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In footnotes or endnotes please cite AIP interviews like this:
Interview of Robert S. Gales by David Lubman on 2000 March 31,
Niels Bohr Library & Archives, American Institute of Physics,
College Park, MD USA,
For multiple citations, "AIP" is the preferred abbreviation for the location.
Topics include his childhood and the influence of his mechanic father and religiously idealistic mother; his work in graduate school at UCLA with Norman Watson and Vern Knudsen; other mentors including Sepmeyer, Veneklassen, Cyril Harris, and Isadore Rudnick; his move to San Diego and start of his Naval career; activism in noise control; Fletcher's critical band theory and the training of sonar operators; work in underwater environmental acoustics; his interests in sailing and church work; influence of Alpha Gamma Omega christian fraternity; his transition after World War II to permanent Naval employment; contributions with John Webster and Paul Veneklassen to the development of noise-reducing headsets enabling acoustic communication on noisy carrier decks; his retirement in 1980.
It's not "Dr. Gales." I often am called that, but I have a Masters degree.
I see. Well there's something I've learned already. And these questions that I see here for the oral history seem like what is your present address?
1645 Los Altos Road, San Diego 92109.
What is your present telephone number?
It's a brand new area code, 858-274-6204.
I'd like to point out that the area code is wrong in the directory that just arrived this week.
I can believe it.
And who is your present employer?
Young & Gales Consultants in Acoustics, an acoustical consulting firm.
And your present job title is ?
And how long have you been with this firm?
Since about 1955. We've been doing this for a very long time and have lots of local jobs that we are very proud of.
That would be forty-five years.
I hope we will get into some of the jobs you have done that you feel pride in. But this might actually be a good time to ask, because the next question is: What do you do there?
Aha. Well, we do acoustical consulting of course, and most of our work recently has been in noise control although in the past we have consulted in many churches, in many public buildings, and quite a number of auditoria, several of which we will probably mention in the future. Sherwood Hall is one here in La Jolla which is a principal music hall and general purpose hall that we did the design work back in, oh, in the fifties, and it's still a very popular place for music.
Just to make sure I get this stuff in, mention several other halls that you're very proud of.
We were consulted on our civic auditorium here. Vern Knudsen was the principal consultant, but Young & Gales were asked to come in as secondary consultants on that one. It came in in the days when reflective clouds were just appearing overhead. In particular they had great difficulties at Philharmonic Hall in New York, and they wanted to be sure that the clouds in our hall weren't going to bring in the same problems as they were experiencing in the New York hall. Our clouds were much larger and have worked out very well.
The New York Philharmonic Hall in Lincoln Center.
Which is now the Avery-Fisher Center.
It's debut was in 1962, and so your work on the civic center must have been some time after that.
It was shortly after that in the sixties, yes.
Are there any other jobs that come to mind? Not necessarily concert halls.
Well, the Immaculata Cathedral here was one, and we have a great many of the local high schools and so on. We're active in the design of their auditoria. My latest one (1990) is the Jenny Craig Pavilion, seating 5,000, at the University of San Diego.
What did you do in the Immaculata Cathedral?
Our problem at that time was to prevent them from over-deadening the cathedral. There were two schools of thought. One was to primarily emphasize speech. And we decided that music was going to be equally important, even more important, so the important thing there in the early days was to design it so we would not have echoes but we'd have a long reverberation time for the organ and that the reinforcement system would be designed so as to be adequate for voice communication. It turned out that the voice communication was not ideal, and since then some absorption has been added. But it's still a good hall for music and speech.
Very good. I believe that in your interactions with Bob Young there has been also a great deal of interest in aircraft noise?
That's true. In other words, we have been involved in aircraft noise measurement and decision making ever since the end of World War II. Lindbergh Field has been a noise problem. We have both been involved with the public decision making in connection with the construction of schools and public buildings to make sure that they were in areas which were compatible with the construction that was being employed. We have both been on the local noise control boards. There's both a county and a city noise control on board which Bob Young and I have served on for many years.
Bob, can you think of what has been any important result of your service on this local board for the Lindbergh Field?
