New York University in 1965. After a year of post-doctoral study there, and three years as an assistant professor of applied mathematics at MIT, he moved to the University of Denver (DU), where in 1969, he advanced to the rank of full professor.

In 1979, at DU, Dr. Bleistein, with colleagues Jack Cohen, John DeSanto, and Frank Hagin, founded a research group that would become the Center for Wave Phenomena (CWP). In 1983, the “DU Four” moved their research group to Mines where a year later it officially became CWP. Norm also founded the Consortium Project on Seismic Inverse Methods for Complex Structures as part of CWP. Norm served as CWP director until 1996.

Dr. Bleistein and his colleague Jack K. Cohen were pioneers in use of large wavenumber asymptotics to develop some of the earliest true-amplitude seismic migration methods. The earliest application produced true-amplitude Kirchhoff-style migrations. Bleistein and others would later extend these techniques to develop amplitude-preserving Gaussian beam and reverse time finite-difference migration algorithms. The latter work was conducted after his retirement from Mines.

The Consortium project at CWP has been a highly successful program that has educated many students to this day. Norm’s enthusiasm and brilliance served to inspire generations of students, many of whom have become leaders in exploration geophysics. Bleistein’s efforts were not confined to Mines or the US; his reach was international. While teaching short courses in Europe, China, and Brazil, he actively recruited students and developed new collaborations. He helped a number of mathematicians improve their careers. Norm had a way of pulling students into the topics he taught. “Do the easy problem first,” he would say.

Dr. Bleistein’s impact in publications is manifold, with 135 peer-reviewed articles and more than 2,000 citations. Bleistein was also the author of three landmark texts on the subject of the mathematics of seismic imaging, mathematics of wave phenomena, and the general topic of asymptotic methods. In recognition of his impact on the field of seismic imaging, Dr. Bleistein was awarded Honorary Membership in the Society of Exploration Geophysicists (SEG) in 2005. For his lifetime of achievements, in 2014 he was awarded the SEG’s highest honor, the Maurice Ewing Medal.

Bleistein had passions for foreign travel, bicycling, and photography. He would immerse himself in local cultures, capturing scenes and moments from his trips in his photography.

He is survived by his children Steven (wife Kayu and son Alexandre) and Abby (husband Rich, and sons Max and Jack), his wife Judy Armstrong and her children Clare and Kevin (wife Rachel and daughter Mia) — John W. Stockwell, Jr.

Celebration of Life for Norman Bleistein

Tuesday, November 22
3 – 4:15 p.m. Funeral service
4:15 – 5:30 Drinks and appetizers

Feldman’s Mortuary
1673 York St Denver, CO 80206
Phone: (303) 322-7764

Please do not send flowers.  Norm would love you to recognize the wonderful care he received at Shalom Park by donation –

It will be possible to view the event live on YouTube or to watch the recording at a later time. Here is the link where you can watch Norm’s service:

Click it a few minutes before it starts and it will take you to the Feldman YouTube page. You will see “Funeral Service of Norman Bleistein” where you can click to watch. And the service will be saved on the Feldman YouTube page for you to watch after the fact.

SEG/Norm Bleistein Memorial Fund

The SEG/Norman Bleistein Memorial Scholarship endowment was established in 2022 in memory of Dr. Norman Bleistein by Zhaobo Meng, Lihua Yang and others. This endowment is to provide academic merit-based scholarships to students studying geophysics or a closely related field at any university in the world.

SEG/Norm Bleistein Memorial Fund