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Oral History Transcript — Dr. Eric Ungar

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Interview with Dr. Eric Ungar
By Richard Peppin
At the Ft. Lauderdale Marina Marriott Hotel, Florida
December 6, 2001

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Eric Ungar; December 6, 2001

ABSTRACT: Ungarís family leaves Vienna for St. Louis fleeing the Nazis. College at Washington University is interrupted by Army service in postwar Europe. Takes up mechanical engineering on return to Washington University. Masterís degree while employed at Sandia Laboratories, Albuquerque, NM. PhD at New York University where he briefly teaches. Joins Bolt, Beranek and Newman in late 1950s. Also joins the Acoustical Society of America rising to the presidency. Family and leisure activities.

Transcript

Peppin:

Okay, well today is the 6th of December. My name is Rich Pippin and Iím with Eric Ungar.

Ungar:

2001.

Peppin:

2001. Right, the year. And weíre in the Ft. Lauderdale Marina Marriott Hotel at the Acoustical Society of America Meeting. Iíll be interviewing Eric Ungar, my name Rich Peppin. Okay, letís see, where do we go? Now weíll just start off. Okay. Now. Whatís your present address?

Ungar:

The work address?

Peppin:

Whatever you like.

Ungar:

Okay. Iím at Acentech, Incorporated in Cambridge, Massachusetts and the street address is 33 Moulton Street, M-o-u-l-t-o-n, Cambridge, MA 02138-1118.

Peppin:

Your present employer.

Ungar:

As I said, Acentech.

Peppin:

Present telephone number?

Ungar:

Itís 617-499-8022.

Peppin:

Whatís your present job title?

Ungar:

Iím called Chief Engineering Scientist.

Peppin:

How long have you been with them?

Ungar:

Iíve been full time for about three years and previously I was splitting my time between Acentech and BBN (Bolt, Beranek and Neuman) for perhaps three to four years.

Peppin:

And that was it?

Ungar:

Thatís it.

Peppin:

What do you do at Acentech?

Ungar:

Most of my work is in the consulting area, largely related to vibration.

Peppin:

Okay. Now just an aside, what will happen is this: this will be transcribed by ASA, theyíll send it to me, Iíll mark it up and Iíll send my marked up version to you, and anything you want to delete or add thatís not clear — because they may not type it just right.

Ungar:

Okay.

Peppin:

The last one I did — I think it was Dave Lubman — they got me and Lubmanís voice confused, so it got very confusing. Okay. Now first a couple of ASA-related questions. What year did you join the ASA?

Ungar:

I donít remember, but itís been thirty years plus.

Peppin:

Okay, so roughly in the seventies you think? Or the sixties?

Ungar:

No. late seventies.

Peppin:

Late seventies.

Ungar:

Late seventies, maybe early eighties.

Peppin:

That doesnít sound right.

Ungar:

I would have to see.

Peppin:

Yeah, okay. Well, we can tell. ASA will have that right.

Ungar:

Yeah. We can look up the records.

Peppin:

Do you know roughly your age then? No, you donít know the age because you donít remember roughly.

Ungar:

How old I was then?

Peppin:

Yeah.

Ungar:

No, then I could have been in my forties.

Peppin:

Were you doing the same job as youíre doing now?

Ungar:

No, I was at BBN at the time.

Peppin:

Okay.

Ungar:

And I think I came to BBN in Ď58 or Ď59 and then joined ASA shortly thereafter.

Peppin:

What area of acoustics were you interested in then, or was it vibration?

Ungar:

I have always been focusing on vibration. No, vibration and noise control and other things closely related.

Peppin:

What were your reasons for joining ASA?

Ungar:

Mostly just to learn more about the whole field, and also because everybody else at BBN belonged.

Peppin:

So you just joined. Did anyone encourage you or did you just do it yourself?

Ungar:

I donít remember, but I think the environment was such that we were all encouraged to join. Yeah.

Peppin:

Itís a very enriching environment. Yeah. Did you join any ASA committees?

Ungar:

Eventually, yes. Iím not sure when I did.

Peppin:

You were on TC (Technical Committee) Noise, werenít you?

Ungar:

No, I was on TC Structural Acoustics or Shock and Vibration, as it used to be called.

Peppin:

Right, right.

Ungar:

And I served there several years before the committee got organized and the succession rules were worked out.

Peppin:

Right. What positions in ASA did you hold? Offices or —?

Ungar:

I served as president and before that as vice president and on the executive and technical councils.

Peppin:

Right. Is there any particular ASA meeting or meetings that stand out as being special to you? Do you remember any of them as significant?

Ungar:

Well, a joint meeting in Japan — a joint meeting in Hawaii with the Japanese. Of course, that was a very interesting one.

Peppin:

Yes, yes.

Ungar:

But other than that —

Peppin:

You were president for one year?

Ungar:

Right.