Lindbergh Field, our primary service there has led to probably one of the finest noise monitoring setups anywhere. We have a system of noise monitoring microphones, and I'm not sure what the number is now but it's of the order of a couple of dozen which monitor the noise in all directions in the pattern around the field. And they have a noise manager that keeps track of flights and Lindbergh Field has a curfew system and they have aircraft noise type controls that have constantly reduced the type of noise the the noisy aircraft, down to where now I think we're completely under the better [inaudible word], quieter aircraft. I have not been close to it in the last few years, but this has been our history.
Do you have an impression that the work you did here for Lindbergh Field has been influential for other airport noise monitoring systems or for noise legislation in other cities?
I believe it probably has, and Bob Young and I were both active in Navy noise, and particularly around Miramar Naval Air Station, which is our other noise producer here. And at the time we were active with the Navy. Both Bob and I were with the Navy laboratory here for many years. At that time we were very intimately associated with the Navy's noise control operations, and we think that we had a substantial affect on the noise that the Navy made here, by maintaining their noise control methodology. This was true both at Miramar and North Island Naval Air Stations, which are both very close to San Diego.
Aside from your work in architectural acoustics for large halls and churches and your work on aircraft noise monitoring, can you think of any other significant acoustical consulting that you engaged in for the last forty-five years?
I'd say principally schools and churches. And I can't single out particular ones, but we've done dozens of both and we're quite happy with those.
Very good. We may have a chance to return to this later, but I'd like to go on to Item C, the Acoustical Society of America related questions, so I'll begin with the first one they've listed. What year did you join the Acoustical Society?
And what was your age and profession at that time?
At that time I was a graduate student at UCLA and age 26.
And what area of acoustics were you interested in?
At that time my principal interest was in hearing. I was working with Dr. Norman Watson in the hearing laboratory in the Physics Department and helping him in his research program, particularly in research on bone conduction and on selective amplification for hearing aids. The very first vacuum tube hearing aids were experimented with in the UCLA laboratory.
Was that unusual to have a hearing laboratory within a Department of Physics?
Do you know of any precedent for that anywhere?
Probably Norman Watson's father, F. R. Watson, who was one of the founders of the Acoustical Society of America. He was a university professor and I suspect he was in the Physics Department. I'm not certain of that, but I think so.
He was at the University of Illinois I believe.
That's correct. Right.
And his son, was he a physicist too or ?
Yes. He had two sons. Norman was the one at UCLA, and Bob was the other one who I didn't get to know so well, but Norman Watson was a very influential person in my going into acoustics.
When did you meet Dr. Watson?
Met him at the time I was an undergraduate. I had a job in the ESMDT. During the Depression, students, lucky students were given jobs so they could earn enough money this happened to be 40› an hour to help them through school. And I was assigned a job in the Physics Department working for Vern Knudsen, luckily, and through that I got acquainted with Norman Watson and when he found out that I was a ham radio operator he realized that I could help him in his work there in his hearing lab. And he was doing very state-of-the-art work in bone conduction at that time.
You mentioned an acronym, ESMDC or something like that?
What does that stand for, do you know?
I'm trying to remember what it stands for, but
Was it some Depression Era federal program?
That would help to support graduate students?
Undergraduates and graduate students.
I see. And so
So I first got my first job even as an undergraduate student.
I see. So your motivation for applying for the work was really to earn some money?
That is correct.
And so it's just a coincidence that it happened to be for Dr. Knudsen.
It's a little more than a coincidence. Well, it was a coincidence in the sense that I told them I had experience as a ham radio operator and I knew electronics although the word electronics hadn't even been invented at that time, I don't think. I told them I knew about radio circuitry and I knew how to solder, use a soldering iron.
Before we forget about the ham radio, your call letters, your current call letters are ?
W6GEZ. They're not I'm not active anymore.
And when did you first get that license?
I got that license about 1933. Yeah. I graduated and was No, let's see, it was shortly after graduation from high school. And, let me think back. I guess I graduated in '32, so that must, '33 must have been about right.
When you got your license. What motivated you to get an amateur radio license?
A friend of mine in high school that was a very close friend of mine in scouting had gotten his scout merit badge in amateur radio and got me interested in doing the same thing.
So you were also active in scouting in high school?
That is right.
And was that here in San Diego?
That was in Los Angeles.
In Los Angeles.
Did you have other scientific interests at that time?
Yes. I had always had quite an interest in science, particularly in aviation.
So you were about eighteen at the time you got your radio license.
