Oral History Transcript — Harry B. Miller
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Harry Miller; June 9, 1994
ABSTRACT: Harry Miller, an amateur violinist and a chemistry major at Harvard, became a graduate students in physics and engineering upon becoming acquainted with physics Professor Frederick Saunders who was doing acoustical research on violins. After many conferences and consultations with Professor Ted Hunt, and graduate courses in electrical engineering and physics, Harry Miller was employed by Brush Development Company and did early research and development on magnetic recording. During World War II, while working on Navy hydrophones at Brush, Miller took additional graduate physics courses at Case Institute of Technology to complete his Master's degree in physics. He became manager of electroacoustics at Brush, and later at the Stromberg Carlson division of General Dynamics Corporation. At Brush, he made two inventions which are widely used by the Navy. Then in 1968, Miller went to the Naval Underwater Sound Laboratory where he continues to do research in underwater loudspeakers and arrays. He has authored a widely used Handbook of Piezoelectric Transducers for the Navy, and a book entitled Acoustical Measurements: Methods and Instrumentation in the Benchmark series edited by Dr. Bruce Lindsay. Miller is still active in the Engineering Acoustics Division of the Acoustical Society, and is admired by his peers for his contributions and continuing participation.
Martin: My name is Daniel W. Martin. Today's date is June the 9th, 1994. We're in the McCormick [?] Building at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. I am the interviewer on this tape, and the person being interviewed is Harry B. Miller, who has been primarily involved with engineering acoustics within the Acoustical Society of America, although he has had considerable interest, and has attended meetings and sessions and so forth, in musical acoustics. Harry, we have some questions about the present status. What is your present address, telephone number, and what is your present employer? Or are you self-employed, or what?
Miller: Mm-Hum. No, I'm still working for the Navy. I live at 2 South Ledge Rock Road, Niantic. N-I-A-N-T-I-C. Niantic, Connecticut, 06357. My phone number is 203-739-5969. My employer is NUWC, Naval Undersea Warfare Center, a part of the Navy. Their present business is Navy business. My present job title is Physicist. I have been with them 26 plus years. What do I do there? I design underwater transducers and hydrophones, and noise reducing systems. Okay, who's asking who?
Martin: Harry, I'm asking you these questions first. These have to do with the Acoustical Society of America. And I would like to have you tell us what year, approximately, did you join the Society? How old were you, and what was y (?) or were you a student? In what area of Acoustics were you interested?
Miller: Okay. I believe I joined in 1946; I was 30 at the time. I was an engineer with almost a Master’s Degree at that time. This was my first job. I had been interested in magnetic recording during the war, but at this time — '46 — I was already working in underwater sound.
Martin: What reasons did you have for joining the Society? And was there anyone who encouraged you to join, and who would it be?
Miller: Well, I had been interested in the ASA a good eight years. Professor Saunders had urged me to join about 1938.
Martin: He was a Harvard University Professor, wasn't he?
Miller: He was the chairman of the Department of Physics at Harvard. His passion was finding out how Stradivarius built better violins than anybody after him. And he was the inspiration of the Catgut Acoustical Society. He was really a one man founder for a short time, until he came across John Schelling and Carleen Hutchins.
Martin: What ASA committees have you been, or are you a member of, at the present time?
Miller: Engineering Acoustics. I'm just a civilian, ordinary member, but I have been the chairman on occasion, for a couple of terms. And at the moment I am their representative to the Committee on Members and Fellows.
Martin: I see. Any other positions in the society that you have held, either administrative or from a technical standpoint?
Miller: No, I think that's all.
Martin: In your many years of attendance of ASA meetings, is there anyone or any few that you might mention that would be something special, or humorous, or different?
Miller: All I remember is there were two big ones, and I missed them both. I was on a Navy assignment, and I was not available. One of them was the 50th anniversary, a big deal. I think that was in Boston or Cambridge.
Martin: It was here at MIT.
Miller: Well, I missed that one. There was something else I missed, so I don't really have any single session that I considered outstanding. I liked them all anyway.
Martin: Are there any ASA members that you can recall that have especially influenced your career and your future?
Miller: Yes, there were three. Professor Saunders, and Professor Hunt, both at Harvard. And Professor Lindsay of Brown University. They all had a profound influence on me.