Peppin:

I guess thatís a one-year commitment.

Ungar:

Yeah. Itís a standard term.

Peppin:

And did you have a lot of work to do as president. Is it a tough job?

Ungar:

Well, the presidency is what you make of it, and I guess I didnít do much innovation. I went along and kept things rolling. We did institute a few new things.

Peppin:

Did it take a lot of your time away from BBN stuff or anything else?

Ungar:

Not a tremendous amount of time. I didnít have a lot of time to devote to it.

Peppin:

Were there any ASA members that you met that influenced you when you came to the meetings, anything —?

Ungar:

Well, many of the ASA members with whom I worked on a day-to-day basis of course had a great influence on me.

Peppin:

Probably everybody, almost everybody at BBN was —

Ungar:

Just about everybody at BBN belonged.

Peppin:

Right, right. Do you have anything you want to say about ASA in the past, present or future, ASA related?

Ungar:

Well, I like the interaction with the people. Weíve made friends over the years, and itís like a large family or fraternity if you wish — in addition to the technical. There good people.

Peppin:

Right. Do you attend a lot of the technical meetings now or mostly schmoozing sessions?

Ungar:

No, I attend as many of the technical sessions as I can. I find them all very instructive and try to go to meetings outside my specialty to find out whatís going on elsewhere. And I pass the information on at company meetings. We talk about what we learned.

Peppin:

Does Acentech support you in this?

Ungar:

Yes.

Peppin:

What other organizations do you belong to besides ASA, or did you belong to?

Ungar:

Well, I used to be very active in ASME. I have been less active lately. I still belong. I belong to AIAA, where I have been even less active. And of course INCE (Institute of Noise Control Engineering).

Peppin:

INCE, right. Right.

Ungar:

And I was president of INCE for a while, as you know.

Peppin:

Right. Okay, now some past history stuff. When and where were you born?

Ungar:

I was born in Vienna (Austria). The 12th of November, 1926 was my birth date, and so Iíve just passed my seventy-fifth birthday last month.

Peppin:

My father was born in Vienna.

Ungar:

Is that right?

Peppin:

Yeah. He moved here in 1909 about as a young boy.

Ungar:

So heís a little older than I am.

Peppin:

Yeah, yeah.

Ungar:

Is he still around?

Peppin:

Yeah, heís still alive. Heís ninety-three or something like that.

Ungar:

Very good. I hope I can emulate him. See, I knew you werenít all bad.

Peppin:

Before you entered college where did you live?

Ungar:

Before college?

Peppin:

Yeah.

Ungar:

Well, of course I went through primary school in Vienna, came to the States in 1939, eventually wound up in St. Louis, where I finished grade school in two weeks and then went on to high school. So I went through high school in St. Louis.

Peppin:

What made your parents emigrate to the States?

Ungar:

Well, it was persecution by the Nazi regime.

Peppin:

Yeah. So but they voluntarily left and tried to get away?

Ungar:

Well, ďvoluntarilyĒ left to preserve their lives.

Peppin:

Yeah, I mean it was sort of running as opposed to being pushed out. I mean somebody didnít grab them out of there or something. It was like fear sort of.

Ungar:

Hmm?

Peppin:

Fear related.

Ungar:

Well, it was a matter of life and death.

Peppin:

Yeah. What did your parents do as an occupation?

Ungar:

Well, my father in Vienna was educated as a pharmacist and worked for a company that made flavors and concentrates of — what do you call them? — alcoholic beverages, and then he had a small store that essentially sold tea and liqueur.

Peppin:

In the States.

Ungar:

No, it was still in Vienna. When he came to the States he eventually wound up working as a chemist for Anheuser-Busch in St. Louis, working in the water laboratory at Anheuser-Busch.

Peppin:

Is that why he moved to St. Louis?

Ungar:

No. The Immigrant Aid Society tried to get as many people as possible out of New York, and so they handed us a ticket and told us to go to the Midwest. Passed us on to some other aid society. And in fact we wound up in St. Louis by mistake, because we were supposed to go to Cincinnati. We got the wrong tickets and we wound up at St. Louis.

Peppin:

Do you remember that journey?

Ungar:

I remember part of it. I remember getting to St. Louis and sort of not knowing what to do.

Peppin:

How would you describe yourself during those years? I donít know what that actually means, but this is now of course pre-college. So you went to grade school and high school in St. Louis.

Ungar:

Well, I finished grade school in St. Louis. I essentially finished grade school in Vienna and then I, because I didnít know any better, started grade school in St. Louis and finished it in two weeks. And then went to high school, basically a plain old high school and sort of learned English there. The interesting thing is that I was put through speech therapy in order to improve my accent, and Iím very grateful because they did a reasonable job.

Peppin:

Oh yeah. I couldnít even tell that you were from another country.

Ungar:

And other than that, it was not a highly academic high school and I breezed through it, fortunately.