I was eighteen at the time when my scouting interests led me into amateur radio. That was around 1932. It was shortly after that that I enrolled at UCLA.
And did you enroll as a physics student then?
Yeah. It's an interesting story. I lived right near Cal Tech in Highland Park and my interest in physics came from going out to the open house at times at Cal Tech. Have you been to some of those?
They used to have these open house nights, and as a young student I just reveled in the experiments and the physics demonstrations that they had particularly high voltage electricity, artificial lightning, as well as telescopes and that sort of thing. So that led me to want to go to Cal Tech. So when I took the Cal Tech entrance exam and passed, I didn't have enough money to get in there, so that I inquired, "What would you recommend?" and they said, "Go out to UCLA." One of their recent Ph.D.s, Dr. Arthur Warner, was there in the Physics Department. And, "Just tell him that you had been in touch with Cal Tech and you wanted to have him as your advisor." That worked. He was my advisor during my entire stay at UCLA, and I had close ties with the Physics Department at that time. I had thought maybe of going into electrical engineering, but they had no electrical engineering at that time.
So as I hear it, the sequence is through scouting and other things in high school you were drawn to amateur radio and at about that same time you would go to these Cal Tech evenings? Evenings were they or ?
Yes, those were evening demonstrations that they put on annually.
And as what? As a high school student or ?
I did that as a Well, they were open to the public, and my mother was very interested in science. In fact she went to Cal Tech.
Your mother was a Cal Tech student?
My mother was a Cal Tech student. It was then called the Throop Technical Institute, I think it was.
Troop as in T-r-o-o-p?
T-h-r-o-o-p, named after a person called Throop who founded this school. It later became Cal Tech.
Huh. That's an interesting story.
I guess it is. One of the very few women that can say they went to Cal Tech at that time.
Well, what did she study as a Cal Tech student?
Just general college training.
There was no specialty in those days?
There was no specialty at that time. It was just the Throop Institute for higher learning.
So a combination of your high school interests and your mother's background at Cal Tech plus those Cal Tech evenings that were open to the public all drew you to physics, and then your penurous state then deflected you to UCLA.
That is right.
It was a matter of finance.
And then I wonder how you got involved with Dr. Norman Watson, by the way, rather than Dr. Knudsen?
I can't think of the details exactly, but they both happened at about the same time. My work with Knudsen was well, I got a my initial job with the Physics Department was assisting Dr. Knudsen, but then they needed someone else that would be an assistant in the physics shop. And I was quite handy with tools, so I became the caretaker of the physics shop and the battery department. I kept all the batteries charged. And that put me touch with Norm Watson, who was using a lot of batteries. And Ludwig Sepmeyer built most of Watson's equipment, his electronic equipment, and so I quickly became acquainted with Sep, and between Sep and I and Watson, we constructed equipment that he used for his research.
Oh, was Ludwig Sepmeyer then a physics student also?
He had just graduated, yeah. He was a graduate student assistant.
I see. Now if you were sort of in charge of the shop there for the physics lab or department
then you may also have encountered some other people we may have heard of, such as Paul Veneklassen.
I surely did, yeah.
Were you there first, or ?
I was there first. I had been there for all of my collegiate lifetime. Paul came as a graduate student from Northwestern, and I remember when Paul came in and we had many things in common. In fact, he and I, well, he and I worked together in building, the first anechoic chamber at UCLA.
Really? And this was in the Westwood Campus or ?
The Westwood Campus, yeah.
And I know that you had told me that once before that Paul Veneklassen had been involved in making a cleverly machined apparatus for a hearing aid. What shall I call them, ear protectors or ? Dr. Knudsen used the term: Ear Defenders.
Yeah. Right. That was work we did originally for Vern Knudsen, who had, he had a patent on some of the first molded ear protectors, and he had asked if Paul and I wouldn't do a little additional work to help him improve on them which we did. In fact, that was why we built this anechoic chamber, for an anechoic site for testing ear protectors. Paul designed the molds for a series of ear plugs, which were identified as a numbered series each with the initial letter V (for Veneklassen). Thus, there were the V30, V31-n etc. The V51 was the best known and used at the series.
So what I'm hearing from you, Bob, is that from the very beginning, even in the Physics Department, you were deeply involved in hearing issues.
That is right.
Rather than what some people might consider to be primarily physics issues.