Martin: Is there any way that you would like to say that they did influence you?
Miller: Yeah. I graduated from Harvard in 1937 in Chemistry, and had found out long before that I didn't really like Chemistry. But I loved the Physics of Music. In fact, the only book in print at the time was Jeans, Sir James Jeans, who wrote a terrible book.
Martin: I recall it.
Miller: On the physics of music. He knew all about the Physics of Stars and all, in a very brilliant off-hand manner, but his brilliant off-handed discussion of sound was terrible.
Martin: Yeah. We'll come to the details on this later in the interview. And is there anything you can say in a short manner about the other two men whom you mentioned?
Miller: I'm not sure when we will come to the other, so I'd like to spend a little bit more time on —
Martin: Okay, go ahead.
Miller: Okay. So, I switched over after I graduated to part-time in physics, and later on in so-called communication engineering. And I was talking to Saunders one day. By the way, he was a fine amateur violist and quartet buff. I was sort of one of his protégés, and I asked him some questions about this Acoustical Society. And he said, "Well, as a matter of fact, we're having a meeting this weekend. I think Thursday, Friday, Saturday, why don't you come down Saturday, (it's going to be right over there, in one of the physics rooms), and see how you like it?" That was in 1938. I had never heard of it or anything, but it was Saturday morning, so I thought, I had no classes going on, that's great. So I went down there. The only thing I remember is that there were two papers on architectural acoustics having to do with the normal modes of a rectangular, two-dimensional room. There were two papers with more or less the same title. One was given by a fellow named Richard Bolt, who was a student of Philip Morse at the time. And the other was a paper with a very similar title by Daa U. Maa, who was a student of Hunt. The thing that surprised me was they both had this diagram of normal modes, which looked pretty much the same from one paper to the next, using completely different methods of analyzing it, and explaining it and it looked to me like different equations. Both came out with pretty much the same answers. And so there was a discussion, there was quite a discussion about that, and a lot of laughing. That's all I really remember about my first Acoustical Society meeting. They've both since gone on to great prominence.
Martin: In different countries.
Miller: In different countries.
Miller: Daa U. Maa is now running everything pertaining to physics in China.
That's very illuminating. I imagine that the influence of our former Editor in Chief, —
Martin: Was there anything you wanted to say about Lindsay?
Miller: We'll get to Lindsay later.
Martin: Okay. Then we'll start talking about publications.
Miller: Yeah. After Saunders got me launched on the idea that acoustics is really where I really want to be, I met Hunt. And Hunt befriended me for many years from then on. He was my unofficial tutor in acoustics. I was always inventing something. I used to take my inventions to Hunt and discuss them with him. He was really wonderful. Very patient, very enthusiastic, and he liked most of my inventions. They had to do with phonograph pickups, and microphones, and communication.
Martin: Electro-Acoustics, probably.
Martin: Okay. Is there anything that you'd like to say about the Society? Past, present, or future, that would be of interest? What do you think of the Acoustical Society?
Miller: I love it. It's the only one I belong to. It's probably short-sighted; I should have joined the Audio Engineering Society. You're a member of that, aren't you?
Miller: I used to go to the meetings of the Engineering Acoustics Committee when C.J. Lebel — (Hot Lips was it?) started with the new group.
Martin: You mean the Audio Engineering Society?
Miller: He used to complain a lot about the fact that the Acoustical Society wasn't giving the electro-acoustics people enough coverage, and so forth, and he finally did something about it.
Martin: Yes, he did. He even had the office of the Audio Engineering Society in his business office. Later, when I was president of that society, he died suddenly, and I had a lot to do with transferring the society from his business office to its present location.
Miller: Well, I'll be darned.
Martin: Okay. I think we now have another set of questions to be considered. Harry, when and where were you born?
Miller: I was born in Boston on February 21, 1916.
Martin: And before entering college, where were other places you might have lived?
Miller: That's all. Boston.
Martin: That's where you were, okay. And what about the occupations of your parents?
Miller: My father had a well-known luggage store in Boston, right opposite South Station. And he did well.
Martin: And your mother?
Miller: She was a housewife, and former piano teacher. A graduate of the N.E. Conservatory of Music. She was a mother of five kids. Had to keep them out of trouble all the time.
Martin: Well, that's a full time job.