Peppin:

Was it a good time for you or did you pay attention to school work or did you fool around or —?

Ungar:

Well, no, I had a good time. I enjoyed high school and was on the swimming team among other things and spent a lot of time at the Y.

Peppin:

Yeah. Was there anything during those years that was very influential on you in any way?

Ungar:

In the scientific sort of way?

Peppin:

In any way — scientific, religious, political.

Ungar:

I enjoyed the academic work and I enjoyed mathematics. And in fact, my parents thought that I would not be able to go to college because of financial limitations, and therefore I started off in a high school curriculum which was sort of business oriented — you know, business arithmetic rather than algebra. This lasted for a year. And then I decided I really wanted to know more, so I spent most of the summers in summer school taking all the math courses I could find, you know, in high school.

Peppin:

Yeah, yeah.

Ungar:

And I now caught up on all the math and science courses available and I aced Ďem. And I loved the geometry course, because I could run circles around the teacher. It had to be a lousy teacher. And she was afraid to see me coming because I would always nail her with questions.

Peppin:

ďThat UNGAR kid. Oh no, oh geez.Ē

Ungar:

Yeah. I would hate to have any student in my classes that acts like I did.

Peppin:

So what happened? How did you get this college? How did you choose it?

Ungar:

Well, what happened is that then in the St. Louis school system, the top graduates get a free scholarship to Washington University, which is one of two universities in St. Louis. So I got a half tuition scholarship to Washington U, which was fifty dollars, and it was a considerable amount of money. And so I went to Washington U.

Peppin:

Did you commute?

Ungar:

I commuted, yeah. In fact I lived close enough I could almost walk, and in fact I did walk, walked or took the street car.

Peppin:

Did you have a major?

Ungar:

I started off in chemical engineering. I donít know why, but my father said ďIím a chemist,Ē you know. He said, ďChemistry is the way to go,Ē which in Germany was ďthe scienceĒ, you know, like nuclear engineering eventually became in the U.S.

Peppin:

Yeah, right, at one time, right.

Ungar:

He always had me tagged for an engineer and I think that was probably a reasonable selection on his part. But he put — he suggested chemical engineering, so I started in chemical engineering. And unfortunately chemistry was taught very poorly by the senior professor I had. I had a very arrogant teacher who required a lot of memorization and gave us none of the analytical stuff that I go for. Then along came the war, World War II, and I went in the Army.

Peppin:

During the year?

Ungar:

After about a year and a quarter or so at Washington U.

Peppin:

Did you get drafted or you volunteered?

Ungar:

I volunteered. As a non-citizen you canít get drafted. It was called ďvoluntarily inductedĒ.

Peppin:

So you sort of in a way were discouraged about school and you went to the — or you felt patriotic?

Ungar:

No, no. You had to go in the Army basically. You had to. You had to serve, and all the other people my age were going in, so there was no question. So I went in the Army. And with my technical bent and technical training I was marked for infantry.

Peppin:

Just the kind you picked.

Ungar:

Yeah. But I went through infantry basic training and realized that — I learned there quickly that there was such a thing as Officers Candidate School and you can get out of being a private very quickly. So I said, ďIf any idiot is going to tell people what to do, Iím going to be that idiot.Ē So I applied for OCS and went through OCS and got to be a Second Lieutenant Infantry Unit Commander. And well, I was one of the so-called 30-day wonders.

Peppin:

Where did you do training?

Ungar:

Fort Benning, Georgia. It was an Infantry Officers Candidate School. And it sounds silly, but it was a good experience. You know, it was a good experience and I got a good infantry feeling. You know, every time Iíd walk across the street here and say, ďAha. As a foot soldier I can go here, but a driver canít go there,Ē and that kind of stuff.

Peppin:

And did you go overseas?

Ungar:

Yeah, I did. And I was in OCS on D-Day — I mean when Germany surrendered I was in OCS. But Japan was still going on. So I was assigned to train soldiers to go to Japan and for me to go with them eventually. But then I found the opportunity to volunteer to go to Europe instead, and I had much more reason to go to Europe than Japan. Besides, they werenít fighting there anymore.

Peppin:

Right. It was over, right.

Ungar:

But of course, I could also speak the language, so I had an interest in going there, and I had much less of an axe to grind with the Japanese — personally — than with the Germans.

Peppin:

Yeah, yeah.

Ungar:

So I essentially volunteered to go to Europe. I found an announcement saying you can sign up for repatriation to go to Europe — I had no idea what repatriation was, but I signed up. So repatriation turned out to be graves registration, and the job I had eventually was to go find buried Americans, find out how they died and then dig them up and bring them back home — which turned out to be also interesting for me, because I could, since I could speak the language it was interesting and I was assigned eventually to the Russian Zone of Germany, and I was one of the few American officers who could go through the Russian Zone. I had sort of my own car. my own jeep, my own platoon, and Russian escort officers and it gave me the opportunity to learn some Russian. It also was very interesting to get to know the Russians a little bit, and to see much of the whole area.