It was hearing was the big thing, and both because Vern Knudsen and Norman Watson had very strong interests in that area. Vern Knudsen had just been responsible for a very fine audiometer, probably the best one ever built at that time (the Sonotone Model 1), and we had one of those audiometers which we had the use of in the hearing laboratory, which put us in a good position for doing hearing research. That plus Norm Watson's interest in bone conduction. He got his Ph.D. on bone conduction hearing research as his thesis.
Yeah. In fact he was one of the first to establish the threshold of hearing for bone conduction, and he was able to determine the using physical means to determine the amplitude of vibration of the bone conduction vibrator and so on.
Well then this time when you were working in the machine shop with Paul Veneklassen and others no doubt, it must have been around 1940 or so?
Yeah, this was around 1940 exactly, right.
Now I've heard elsewhere that at around that time some carpetbagger from the east coast named Leo Beranek had come over to UCLA scouting for talent. Is that true and were you aware of that?
I was aware of that. I wasn't closely involved in that situation, but I remember it.
UCLA had quite a group of acousticians at that time. Cyril Harris was there and Izzy (Isadore) Rednick and of course Paul Veneklassen, Bob Leonard, Dick Bolt. It was a real rich time for acousticians.
And you knew these people. Many of them were graduate students.
All of them were graduate students.
They were all, almost all graduate students at that time.
Do you remember who was the oldest or the first to leave?
I think probably Bob Leonard was sort of the lead graduate person at that time, and Dick Bolt, Bob Leonard and Dick Bolt both appeared at about the same time.
Did you know Dah-You Maa?
Yes, I got to know him not so well, but, because he was strictly in the physical side of acoustics, more so than the hearing side. The people I got best acquainted with were those more interested, who had great interest in the hearing side, like Paul Veneklassen.
Yeah. But even now it seems singular that there was a group, a hybrid group that were deeply involved in the science of hearing and in the science of physics. And I'm not sure even now how many other groups are in the world that can make that claim.
I think that was quite a unique group there, and I give credit for Vern Knudsen principally because he combined these two interests of basic physical science and hearing.
Vern Knudsen was also very interested in music.
And did he influence you, or did you come in there with a preexisting interest in music?
No, I had not much of an interest in music, and my main interests were in electronics primarily and applications of electronics, and of course applying that to hearing aids. And most exciting really in this hearing aid work was the selective amplification problem. You know, there was a beginning capability for designing hearing aids with a frequency response that would compensate for the deaf person's hearing loss, and with this new audiometer that Knudsen had just been responsible for designing, we were able to very accurately measure these hearing threshold shapes and try compensation techniques with equalization.
And vacuum tubes were still pretty new.
They were brand new. The hearing aid that we experimented with was a small suitcase that the hard of hearing person carried with him about the size of a briefcase.
And so did you have to design and hew electronic filters to shape the frequency response?
That's exactly right. And of course that's where Sep (Ludwig Sepmeyer) was the key man. Sep was very, very knowledgeable in design of filters and equalizers.
And were these just conventional amplifiers with tube filters, or was special feedback and other techniques used?
At first it was just conventional tube amplifiers with filters. And we had our "laboratory hearing aid", which was the one in which we injected these various shaping techniques which Sep designed. And so we could use high frequency lift, high frequency cut, low frequency lift and cut and all combinations. And we were really we were ahead of the pack at that time in that particular direction.
How far did you go in applying this work? I mean, were you involved in what I'm inclined to call clinical trials, with actual ?
We did not. We experimented with hard of hearing people, and we had a special contract from the American Otological Society to do that work, and that work was publicized through them. But we were not close to the hearing aid industry enough at that time, and just at the time we were beginning to get to the point of application of this to actual hearing aids, the war came along, about 1942, '41 and '42, and that interrupted the whole thing.
I should interrupt you right now because I've gotten into so much detail on this one thing that I haven't finished the other items on Acoustical Society related questions. So for example, was there anyone who encouraged you to joint the ASA?
Norman Watson was the principal arm twister on that, but my colleagues were members, like Sep and of course Vern Knudsen, very active.
And was Sep one of the people who encouraged you also or ?
So he was already a member, huh?
I am certain that he must have been.
What ASA committees did you join?