Martin: Okay. How would you describe yourself during those early years?
Miller: Well, we were a musical family, so, we all played an instrument. Mine was viola. And my father was quite a good violinist. And one of my sisters, who went into music, was a good pianist and good cellist. And we had a family quartet. We used to rehearse every Sunday morning. And this Opus 18 number 4 the Tokyo Quartet played the other night, bothered me a little, because that was our showpiece, and I got to dislike it over the years.
Miller: But that's alright.
Martin: Did they play it right? You, you —
Miller: Yeah, they played it fine. [laughter]
Martin: As a youngster, did you have any ideas of what you wanted to do when you grew up?
Miller: Yeah, I had wanted to go into physics, since I was a little kid. And then when my high school physics teacher was so poor, as a teacher, I said, "Well, I guess I made a mistake." So, for the first year, I went into Classical Languages, which I also happen to like.
Martin: The first time I saw you, that I recall was when I came to Harvard University, and was going through the library, and you were sitting in there reading some classics.
Miller: Oh really?
Martin: Right. [laughter]
Miller: I'll be darned.
Martin: Yeah. Well, that's interesting. So, you started out in classics?
Miller: Yeah. And then, it was in the middle of the Depression.
Martin: I know.
Miller: When you went to college then, a good bit of college education was as a trade school. You'd better be looking out for a job.
Miller: And I said, "Well, all the people I'd heard of in chemistry, were all getting jobs, so I'd better go for chemistry." And I did, but there was only one course there that I really loved, and that was organic chemistry, and it was taught by Louie Fieser, who turned into a famous teacher, and a famous researcher. But, the rest of it I didn't like. And I kept going to physics lectures on the side. Every once in a while there would be a lecture in the physics department in the late afternoon. I heard Percy Bridgman give a wonderful lecture on his work on very high pressures. I heard some other people — Hall, discoverer of the Hall effect, I heard him give something. I took a course later on — much later on — with Lyman, who discovered the Lyman Series for the hydrogen spectrum in the ultraviolet range. I did very well with his course, and he gave me a nice letter of recommendation for my first job.
Martin: Well, good. You've already mentioned that you were very much into music in your high school days.
Martin: Did you have other subjects or events, or activities that you particularly enjoyed?
Miller: That's all I remember.
Martin: Alright. Looking back, during your early years — pre-college — is there someone that you'd like to mention other than your family, who had a particular influence? You already mentioned the physics teacher who didn't do too well. How about a teacher that you might have had or someone who would have influenced you in those days?
Miller: Yeah. I had a Greek teacher, who was — I'll never forget him — he was a wonderful person, that's all.
Martin: That may be why you went into Classical Languages there for a while.
Miller: That's possible. One thing I remember that he said, "Never do today what you can put off until tomorrow." [laughs]
Martin: Well, you haven't followed that.
Miller: I've never followed that, but I love it. [laughs]
Martin: Harry, I believe you wanted to add something there?
Yeah. I should say that I went to a school called Boston Latin School, which is a very famous school in this part of the country. It was founded in 1635, as a prep school to Harvard, which was founded in 1636. And the subjects that they taught were very much the same as the subjects that an English boy had in the 17th Century. We both had Latin, Greek, and Geometry. We had Algebra, they didn't. And we had History and English, and I think the 17th Century boys had the English, and I'm not sure of the History. But anyway, we're very proud of the school, and there were wonderful teachers in those days. You could go into depth in Classical Languages, and I did and I carried it into college, and that's what confused me. That's all on that.
Martin: Thank you. We'll go into questions about your college years now. You've already said that you went to Harvard, and I would like to know what was your major, and what made you choose Harvard, and the major that you chose? You've gone into that to some degree already.
Miller: I have already. The combination of physics and music and Sir James Jeans, all whipped up into a mix, really describes me, but — well, when I was a very little boy — when I was four years old, my parents asked me, "What do you want to do when you grow up?" And I said, "I want to invent the phonograph." And they said, "Well, you can't do that, it's already been done." Well, I didn't know what they meant, but I was going to invent the phonograph. And I'm still inventing the phonograph, and [laughs] I'm working at it all the time.
Well, we have patents appearing in the patent review section of the Acoustical Journal all the time, that have to do with things that have been in existence for a long time.
