Thursday, March 13, 2014

Reading :: The Schlumberger Adventure

The Schlumberger Adventure
By Anne Gruner Schlumberger

Just a brief review here. In 1997, I came to Austin to intern with Schlumberger Well Services at their Austin Product Center—a very rewarding experience, leading to my first qualitative research project and three publications. The APC, alas, has been closed for a while, but I think of it fondly. I reminisced about it when I read Geoff Bowker's Science on the Run, in which he described the history of the company based on its archives and ancillary sources. Although I don't have the book at hand, I'm pretty sure one of them was The Schlumberger Adventure. So when I saw it at a used bookstore, I snapped it up.

The Schlumberger Adventure was written by Anne Gruner Schlumberger, the daughter of one of the brothers who founded the company and (for a while) the wife of Henri Doll, one of the key leaders in the company. It's not a history so much as a memoir of how the company grew from a couple of brothers conducting experiments in a bathtub to a multinational corporation. The author treats everyone evenhandedly, noting both their strengths and their foibles, and focusing more on the difficulties than the triumphs. The book is a collection of moments: driving across Oklahoma in an unreliable car; seeing their Russian partners become more withdrawn and agentless as Stalin took hold, then finally disappearing; trying to avoid the Second World War. It's a fast read and a sensitive portrait. If you're interested in the history of the company, I'd recommend it.

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