My interests were primarily in hearing, and I joined the P and P, Psychological and Physiological Acoustics Committee primarily. And I had my interests were broad enough so I was very interested in the committee activities in underwater acoustics. Well, as soon as I Well, we haven't gotten down to where I went down to underwater acoustics, but while I was still at Well, my interest was primarily psychological acoustics while I was at UCLA.
And maybe well, I hope we will get into it soon
I left UCLA in 1942 to go down to San Diego.
Uh-huh [affirmative]. And then you just never left.
And at that point my interest changed to underwater sound, about the ability of sonar operators to hear and detect underwater sound. So I didn't leave hearing, but I just added underwater sound.
So did you come down to San Diego as part of a group with Vern Knudsen to start the what did they call the laboratory at the time?
This was called the University of California Division of War Research, UCDWR, and Vern Knudsen was the head of the laboratory at the time we came, I came down here. And Sep was already down here working with him, so at the invitation of Vern Knudsen and Sepmeyer I came down.
So they actually knew you and invited you.
That is right.
Did you get a Masters degree before you left?
I got my Masters degree in the summer of '42, I got married the week afterwards, and my honeymoon brought me down to San Diego for a permanent job it turned out.
Do you think if it weren't for the war that, uh, would you have stayed on for a Ph.D.?
I'm quite sure I would have, yeah. In fact I expected to go back to UCLA, and Norm Watson contacted me immediately after the war and said, "Bob, when are you coming back to finish that work?" And I said, "Well, my work here is so fascinating I don't want to leave at this point," and it continued to be that interesting.
I hope we'll get back to that, but I'll try to stay with the ASA positions. And so I have to ask: What positions in the ASA did you hold or do you presently hold?
Yeah. Let me take a Yeah. I was the I was vice president I was a member of the executive council first, and then became vice president and president. And later on the CCEA, uh, I was very active in the CCEA, which was an important coordinating committee on environmental acoustics. Do you remember that one?
I certainly do. I remember that for years Ludwig Sepmeyer made reports at every ASA meeting on their activities.
That's right. Sepmeyer and
Winsor. This was at the time when we were just recognizing that the environment was an important component of acoustical work, and Dick Bolt was the first president of that CCEA. And as an old friend of mine from UCLA, Dick invited me to be active in it, so I became the chair of the there's a segment of CCEA, the public reporting segment of it.
I see. Would it be fair to say that the CCEA was a precursor of the ASA societal interests or societal activities in acoustics?
I would say very definitely. In fact, at each each city that the Acoustical Society had a meeting, we met with the representatives from that city who were interested in noise control of aviation noise, uh, all aspects of noise control particularly regulations, city and county and state regulations for noise control and so on. So I think CCEA played a very important part in both publicizing the need and in coordinating the various cities and states.
The societal activism I think I didn't I put it in a clumsy way, but you understood I meant activism.
That's a very good word to use. If you knew Dick Bolt, Dick Bolt was an activist, and Edgar Shaw came along as a later chairman who was another activist in that area, and those were very exciting times. This is when EPA was established, and they had an Office of Noise Abatement and Control, the ONAC, which since has disappeared unfortunately, in my mind. But ONAC was an important element in EPA and played an important part in coordinating work of noise control in the various cities and states.
I presume that would be in the early seventies then, huh?
This was in the early seventies, right.
And before that the ASA was not particularly active in political action, I mean was not an activist organization?
Not really, no. There were a few people that were associated with noise, but they didn't promote the need for noise control.
And so it sounds like you're saying that from your perspective it was really CCEA that got the Society in the business of activism, promoting noise control.
Very definitely so, and in fact it helped lead to the formation of various acoustical noise abatement activities like INCE.
Yeah. So that was part of the background for the formation of INCE.
I am supposed to ask you if there is a particular ASA meeting that out as being something special or humorous or different.
Well, I delved back, way back to the first meeting, the first meetings I attended. The first meeting I attended was in Chicago I think, but it was way back in the forties I think, and they flew a whole group of Navy researchers back to Chicago in a Navy airplane. And so that was a great experience, and particularly to hear papers by Harvey Fletcher and the people who I so admired in terms of their research in hearing. And New York was the same thing. The New York meeting I think was a year later in which again we had contact with Harvey Fletcher and Smitty Stevens from Harvard, the people who were the top acoustical researchers in the hearing business.