Martin: But mechanical phonograph patents are getting rather few now.
Miller: Yeah. Well, I was really very broad minded. I didn't object to digital electronics at that time. I just knew that I wanted to do something about making it better.
Martin: Right. Well, you've already mentioned your change in major, and why, so I'm going to go on to the next question. As an undergraduate, did you belong to any special clubs or participate in any special school activities?
Miller: No. Well, I was in the orchestra part of it — on occasion. Being a violist, I found that I could skip sessions and any time I was within visible distance, they'd grab me and invite me to come in and sit in with them, no bawling out; because I was the whole viola section, usually.
Martin: Did you engage in sports of any type?
Miller: Not that I remember.
Martin: Alright. Are there any particular persons during your undergraduate days — a professor or an advisor, or anyone who had a particular influence on you?
Miller: Yeah. Professor Saunders did from my junior year on, even though I was in Chemistry. I kept in touch with him because I liked him. And I think he liked me.
Martin: He was a very fine man.
Miller: He was a fine violist, I don't know if you know that. And he came over to the house once and played with my father’s group, and introduced me to the Mozart Viola Quintets, which I hadn't known. He brought the music. And then said, "Harry, sit down, you've got to get in on this." So pushed the other violist aside, and made me take the second viola part, and it was an eye opener. I don't know if you're familiar with those but they're wonderful. And it was an eye opener. Oh, I remember one thing, yes. About that same — he was very active. About that same time he was working on what makes violins work. Heifetz was in town, giving a concert at Symphony Hall, and Saunders could charm a bird off a tree. He had borrowed Stradivarius violins from little old ladies in Philadelphia, and I think he'd take the tops off and tell them he'd return them in good condition, and he did. I think Schelling or Carleen, Hutchins would help him, and these people would really let them do all kinds of wild things. And he had gotten Heifetz to agree to go down to Harvard's anechoic chamber and just play scales. Did you know anything about that?
Martin: I recall hearing you mention Heifetz playing there, yes.
[laughs] So, he had Heifetz playing scales, and he was recording him on Hunt's new recorder and new pickup. The recorder was alright, it was a Western Electric cutter, but it was Hunt's single-turn light weight pickup that he played it back on. And then he and Bob Watson together analyzed it.
Martin: This is Bob Watson, the son of ASA founder, F.R. Watson?
Miller: Right. And, so I went down to the basement, just to catch a glimpse of them playing, and Saunders had the lab photographer taking pictures. Anyway, there was a breather, and they opened the door, and Heifetz came out. Paul the photographer had given me a picture of Heifetz so I took it over to Heifetz and asked him if he'd sign it. And he put down some cute little remark, and signed it. But I remember Saunders was a little tense that whole morning. That was funny. So, he got his Heifetz visit. Then Saunders — Oh yes Saunders, on one of the Thursday afternoon four o'clock, once-a-month, physics colloquia, I think, it was. He gave a talk about it, that's what it was. He gave a talk about this Heifetz visit. And he said (among other things), he'd given Heifetz a Sears Roebuck $5.00 violin to play, followed by a Strad, and wanted his comments. "Because", he said, "You know, they both sound pretty good. Will you play them?" And Heifetz said, "The difference is that driving the Sears Roebuck was like driving a truck, whereas driving the Stradivarius was like driving a Mercedes, or a Cadillac." And they're saying the same thing now — we heard the same thing again this week at the ASA concert.
Martin: Yes. The audience was able to tell — for the most part —
Martin: — which instruments were the old instruments that belonged to the musicians.
We had no problem. Three of my gang, we all said number three was good. But, of course, it was an unfair test for the Tokyo String Quartet. They were used to their old instruments, and —
Martin: I think that's how people could tell more than anything else. They were more at ease.
Miller: Yeah. Maybe so.
Martin: At least that's my theory. But that's another matter. I gather that this next question that has to be during that period of your life. "Who was your inspirational model?" It sounds to me as if you had two there. Saunders and Heifetz.
Miller: Oh no. Well, Heifetz I have given up on since I was in grade school. That's hopeless. Heifetz and — Saunders and Hunt, actually, were the ones that kept me going.
Martin: They were your models?
Martin: Here's a question that you may give a negative to like I did, because it's really a more modern question. But, did you ever participate in a rally or a protest or some cause that you felt very strongly about? And if so, what was the issue?