Peppin:

And now thereís no fighting but thereís a maintenance and all the cleanup and all that from the war. And so thatís roughly in the Ď44 or Ď45 or something like that, right?

Ungar:

Right. Yeah, Ď45.

Peppin:

Right. And then your tour was up? What made you get out?

Ungar:

Well, I stayed in for four years roughly to help bring some of these things to conclusion. And, very strangely, about a month ago I got a letter from somebody who was trying to find someone who died in the war and to find out what happened to them. And they asked me if I had any records. And I had collected some of my trip reports. Unfortunately not the one that he wanted, but I had kept — you know, every time we went out on a trip we had to write a report of who we found, what we did, then what — who the people were, how they had died, how we found them, how we shipped them back and that kind of stuff. So there are a lot of stories. Iím one of the few people who can say that I was in a cemetery at midnight with the bells tolling, and I was opening a grave holding a candle. But there are a lot of these silly stories that we can tell.

Peppin:

Yeah. So what happened? So after four years you just went back to St. Louis?

Ungar:

Yeah. After four years I went back to St. Louis and finished college. And since I didnít like the way they taught chemistry and I really wanted to get into the mechanics, and I had absolutely no doubt that I wanted to work with mechanical things, with machinery, so changed to mechanical engineering and fell in love with mathematics and took all the math courses I could find and even graded math courses I had never taken. I had enough math for a masterís degree in math before I finished my bachelorís in engineering. So I hardly had to take anymore math courses for my doctorate.

Peppin:

Yeah.

Ungar:

And it was very useful to have that math background. A lot of stuff that engineers donít take, you know, very abstract math courses. It was useful.

Peppin:

Right. Set theory, that kind of topology.

Ungar:

Well, I had projective geometry. Nobody even hears of that anymore, and abstract algebra and —

Peppin:

Yeah, right. So this was probably about Ď48 or something like Ď49?

Ungar:

Well, I graduated in Ď51, so Ď48 to Ď51 was when I was in college.

Peppin:

And so when you were in college did you have any extracurricular activities? Did you do stuff, or was it mostly —? I know as a commuter, me too in City (City College of NY), it was just going back and forth most of the day, but did you do stuff there, a special class?

Ungar:

Well no. I was too old to fool around with the kids there and I spent all my time studying. I took, again — I went to school regular semester and summers to do all this catch up and then get in, because the GI Bill paid for it anyhow, so I just took all the courses I could. And I worked at the Y as a lifeguard and swimming instructor and that was also good because half the time I could do my homework on the job.

Peppin:

Was there anybody in school, any professor that stood out that you admired?

Ungar:

Well I had a math professor whose name was Newton.

Peppin:

Not the Newton.

Ungar:

Not the Newton, but he formerly taught in the naval postgraduate school, and he was just excellent. And so much so that I went into his lecture on Yom Kippur. I went from temple, I walked from temple to the university, listened to his lecture and went back to temple. I mean I loved his lectures so much.

Peppin:

What was his name?

Ungar:

Newton. Not a famous person in his own right as far as I could tell.

Peppin:

So I guess you didnít get involved in any like student kind of protest rallies, nothing like that, mostly working hard.

Ungar:

No, no, no, no, no.

Peppin:

Right, right. Would you have gone to the same college again if you had it to do again?

Ungar:

I think I got an excellent education. I didnít know that there were other colleges. It was totally beyond any financial possibly for me to go anywhere else.

Peppin:

Right, right.

Ungar:

So I think it was very lucky.

Peppin:

I guess though if you had started again youíd have to start right away with mechanical engineering or — You knew really now that thatís your field — or mechanics anyway.

Ungar:

When I got out of the Army, I was given the opportunity to take vocational guidance tests, so I took that, and the results of those tests showed that I should be a journalist. So I didnít get to be a journalist, but I do enjoy writing. I mean they got that right. Iíve done some writing.

Peppin:

Yes. And weíll get to that too in a minute. So what happened then? Did you have any clue that you would go for a graduate or were you planning to get to work? What was in your mind when you were in school? Graduate and go become an engineer?

Ungar:

Well, in the long term I had no doubt that I was going to go for the top, you know. So if there was a doctorate out there I had to get it. It there was something higher than a doctorate, I had to get it. No question. But at the time I did want to go out and work and find out what the real world is like. I had seen some of it earlier. And of course right after I graduated I got married and we needed to support ourselves.

Peppin:

Right, right. So where did you go?

Ungar:

Well I wound up at Sandia Corporation in Albuquerque, which was my first job.

Peppin:

And was that —? You knew about Sandia or they recruited at the school?