Yeah. This is so some new names are coming up now. Smitty Stevens' name hadn't come up before, but that is pertinent for the next question, which is: Are there any ASA members that you met that especially influenced your future?
Yeah. Of course Vern Knudsen was the principal person. Vern Knudsen and Norman Watson were the principal people that affected my future. But as soon as I was able to attend meetings of the Acoustical Society, it was an opportunity to get personally acquainted with Smitty Stevens and Hallowell Davis, who were both at Harvard at that time. So I built up quite a contact with the researchers there at the Harvard Psycho-Acoustics Laboratory. These were J.C.R. Licklider, George Miller, Ira Hirsh, Karl Kryter, Irwin Pollack, etc.
What year was this, by the way, when this happened?
This was around 1940 [as in 1940-something], just after the war. This was just at the point where my work had been classified. This was work on masking, which we did during the war, World War II, because in order to predict where the sonar operator could hear a submarine or a target sound through noise, we needed to employ masking techniques. And the work that we did at our lab was state-of-the-art using Fletcher's critical band theory. At that time it was a pure theory and we tried it out on complex sounds such as hearing submarine tones and submarine sounds through a background of water noise and we found that his theory was as excellent predictor of the hearing threshold of these sounds. And of course when we presented that information to Harvey Fletcher, he was very interested in that.
And also Smitty Stevens the interesting thing, Smitty said, "Do you really ?" At this time he wasn't quite so sure about the critical band theory. He says, "Do you really ? Does it really work?" and I said, "It sure does. Even with these complex sounds where you have multi tones." And at that time Smitty was just getting his research on critical bands going there. And later on he published many papers on critical band research and so on.
But you knew about it before he did.
We knew that it worked before he had really done appreciable work on it.
And are you telling me that some of the research to verify the critical band theory was actually war related research?
That is correct.
Having to do with improving the operator of sonar, a human sonar operator to detect enemy submarines?
That's exactly right, and that was when we experimented with assisting the sonar operator by giving him various band-pass filters and things that would assist him, but we found that his critical band-filters were already doing such a good job that the additional filtering was sort of a secondary aid. And since then there have been improvements with use of filters even narrower than the critical band filters, but in that case we used different types of presentation other than audio. I mean, we have these fancy types of paper
Bearing time recorders?
Right. Using graphic methods of presenting the information. Visual techniques.
Say once more to whom you attribute the invention of the concept of the critical band?
Definitely Harvey Fletcher.
Oh yes. We call them the Fletcher Critical Bands. We always called them the Fletcher Critical Bands, so
At a certain point Eberhard Zwicker came over to work with what, Smitty Stevens or ?
He came over later.
Yeah. And he got in that act too.
He sure did. Yeah.
But before we get off on that, is there some how important was that work that you did for improving the detection, the detectability of submarines to the war effort?
It was quite useful. I wouldn't say it was one of the most important things, but it was very useful in training sonar operators in terms of optimizing their gain settings and their They had filters that they were able to use, and equalizers, so that they could set the background noise levels at optimal amplitudes for detection. And so it did feed in pretty much to sonar operator training and doctrine.
So these sonar operators that you trained, were they operators on surface ships or submarines?
Both, but primarily submarines. This was passive sonar primarily, and it was the passive sonar which the submarines were so dependent on. They used active sonar very seldomly. They didn't want to give away their position.
Early stealth, huh?
Yeah, that's exactly right.
And again, to put this in perspective, so we were sort of coming up to speed against the threats of Nazi submarines?
And how serious was that threat?
Extremely serious. At the time in 1942 when we started this work we were losing so much shipping to both Nazis and the Japanese that we weren't winning the war at that point, and it wasn't until we were able to reverse that by effective antisubmarine work either it was sub, our subs versus their subs and our aircraft versus their subs and so on that really helped turn the war in our favor.
Well, this is Side 2 of the oral history of Bob Gales, and it is still Friday, 31 March, the year 2000 [sic; tape is labeled as March 3]. We're in San Diego. The time is now about 3 minutes after 4 o'clock, and we're continuing. We were just talking about the importance of meeting the Nazi submarine threat, and I was going to ask what part Bob Gales thought that the training of sonar operators had played in meeting that threat.
We worked very closely with the sonar school here in San Diego, which was right adjacent to our laboratory, so the sonar school had the results of our work put into action immediately. And it turned out some very effective sonar operators. And then after they went out and gained experience, we'd have them come to our laboratory and we would pick their brains to try to improve techniques.