Miller: I probably should have, but I think I didn't.
Martin: Okay. In retrospect would you go to the same college and take the same major if you started all over again?
Martin: If not, what would you do?
Miller: Oh, we discuss this a lot at home, and I really enjoyed Harvard, and my son enjoyed Harvard, and I have a grandson at Harvard now, who loves it. And the second one is coming this fall. And I keep being not sure. [laughs] And they keep shooting at me. Well, I say, "You know, I really should have gone to MIT." And they say, "No, you shouldn't. You shouldn't have." So, I don't know.
Martin: Interesting. I'll just interject a little bit here. I'm glad that I went to a liberal arts college, before I got into the engineering aspects of physics.
Martin: I'm going to stop at this point because we're near the end of this tape. And I'm going to run the tape fast forward, and turn it over.
Martin: This question has to do with Master's Degree work, and I assume you went on to graduate training for a Master's Degree?
Martin: Where did you do that?
Miller: Well, I remember now, that was complicated. I remember speaking to Saunders, and I had finished most of the requirements for an AB in physics, which I could have taken, but I became a special student, switching over from Chemistry to Physics. So, after graduating in Chemistry, I took the courses that Saunders had recommended via Hunt, and he said, "Go see Hunt, and see what courses you need." That's how it happened. So, I did. And Hunt said, "You've got to take this, and this, and this." And he said, "You've especially got to take Lyman's course in optics." I said, "I don't want optics, I want acoustics." He said, "Yeah, I know, I know. Optics." [laughs] That optics course has paid the food and rent for the last 50 years. Hunt was right on. His advice applied only to acoustics, but it was correct. Naturally. Hunt always landed on his feet.
Martin: Where did you do this work?
Miller: This was at Harvard.
Martin: Still at Harvard?
Miller: Yes. Saunders had said, "You might want to consider MIT." And I said, "Oh, no, no, no, no. Harvard and my — Harvard, we stay at Harvard. Don't be —" Anyway, so, in '39, I entered the Master's program for — at Harvard it was called Communication Physics. It was concurrent with the communication engineering courses, which were the same, but under a different administration really. But I never got into the big time. I never had Hunt, which was the advanced acoustics course, but I used to visit him all the time. And I had Chaffee on electric networks, which have also paid the rent over the years. And, I'm not sure; I was only doing this part-time also.
Martin: How were you supporting this activity?
Miller: I had money trouble. I was working part-time in Boston, and studying part-time.
Martin: Were there any specific projects that you worked on during that Master's Degree era?
Miller: Didn't finish the Master's Degree. I needed an extra course. I got an incomplete on one. I did badly, I was not concentrating, and I left it without finishing in 1939. I got a chance for my first job in 1940. Jobs were very hard to get in acoustics. I went off to Cleveland to take my first job at the Brush Development Company, in Cleveland. They made Rochelle Salt devices, microphones and pickups, and also they were beginning to do R and D, and hoping to do production in magnetic recording, which was the thing that really fascinated me. So, in Cleveland, I got a job at Brush, working on magnetic recording development, and very little was known, except that the Germans were getting somewhere with wire recording using Valdermer Poulsen's methods. Bell Labs was using something called perpendicular recording, which was very saving of space, but a very difficult method of recording. We were using longitudinal recording, which is the method that took over.
Martin: How long were you there?
Miller: Twenty years.
Martin: Well, at that point did you go to work on your doctorate?
Miller: No, I started on the Master's all over again.
Miller: I went up to Case School of Applied Science, which later changed its name to Case Institute of Technology, which later became Case Western Reserve University. But anyway, I went up there in 1942 at the prodding of my wife, Vivian, bless her. And she said, "You've got to wrestle this ghost to the ground." So, I wanted to get a Master's Degree — finish up my Master's Degree, and I showed them my grades from Harvard — my good ones, and they said, "That's fine." And I said, "I just need another course or so." "We don't do it that way. We don't accept your Harvard courses." "What do I do?" "Well, you have to start all over again." "How do I do that?" Well, the war was on now, and most of the professors were without students. For graduate courses. These were all considered graduate courses. And they said, "If you can bring in five guys for any subject, we'll build a course around it." So I did. I went around to my favorite friends and said, "Aren't you tired of being ignorant? Wouldn't you like to learn something?" So they did, and we got some wonderful courses on acoustics, went through Morse, and Slater and Frank for Theoretical Physics, and McClain and Birkhoff for Matrix Theory, and somebody else on Complex Variables. Anyway, we had a ball. And this time I did it right. It took a long time, but I learned something, so I ended up with my Master's in '47. And I kept going on. I was getting promoted now. I was in charge of all the underwater sound work that Brush Development was doing. Brush did a lot of work on submarine detection during the war — at the end of the war, with a large array of Rochelle Salt hydrophones in hoses.