Ungar:

They recruited. In fact, I had really wanted to go to GE. They had the reputation as being the engineerís company and they had this great professional education program then called the ďABC Program.Ē I think later it was called the ďEdison Program.Ē So my ambition was to go to GE and do that, and in fact I went to an interview to Flint, Michigan I remember and took an exam there and I got the highest grade ever scored. They made me an offer, but I didnít want to go to Flint, Michigan. And besides that Sandia made me an offer which was like five bucks a month more — and that was a lot of money at the time.

Peppin:

I did the same thing.

Ungar:

And I didnít know what Sandia was for sure, but I went there for an interview also, and it was a pretty interesting place I decided, and so I went, moved to Albuquerque.

Peppin:

How long were you there?

Ungar:

I was there between two and three years. And the only reason I left is I wanted to continue with my education. While I worked at Sandia I went to the University of New Mexico for night school and got my masterís degree there. And when that was done I wanted to move elsewhere.

Peppin:

Right. So then what? You went to MIT?

Ungar:

I went to NYU in fact. And one of my colleagues there recommended me to NYU. He had been at NYU, had been an instructor there.

Peppin:

Uptown I guess, in the Bronx?

Ungar:

In the Bronx, in the uptown campus which is no longer extant. And so again, I got an offer from Brown, I got an offer from NYU. NYU paid a few bucks more. Which is really ridiculous, because I didnít take the cost of living factor into account. But I didnít know any better. I didnít know any better.

Peppin:

Well, at the University — is it the University of New Mexico, is that the school?

Ungar:

Yes.

Peppin:

What was your thesis on?

Ungar:

It was an air spring — using air springs as a shock test device.

Peppin:

So mostly it was in mechanical engineering or quantum mechanics?

Ungar:

It was in mechanical engineering.

Peppin:

So okay. Then after that you went to NYU because — I know that feeling. And so you moved the family. It was just —

Ungar:

Well, by then we had one daughter and we moved to New York City.

Peppin:

And you lived downtown in the city?

Ungar:

Washington Heights. Youíve ever been to Washington Heights?

Peppin:

Yeah, yeah.

Ungar:

My aunt lives in Washington Heights. In fact we camped with her for longer than was fair for everybody.

Peppin:

Okay. And what did you do there? A Ph.D. in mechanical engineering?

Ungar:

Actually I was a full-time instructor, I taught full-time and went to school full time. And I got a doctorate in mechanical engineering. And I focused on applied mechanics basically and my thesis was in plasticity theory, which I hadnít touched since then, but it was good background. And I think I learned more teaching than I did studying. Particularly machine design. Machine design involves a lot of modeling, mechanical modeling and mathematical modeling and approximations and thatís been a very great base for me to do other things in that field.

Peppin:

Right, right. So you supported yourself as an instructor?

Ungar:

Right.

Peppin:

And you worked on this. Okay. And this was the graduate thesis. Your Ph.D. was on plasticity?

Ungar:

Right.

Peppin:

And then what? What happened then? Were you publishing? Were you active professionally at that time?

Ungar:

Well, I tried hard to get published at the time, but while I was a graduate student I couldnít really do much. I was teaching a full load. I was teaching everything from — I was teaching thermodynamics and engine lab, machine design and kinematics, and eventually taught a course in vibration. And never had a course in vibration. Never had a course in vibration, so I taught myself vibration basically. The head of the department, Austin Church was the name, had written a book on vibration and I read his book. Yeah. He was from the old school. He didnít know much mathematics and I think he didnít understand or didnít care much about mathematics, you know so I could — I read his whole book in a couple hours and then I knew I could better than that, you know. Itís just a terrible thing to say about this now deceased professor.

Peppin:

And then —

Ungar:

Go ahead. Go ahead.

Peppin:

Were you thinking about being a professor at the end of all of this?

Ungar:

I didnít have any long-term plans. I stayed on after my doctorate to teach for a year and I was a professor, I mean an assistant professor, and I started to talk to some graduate students. Itís raining out there now.

Peppin:

Oh boy.

Ungar:

But I felt like my talents were not being used and not very widely [correct word?] enough at NYU, and I wasnít paid much. I was teaching the same courses as a full professor, only better, in my opinion. Maybe not in their opinion. And I was getting paid a third of what they were getting paid and no fringe benefits, so I finally convinced the department to send me to summer courses. The first summer course was at Union College where GE had put on a program for young professors. And I enjoyed that. That was very instructive. Next year the summer courses [inaudible phrase] a good deal and they sent to another one. What came up, a random vibrations course at MIT with Steve Crandall [spelling?], so I attended that and I enjoyed that course. And I also enjoyed running after school to the boathouse on the Charles and getting a sailboat out with John Curreri, who got to be a professor for at Brooklyn Poly eventually. So he and I used to go out sailing. You know, we had no idea how to sail but we learned.

Peppin:

What year is this about?

Ungar:

Weíre talking about Ď57, in that time frame.