Did you ever get any feedback from the opposing side, from the Nazis or from our own OSS about what the enemy thought of our sonar operators?
Never did. A person, a good person to talk to about this would be Henning von Gierke, and I have talked to Henning a little bit about it. I know they had great respect for our sonar capabilities.
So by implication they would have respect then for the training our sonar operators received.
That is true.
And was there any other place where sonar operators were trained for the U.S.?
Yeah, there were several other places. Our San Diego sonar school we always felt was sort of the predominant one, but the Great Lakes had another one and there were several locations.
Very good. I will continue with question 8. Is there anything you care to say about the ASA its past, its present or its future?
Only that I've felt that it's been a very fine organization to be associated with, and I've felt that over the years what has made that organization is its breadth and the fact that one would, in attending the meetings one was not necessarily dealing with only a single aspect of acoustics but that you had such a great opportunity to hear the latest research and have an interest in all aspects of acoustics electro-acoustics, noise control, music. I mentioned the fact that I was not interested in music initially, but that's something that grows on you as you work in acoustics. So my only complaint is that you can't be in all the sessions at the same time. I find that the I've made very many friends and I have broadened my interests tremendously through the Society.
I think that what they're doing now is I try to keep track of what they're doing, expanding into animal bio-acoustics and signal processing and these very exciting areas. I remember originally when signal processing first appeared. People came to us who were working in auditory acoustics and said, "Well now, do you think greater improvements can be made in detection by signal processing techniques or is the ear already so good that you can't improve on it?" And my feeling was that yes, indeed, the ear is just telling us directions in which to go and we should be able to improve. And that's been proven out.
You brought up you said two magic words, animal bio-acoustics, and I'm reminded that you actually had some early involvement in animal bio-acoustics, didn't you? Even an interest that continues to this day?
How did that begin, Bob?
Shortly after I came down to San Diego, this was about a year after the Pearl Harbor bombing, and they needed someone to go out to Pearl Harbor to check their underwater detection system to find out whether they were vulnerable to additional penetration by submarines and enemy vessels. And so I was one of a group of oceanographers and acousticians to go out to Pearl Harbor.
Just sort of closing the barn door after the horse had left?
That was exactly it. And first thing we did is to look at what their harbor defense system looked like acoustically, and it was the most elementary thing you could imagine. They had, along the entrance, the Pearl Harbor entrance, they had some hydro phones which were made up of bone conduction, hearing aid bone conduction units used as transducers in reverse, waterproofed, and they had them distributed along the side of the harbor entrance channel, wire connected into a listening system so a person could hear if some noise was heard which seemed to move along from one detector to the next.
And it was very elementary because by the time that the submarine got into the harbor entrance, why you're already in trouble. So we quickly went to the use of sonobuoys which could a series of radio sonobuoys that were set up outside the harbor so the sounds would be detected outside. And while we were outside measuring the ambient background noise that these listening systems had to listen through, (we'd stay on station for long periods of time making recordings,) and we were recording with a We didn't have tape at that time. We recorded on phonograph disks, and onboard a ship.
Sepmeyer had arranged a bunge-suspended disk recording system that was very effective. The only trouble was that it made you seasick if you were watching the thing swinging back and forth in the hull while you were recording. but the most scary experience out there was we heard one night these "awesome moanings" we called them, "ooo- OOO-oooooooo" [in a low, spooky bear-like tone], and we were certain that that was some Japanese secret communication system of some sort.
These were sounds that came through the hydro phones?
These came through the hydro phones when we were out there with our own research hydro phones recording on the phonograph's disks. And we never did determine what those awesome moanings were until after the war when people found out that humpback whales are very prominent in that area and that's the sound that they make. So we were hearing humpback whales and were attributing the sounds to the Japanese.
Did you have an emotional reaction when you heard those sounds and thought they were a fearsome weapon?
We certainly did. We felt we'd like to get out of there in a hurry. But we stayed our position and we got some very fine recordings of humpback whales.
At the last San Diego meeting we discussed that subject, Bob, and we recognized that these recordings that you and Sep and the others had made may be the earliest or some of the earliest known recordings of humpback whales.
We think so.
Yeah. And since humpback whales' songs are said to evolve over time, then these data have a new currency.
