AIP History Center Newsletter
Volume 41, No. 1, Spring 2009

Mystery Photo Explained! Vivian Leroy Chrisler is in the Box

Image for Mystery Photo article

In our Fall 2008 issue, we asked our readers for help in identifying this mystery photo. The description is: “Vivian Leroy Chrisler is in the Box.” We received quite a few responses (see below), and we are very grateful to all who wrote in and helped us finally identify this photograph. Image courtesy of American Institute of Physics’ Emilio Segrè Visual Archives.

Image of Vivian Leroy Chrisler in the box
(Source: Popular Science, May, 1930. Our thanks to John Philip Downing, who sent us the link:

Vivian Leroy Chrisler, born in Minden, Nebraska, 1885—the man “in the box”—enjoyed a varied career after graduating with a B.S. in physics from the University of Nebraska in 1903 and with an A.M. degree in 1909. He taught physics at North Carolina (1910–1916), Iowa State College (1916–1918), Wabash College (1918–1919), and Southwest Presbyterian College (1919–1920). He then shifted to the National Bureau of Standards in 1923, where he gradually rose to become Head Physicist at the David Taylor Model Basin.

An acoustics researcher, he specialized in building acoustics and underwater sound. He acted as the acoustical consultant for the U.S. Capitol. In the 1920s he used the box in the picture to investigate several topics in building acoustics, including both the acoustics of “talking” motion pictures and those of the courtroom. In addition, Chrisler studied sound abatement in apartment buildings and in airplanes, and published texts and research monographs. He was a Fellow of the American Physical Society and a Fellow and Vice President of the Acoustical Society of America. He died in 1953, aged 68.

Our thanks to C. Stewart Gillmor, John Philip Downing, and Peter Broughton for biographical information and for highlighting several of the uses of Chrisler’s acoustic box.

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