Peppin:

Okay. So you liked MIT.

Ungar:

But I had no intention of leaving NYU. I was going to stay there and be a professor. But then I got this very strange letter from Leo Beranek of Bolt, Beranek and Neuman telling me what a wonderful company it was and I should consider coming there. A very nice and talky letter. And I looked at the letter and said, ďGee. What president of any decent company has time to write this kind of stuff?Ē I wasnít even going to go for an interview, you know. But my wife convinced me that we should go and at least get a free weekend at Cape Code. Are we recording again?

Peppin:

Yeah. Weíre back. Yeah.

Ungar:

So I did go up [to BBN] for an interview. I interviewed with Ira Dyer and Leo Beranek. And I think Peter Franken was there as well.

Peppin:

How big was the company then?

Ungar:

I guess the company had forty or fifty people, at most.

Peppin:

Now how did he know about you? From Crandall?

Ungar:

Steve Crandall evidently recommended me somehow. Somehow. And anyhow, they made me an offer that I couldnít refuse. I almost doubled my salary overnight when I went to work for BBN. The first few months I essentially commuted. I left the family in New York. I came up during the week, worked in Cambridge, lived at the Y, and made it back on the weekends to New York.

Peppin:

What was your title there when you joined?

Ungar:

Iím not quite sure. Scientist or something like that.

Peppin:

But you were not in management or anything?

Ungar:

No. Definitely.

Peppin:

You were just an engineer there.

Ungar:

Yeah, right. Yeah. Doing technical work all the way.

Peppin:

And how did it go? So this is roughly like the late fifties or so. And so you just — essentially you stayed with the firm for the entire rest of your working life, right?

Ungar:

Yeah, essentially, for thirty-seven years. A mere thirty-seven years.

Peppin:

And BBN was sold or something? How did it switch to become Acentech? How did that happen?

Ungar:

Well, letís see. Acentech was a part of BBN.

Peppin:

Always?

Ungar:

Used to be. Acentech was the architectural consulting arm of BBN, and perhaps ten years ago it was set up as a separate subsidiary so that it could get Arizona errors and omissions insurance for Acentech. And then in my last three or four years at BBN I split my time between BBN and Acentech, now research and consulting, and then when I retired from BBN just before it was sold I came full time to Acentech and have been there ever since.

Peppin:

I see. And BBN was sold —

Ungar:

BBN first was sold to GTE. GTE was bought by Bell Atlantic, and then Bell Atlantic was bought or merged with Verizon. So all my friends at BBN, now called BBN Technologies, are now employees of Verizon. And I guess they get cheap telephones.

Peppin:

Thatís right. So, and have you been doing roughly the same thing at Acentech as BBN, that is vibration work?

Ungar:

I always focused on vibration, but at BBN we did a wide variety of projects related to noise and vibration. Most people at BBN focused on naval projects. And the Navy was, of course, a source of support and funding for much of the BBN group. But I quickly realized that these guys knew more about underwater sound and Navy projects than I ever will — than I ever will and I ever did. I consciously focused on other things. So I did a lot of work for the Air Force and for other agencies.

Peppin:

When you started were there other offices of BBN in different cities too?

Ungar:

There was a New York office, there was a Chicago office, as I recall. I did not have a great deal to do with those.

Peppin:

Okay. Wow we are getting through here. Now one way I know you is as a teacher from Penn State. Have you taught other places as a guest lecturer or as an adjunct professor?

Ungar:

Well I taught in some summer courses at MIT, and also in some short courses at the University of Dayton for several years.

Peppin:

Would they invite you as a BBN person or Acentech person or as yourself?

Ungar:

Well of course they wanted me as a person, whether I did it under the BBN flag or not. Most of the teaching was done under my own flag. You know, it was on my own time basically.

Peppin:

As a vibration person in BBN probably you were a little bit separate technically anyway from Leo [Beranek] and the other people that were there? Were you — did they influence you in that sense?

Ungar:

Well, I think thereís a convergence, you know. Noise and vibration are closely related. I learned noise. I learned noise plus acoustics from Leoís books and others. And I think I got the company more into low-frequency vibration, low-frequency structure vibration than before. They had done some vibration work, on naval isolation problems and the like. But I think I got the company into vibration of aircraft including high-frequency vibration, and eventually into vibration of buildings, which is most of my current work.

Peppin:

Did you have any really say spectacular kind of projects that you worked on that are memorable at Acentech that you want to talk about?

Ungar:

Well, there are a lot of interesting projects. I worked on an experiment that the astronauts placed on the moon. I did a design review of that.

Peppin:

Yeah.

Ungar:

And I worked on the laser tracker that tracks the moon. This thing is in Maui, and I like to tell people I worked both of these only on paper; I never got to go to either of these two places. So thatís a couple of the sexy projects. I worked on the Presidentís helicopter hangar in Anacostia, Washington where they actually fly helicopters inside the hangar when they take off.