Martin: By that time Frank Massa had come, hadn't he?
Miller: Frank Massa was there, and I worked directly under Frank. I enjoyed very much working with him, and learned a lot from him. He had a big influence on me.
Miller: And we got into World War — seriously I mean, I think the Navy took Brush seriously around 1943.
Martin: I was in military things for the Navy at the same time, and that's when I became aware of the work that was being done at Brush, on Navy projects.
Miller: Because I remember, the merchant ships used to have these long, long hoses around them which they'd use as mine detectors, and they were strung out ten feet away from the side of the ship. I never actually visited the ships.
Martin: Then your academic work at doctorate level was in parallel with your work at Brush. Is that correct?
Miller: Right. Oh yeah.
Miller: So, a few years after my Master's Degree, I took a number of courses in Radar, just to see what was going on, and that was interesting. And I took some more courses in circuitry. Don't forget, Laplace transforms hadn't existed yet in the classroom, they were just coming in. And Fourier Transforms, as such, weren't accepted yet. And so that was a new world that I was getting into. Anyway, I had an idea for research some project in underwater sound, unclassified. And I went up to somebody there.
Martin: This was at Case?
Miller: Yeah, Case. And I can't remember, they sent me across the backyard, to Western Reserve to the head of the Physics Department there. Anyway, what they wanted me to do was give up my job for a year, and live on campus, and all that. And I said, "I can't do it, I have a wife and a son, and I can't do that." "Well, we're not sure quite what we can do, how we can work this out." And I got discouraged and said, "Oh, the hell with it." Possibly another mistake, I don't know. I don't know if I could have worked out something or not.
Martin: So the residence requirement was the problem?
Miller: I went back to Case and took interesting courses, but I couldn't work that part of it. And the idea of the research project disappeared.
Martin: In connection with your work with Case and with Western Reserve, did you do any teaching?
Miller: No. Oh, I met Arthur Benade there.
Miller: I took a course. In order to — I guess, yes, as part of my physics degree, yeah. Because I got my Master's in Physics from Case, and one of the courses I had to take Atomic Physics. And the only time that was convenient for the five guys and the teacher was evenings. And they assigned a fellow named Arthur Benade to teach us. Well we two hit it off; hit it off hand in glove.
Miller: In fact, over the years, I built for him various microphones for him to try in his clarinets and all.
Martin: You've collaborated a great deal then?
Miller: A lot, yeah. We've had a good friendship for years.
Martin: Were you ever in the military?
We were first working on cryptographic magnetic recording devices, which worked. But, I guess they were a little amateurish and that was the beginning of the war, and during the war when Massa was building all the Rochelle Salt hydrophones, we were busy, busy, busy working. That was serious. And then the Navy complained that this Rochelle Salt changed its resonance frequency in the hot and cold parts of the ship, and was hardly worth going with. By this time they had hired Hans Jaffe to do something about crystals, and he found there was a better cut than the X-Cut, the Y-Cut, which was quite stable, but less sensitive. So we switched over everything to the Y-Cut. Then he invented the ADP — Ammonium Dihydrogene Phosphate crystal, which is a beautiful thing. It took over all of the crystal devices that we had. And by then, Massa had left, his successor had left, and I was running it. And it was a lot of fun. Les Foldly had worked at Brush earlier, on his summer vacation time. That's when he learned his acoustics. It gave him a good background for his later great paper on Electroacoustics Reciprocity. He was modest and fun to talk to. After 1946 I was in charge and I had a ball. I patented the mechanical bias stress rod which allowed the transducer to radiate much more power than previously, at negligible expense to the coupling coefficient k. Then I converted the Navy's k3 ceramic-tube design to a k33 ceramic-ring design. This doubled the bandwidth — free, no extra charge. More than 50,000 of these transducers have been built for the Navy. It is still the basic design used by the Navy for its sonar transducers.
