Max Steineke

Deceased: 23 April 1952

Under: Obituary

Aramco and the petroleum world last week mourned the death of Max Steineke, for many years the company's chief geologist and the man who "more than anyone else… is entitled to credit for discovering the large oil reserves which have been found in Saudi Arabia."

This accolade came from Vice-President F. W. Ohliger. The company's view was complemented by that of His Excellency Shaikh Abdullah Suleiman, the Saudi Minister of Finance. Shaikh Abdullah said of Max Steineke's death: "It is indeed a sorrowful calamity and a great loss. This country will never forget the services he extended to it and shares the company's sorrow and grief."

The fact that Max Steineke was but the fifth person to receive the distinguished Sidney Powers Memorial Medal awarded by the American Association of Petroleum Geologists indicates the high esteem in which he was held by the industry as a whole. He died just a week ago today at his home in Los Altos, California, following a long and serious illness which he contracted in 1948.

It was more than 17 years ago that Max Steineke crossed the Persian Gulf from Bahrein Island to the mainland on an Al Gosaibi Brothers dhow. He waded ashore through waist deep water at Jubail, and joined the small group of oil pioneers who preceded him to Saudi Arabia.

Their early life on the Arabian mainland was a series of geological disappointments. For a while, things were so discouraging that even the Dammam dome seemed a doubtful oil-bearing formation. But Max Steineke was one of those who never gave up faith in the potentialities of Arabian oil. The many disappointments and frustrations of exploratory work from 1933 to 1938 and beyond this only encouraged him to try new approaches and examine new areas in the search for oil in Saudi Arabia. He was so eminently successful because he adapted his many skills and his genius to the peculiar conditions of exploratory work on Al Hasa desert.

Max Steineke considered himself the leader of a team, and he always took into consideration the opinions of his fellow geologists. This, plus the continual search for new approaches, eventually provided the key to the rich Saudi Arabian oil resources. Or, as he put it himself, "as a result of all the false starts, the many discussions, and the theories that were advanced at such discussions, by the process of elimination we finally began to sense the true solution to the geological puzzle."

The company joins Max Steineke's many friends in Saudi Arabia and in the United States in extending deep sympathy to his survivors. [Photograph]

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