Peppin:

I see.

Ungar:

What else? I worked on a lot of high-tech facilities lately. Right now we have a project going on concerned with quieting gear sets for the next generation of aircraft carriers.

Peppin:

These are in the propulsion sense?

Ungar:

Yeah. The gear set that drives a propeller. Trying to make them quiet for the crew. Itís not underwater quiet. And lately I have had the opportunity to work on a lot of high-tech equipment — electron microscopes and experiments where they insert probes into brain cells of animals and at MIT. A couple months ago — well, maybe one month ago I was in the lab at Harvard where they slowed down light waves, and Iím working on vibration isolation of that experimental setup. So the nice thing, I get to see a lot of technology.

Peppin:

Yes.

Ungar:

I donít necessarily understand a lot of that technology, but I help make it work.

Peppin:

Yeah. So you retired from BBN but you are now like working for Acentech.

Ungar:

Yes.

Peppin:

Full time?

Ungar:

Full time.

Peppin:

Do you plan on retiring at all?

Ungar:

I have no definite plans, no. Iíve given myself more time off lately. You know, I take a day or two after the meetings and never used to do that before.

Peppin:

Okay. Thatís good. I know youíve published many papers. Did you write books at all?

Ungar:

Well, Iíve done a whole bunch of chapters for handbooks and monographs. I translated Structure Borile Sound from German. Thatís the only real book I have to my credit.

Peppin:

And yeah, I know youíve written a lot of papers and stuff.

Ungar:

I think I counted two hundred and some-odd papers. So the journalist in me gets out.

Peppin:

Yeah. ASA will probably ask for your resume, current, to keep with this thing. Not much more to go here, but your present marital status. Youíre married of course and your wife, Goldie, you married her when you got out of school?

Ungar:

Right. We just passed the 50-year mark on July the 1st.

Peppin:

Wow. How did you meet her?

Ungar:

She was a blind date.

Peppin:

Oh yeah?

Ungar:

Yeah.

Peppin:

Wow. And where did you get married, in St. Louis?

Ungar:

In St. Louis. Yeah, she was born and raised there and had never been out of St. Louis. So she got married and since then sheís almost never been there.

Peppin:

Wow. And that was roughly when you got out of the college, right?

Ungar:

Right after graduation.

Peppin:

Right. And so your first child was Sharon?

Ungar:

Judy. I donít think youíve ever met her.

Peppin:

No, I never met her.

Ungar:

She was born in Albuquerque. The second child was born in New York, and the last two were born in Boston.

Peppin:

So what are their names? I donít know.

Ungar:

Well, Judy was first and Susan is number two, Ellen is number three and Sharon is number four.

Peppin:

Oh, I see. I knew the younger.

Ungar:

Yeah, Sharon. Youíve met Sharon.

Peppin:

So Judy was in St. Louis and —

Ungar:

Judy was born in Albuquerque.

Peppin:

Albuquerque. Sorry, yeah. And then?

Ungar:

And Susan was born in New York.

Peppin:

New York? The other two —

Ungar:

And then Ellen and Sharon were born in Boston.

Peppin:

In Boston. Where did you live in Boston?

Ungar:

Well, we live in Newton. Weíve been in the same house temporarily for forty years.

Peppin:

That long, huh?

Ungar:

Right.

Peppin:

Any chance of moving?

Ungar:

We just got a new roof, so Iím not sure.

Peppin:

Youíve got twenty years to go now before it goes. Your kids, what do they do? Where are your kids now?

Ungar:

Well, Judy lives in the Los Angeles area. Sheís a therapist. Sheís an occupational therapist. And she has two children.

Peppin:

So you have two grandchildren.

Ungar:

A girl and a boy, two grandchildren there in California. The other three live in the greater Boston area. Susan, number two, is principal of a Hebrew school. Incidentally she gave us the most problem going through Hebrew school of all the other kids. Number three, Ellen, is directing a program for English as a second language for foreigners. And she, incidentally, and her family spent three years in Columbia, so her whole family is fluent in Spanish. And thatís number three. And number two and three have degrees in education, and number four, Sharon, is an engineer. She is now working as a full-time mother, but she was in charge of quality control for one of the aircraft engines for GE in Lynn, Mass before she resigned from that. And then went, got an MBA, but she has not — except for writing up a few cases, she hasnít really practiced that.

Peppin:

Maybe later.

Ungar:

Yeah. So three out of four got masterís degrees anyhow.

Peppin:

Yeah, wow. Thatís pretty good. I just have a couple other things actually. Weíre almost finished. But like personally do you do —?

Ungar:

We do have ten grandchildren I have to mention. I canít neglect those.

Peppin:

Holy crow. You want to name them? You might as well, and theyíll be in the record. Or can you?