Martin: What year did you leave Brush?
Miller: I was there from 1940 to 1960.
Martin: Twenty years.
Martin: Mm-Hum. What was your title when you left? And how did you happen to leave?
Miller: Manager of Electro-Acoustics Laboratory, I think.
Martin: And from there you went to?
Miller: General Dynamics — Stromberg Carlson, in Rochester, New York. For bigger and more adventuresome work. My sales manager at Cleveland said, "You're spending your life on little, small — financially small things, one of this and one of that." He said, "Why don't you try to get into — build a whole big system?" He said, "Brush Development isn't big enough for the Navy to take a chance on. Why don't you take a chance and go for somebody that can." So, Stromberg Carlson, which became General Dynamics two weeks after I got there, they were big enough, and they were looking for somebody who was willing to try it, and that was me.
Miller: And so we got a big contract for a big system. That's another story.
Martin: How long were you at Stromberg and General Dynamics?
Miller: Seven and a half years. They started to collapse and I got out just before the roof fell in.
Miller: I went to the Navy in New London, in 1968. And I'm still there.
Martin: Mm-Hum. You've given some indication earlier of the sorts of things that you are doing at the Navy.
Miller: Yes. I invented devices for various projects — a new higher power, lower frequency projector for the destroyer fleet; a small direction-finding array of hydrophones using heterodyning and time-of-arrival instead of phase shift; and a long and successful project relating to noise-canceling hydrophones for destroyers and submarines.
Martin: And is there anything else about the work that you've done at the Navy, some highlights of things that have happened there that you'd like to mention?
Miller: Yeah. The things that interest me the most are some projects that don't seem to get funded. I don't want to put in a sales pitch here, but I mean, every 30 years somebody comes along with a certain idea, (I'll tell you one of them), and people say, "Yeah, gee that sounds pretty good," and they put a little time or money into it, and then it doesn't quite work out and it gets forgotten for about 30 years, and then somebody comes along and says, "You know, why don't we — somebody invent this?" And it comes up again. The particular thing I'm thinking about is negative capacitance and negative stiffness. It's now possible to build these circuits so that they can control positive feedback, and get marvelous results from them. But the only people that have picked them up are the telephone company. They've been doing it for years around the country, but at micro-watt level, where there's no possibility of damage. I want to do it at the kilowatt level for underwater loud speakers, underwater arrays. And doing it at high power is difficult. But we had a little firm working with it, I think very close to proving it, but they went bankrupt under their recent troubles. Somebody ought to pursue it. There are a couple of other things also that keep coming around, and some day they'll get invented. I just like to save time, 50 or 60 years, shorten it up a bit.
Martin: Okay. It sounds as if you still have plenty of good ideas and lots of enthusiasm and hope. Let's move on to publications. I know that you've published and are highly regarded as an author in acoustics. Do you have a list?
Miller: It's a very short list, Dan. My stuff is few and far between. It takes me a long, long time, but anyway, the two that I'm rather proud of our an in-house publication by the Navy on The Piezoelectric Transducer — The Handbook of Piezoelectric Transducers using equivalent circuits.
Miller: That was sent out by our laboratory around the world to various people who wrote in and requested it. It was well received. And the other one was one that Professor Lindsay asked me to do, which was part of his Benchmark series on acoustics, and this is called Acoustical Measurements: Methods and Instrumentation. And I really enjoyed it. It took me five years working at night at home, and I've got shelves and shelves for Part Two, which I'll never get to, and no reason to, except that it was interesting. That's when I first began to understand E. C. Wente of Bell Labs. He's one of the people that I wish I could have known. The guy fascinates me. He was a two-prong threat, theory and practice. Massa told me that Wente had been assigned to jury duty when he was in Bell Labs, and when he was there, he was sketching out the whole design and the equations for the condenser microphone. If you look at those equations, the terminology they used for capacitors in those days, there was no MKS system, and it was awful. But he worked it all out and landed on his feet. And Cyril Harris has mentioned publicly on occasion that this man Wente, taught him how to use a lathe and taught him various things that paid off. He was a marvelous person. The other great man that I got to know quite well was Warren Mason. You knew Warren.