Ungar:

Yeah, Iím sure I can, yeah. Well Serena and Daniel live in Los Angeles. Theyíre not the oldest ones. The oldest one is Rebecca.

Peppin:

We can sort them later.

Ungar:

Yeah, right. Rebecca and Josh are the two oldest ones. They are in college now.

Peppin:

In college?

Ungar:

Yeah. Rebecca is at McGill and Josh is at Maryland.

Peppin:

Holy crow. Yeah.

Ungar:

And then we got, their youngest sister is Samantha. Those are Susanís kids. Ellenís kids are Sarita, Raquel and Michael, and Sarita is getting ready to go to college, and so is Samantha. They are looking in colleges now. And then our two youngest ones are — they are the most fun.

Peppin:

What are the youngest ones named?

Ungar:

Stacie and Melissa.

Peppin:

And those are Sharonís?

Ungar:

Those are Sharonís kids.

Peppin:

Wow.

Ungar:

Melissa is just four and she is in charge. Yeah.

Peppin:

Thatís cute. And close to you too, which is a pleasure.

Ungar:

Oh yeah. Thatís the best part.

Peppin:

Do you do stuff for fun, non-technical stuff, besides I guess seeing grandkids? Are you involved in —?

Ungar:

Well, Iím on a Temple board.

Peppin:

Which Temple?

Ungar:

Temple Emanuel in Newton. Weíve belonged there for a long time. I was on various committees there. I ran adult education for about a decade. I was on the youth committee for about a decade and ran that for a while. And I still do weightlifting. I gave up karate about two years ago.

Peppin:

Why?

Ungar:

Because my teacher moved away and I couldnít find another good teacher. And I do a lot of reading.

Peppin:

How about travel? Do you travel for fun, or even as part of a —? I know Goldie goes with you a lot.

Ungar:

Yeah. We like to travel as much as we can. Earlier this year we were in Spain and Portugal, and we had planned to go on some other elder hostel trips, but so far because of the September 11th situation we have not made any further plans.

Peppin:

Right. Involved at all with politics?

Ungar:

No.

Peppin:

Any special hobbies? I guess the temple takes up a lot of spare time.

Ungar:

Well, Iíve started reading Talmud. You know, trying to read it all by myself and understand that.

Peppin:

In the Hebrew?

Ungar:

In the original. Well yeah, but with translation, because I donít know the Aramaic or Hebrew well enough, but I read it line for line, one or the other.

Peppin:

Any musical instruments?

Ungar:

No. Totally unmusical.

Peppin:

Listen to it?

Ungar:

Yeah. Well, I like opera.

Peppin:

Go sometimes?

Ungar:

Rarely. Rarely.

Peppin:

Okay. Well, let me — do you have anything you want to add? This [transcript] will be say a basic record at ASA or AIP.

Ungar:

Actually I have written down much of this stuff for ASA already in terms of a written biography.

Peppin:

Oh, you did?

Ungar:

Yeah, I think somebody, maybe Elaine Moran, requested it from all the prior presidents. It has some things in it. So some of the non-anecdotal stuff is already on the record, and I hope nothing here contradicts what Iíve written.

Peppin:

Right. Now you left two things. Some scholar in the future will wonder about that.

Ungar:

How it all fits together.

Peppin:

Yeah. Well, letís see if thereís anything. I donít have anything else. If youíve got it all. How about one other —?

Ungar:

Just as a matter of record, I got some, I found some letters that my grandparents had written to my parents from Vienna. Now, my grandparents did not survive arid they were eventually dragged off to the concentration camps. I found their letters and I translated the letters from German into English and donated the letters and the translations to the Holocaust Museum. So if you want to read those, you can do that.

Peppin:

They are there. Wow.

Ungar:

And I have done some similar translation for other people who have asked me to do that.

Peppin:

Thatís nice. So we could see that.

Ungar:

So thatís another hobby.

Peppin:

Right. Okay. Well, I guess thatís it.

Ungar:

Itís more than enough.

Peppin:

Well, itís good. Itís good to have this, just security anyway. So the plan is I will give this to Elaine, she will have AIP type it up or maybe she will or someone. You can sort it out. You can sort your grandchildrenís names by date or height.

Ungar:

Yeah. Well, Goldie can give you all their birth dates. I canít.

Peppin:

Thatís good. I miss her. Is she here? No, I guess she is not here.

Ungar:

Sheís at the meeting.

Peppin:

Oh, she is?

Ungar:

And she is out with the ladies somewhere right now, Iím hoping.

Peppin:

Oh, okay. Sheís having fun.

Ungar:

Yeah. Might as well.

Peppin:

It would have been good to have her here too, just to see what she thought.

Ungar:

No, she doesnít need to listen to all the stuff.

Peppin:

Okay.

Ungar:

She would contradict me.

Peppin:

Sheíd say ďNo, no, he didnít say it right.Ē All right. Iíll just stop now. Itís a quarter to five about.