Martin: Oh yes.
Miller: Warren used to spend his summers in Connecticut on Long Island Sound, and I lived near-by, and we used to visit a lot in summers. Warren was a yep, nope man, but if you ever got him really interested in something, he'd go a little bit further. He had a mind like a razor blade. Gosh.
Martin: He certainly did. And you've really worked with and associated with some real giants in the acoustical field.
Miller: Yeah. Very, very, very fortunate.
Martin: Well, let's move on to a few questions about your family. You've already spoken somewhat about it. We're talking about your immediate family. What is your present marital status? And your spouse's name and what does she do?
Miller: Okay. I'm married to the same wife, Vivian Miller. We got married in 1941.
Martin: The same year I was married.
Miller: Good. And my wife is still a psychiatric counselor. She has a Master's in psychiatric counseling; there are other names for it that I can't think of. And marital and personal problems, I think these people call themselves. And she's going to close out this year.
Martin: When and where did you meet her?
Miller: I met her in Cleveland in 1940.
Martin: And your children?
Miller: We have just one child, Jonathan. He's a professor at SUNY in Syracuse, a State University of New York institution. One of their universities is in Syracuse, and he is head of the Hematology Section of the Pathology Department. So he spends about a third of his time doing research. A third or less teaching, and a third clinical. And he works something like 20 hours a day, from what I can see, but he likes it. And he's more of a publisher than his father is. And he's done some important work on platelets and blood-clotting factors. And his two kids, Jeff is this week finishing his second year at Harvard, and Dave is coming up this Fall as a Freshman. Jeff was trying to major in music. At the middle of the year he decided he wanted to go into music, but he's already too late. He can't get enough courses, thank goodness, so he's going to major in pre-med. He's taken a lot of bio-chemistry and biology.
Martin: Back to science.
Miller: Back to science. He plays the piano and cello both very well, but he'll have to keep the music at arm's length.
Martin: Which a number of us do.
Martin: Yeah. To close out here, we would like to ask about some of your present personal interests. What is your favorite form of entertainment? Is it still music?
Miller: Oh music by far, yeah.
Martin: Yeah. Do you have any favorite authors or books in a contemporary sense?
Martin: Any movies or videos?
Miller: Yeah. I'm a movie buff. I guess Hitchcock is my favorite and Lawrence Olivier makes the best movies. That's a good starting point.
Martin: How do you like Murder, She Wrote? Have you seen that?
Miller: Yeah. I don't go for it. Vivian loves it.
Martin: I see. That's my wife's favorite show.
Martin: In music, do you have any favorite singers, or songs? You already mentioned the classical side of it.
Miller: Yeah. We really, really, spend time only in classical.
Miller: I'm not a singing buff. One of my sisters is. She knows as much vocal music as George Jellineh at WQXR. I don't know if you know the name, but he knows more vocal music than anybody; but she comes pretty close. No, I'm not — Chamber Music is the thing we care about. We hear the Tokyo String Quartet a few times a year. Every summer at Connecticut we belong to a program where Yale Summer School of Music is, in Norfolk; they're the resident group.
Martin: Are you into sports or TV programs? Anything like that?
Miller: No. I hurt myself a couple of years ago, so I'm lucky to be able to walk.
Martin: Any favorite things in visual art?
Miller: Well, we're two hours away, but we each have a membership card for the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, and every time we come in here we spend a few hours going through the museum.
Martin: Your hobbies today, are what? Still music?
Miller: Yeah. Music. I play my viola along with tape recordings by great quartets. I've worked out a method of slowing down the tape without changing the pitch, so it's really very satisfying.
Martin: Do you have any future plans or anything else you'd like to add? You've already given us some insight into that, but anything you'd like to add on this?
Miller: I don't know how to retire. It's really sort of serious, and I haven't figured it out. So I'm still working full time, and not planning to retire; so I don't know how to solve that one. I enjoy my work.
Martin: Great. Well, this is the end of the tape interview of Harry Miller by Dan Martin. And Harry, you've given us a lot of insight; and although I've known you for many years, I have learned some interesting things about you. And you are even more amazing to me now than before. Thank you.
Miller: Thank you Dan.
Martin: Very much.