That's a good point. Yeah, these recordings were made in 1943, and I don't know of any that had been made prior to that.
Is there anything you'd care to say about the ASA's present or future?
Yeah. One interesting thing while we're still talking about these humpback whale sounds, We had the Scripps Institution of Oceanography people as part of our team, and they didn't recognize those sounds either. Their expertise was very important in recognition of the sound of snapping shrimp, which was a primary contributor to the background noise near shore or in areas of reefs. So snapping shrimp was prominent in many of our recordings. It was at this time shrimp was producing this crackling which would produce such a high background level that was a very serious problem in many places.
Well, how did you do that? [phone rings; tape turned off and then back on] When you recorded the noise that turned out to be snapping shrimp, how did you know what it was? How did you find out?
Well, it turned out we had an expert oceanographer with us, Dr. Francis Shepherd from Scripps who, together with Dr. Martin Johnson, also recognized that these shrimp snapped their claws and where capable of making that sound. As we walked along the beach at Waikki and turned the pieces of coral over and collected a bunch of these shrimp and but them in little glass jars, and could watch them snap their claws and hear the clicks coming out in from the glass jar, so there was no question but that those were the varmints that were making those noises.
I wonder what motivates the shrimp to snap their claws.
That's a good question. We think that it's a protection mechanism to warn predators away maybe.
That they could get pinched if they come much closer.
That may be it. I'm not sure of this. I'm not sure of the reason. It could attract if the predator were an acoustical receiver, he might home in on it, so it could work both ways. But I don't know who their predators are for snapping shrimp.
But even then you were interested in animal bio-acoustics and apparently there has been some Naval interest as well. Has there been a continuity of Naval interest in the subject?
It continued during all of the time that I was working for the Navy. Our sonar operator training included a list of all noisemakers that they are likely to encounter so they can be trained to identify. This is called sonar classification, a very important part of sonar operating. We created various lists of every underwater noise producer that we knew of, and we kept adding new ones to it and trying to identify them. That was a real challenge.
Throughout your Navy career.
Throughout the early part of my Navy career.
When do you regard that your Navy career ended?
It ended in 1980 when I retired. At that time I continued to do some work in underwater acoustics, though. We finished up a couple of jobs that had been started. One of them was determining whether the underwater sound associated with offshore oil operations would have an adverse affect on marine organisms, and that was a work that had been started with the Navy and it had been turned over to a private contractor, and I worked for them for awhile to finish that job, and during which we made acoustic recordings and measurements of the sounds of the various oil operations off the California and Alaskan coasts. So I did some of that work after my retirement.
Do you have any current interest in animal bio-acoustics?
Oh yeah. Yeah. I think that the interest in For example, we have had several cases where decisions have had to be made about offshore drilling and offshore oil exploration, and particularly up in the Beaufort Sea up in the Alaska area. The big question up there is, are the oil operations in the Beaufort Sea, Point Barrow and Prudhoe Bay having any adverse effect on the animals. That work is still going on, and as far as I know it appears that the animals are not being harmed in that area.
Do you consider this an environmental acoustical issue?
Very definitely, yes.
Is this or should this be a part of the coordinating committee on environmental acoustic activities?
It certainly would be if that CCEA was still operating, but it turns out that the various researchers have maintained this interest and work is continuing in that area.
I have to ask you
The Bureau of Land Management I know sponsored some of the research, and I don't know who is sponsoring it now, but they may be.
Have you done any bio-acoustic work involving land or land animals or non-sea animals?
No, I haven't done any specific work in that area.
Besides ASA, what other professional organizations do you belong to?
Sigma Xi and INCE are the two.
What's this about the Smithsonian?
I am a member of Smithsonian also, yeah.
So these are all scientific professional organizations, huh?
Yeah. In which I am not overly active. At the present time my scientific efforts are very minimal.
But you are very active in some other activities that I hope we will get to.
So let me get going with this. It asks early years and pre-college. They ask when and where were you born. I thought it asked why, [laughter], but it was only asking when and where.
It's rather interesting that I was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts. And at that time my dad was working for Stone & Webster, the construction firm that constructed MIT. So I was born right adjacent to MIT, while my dad worked on building the big dome building and the initial MIT buildings in 1914.
I guess this is at least the third time I detected an east meets west theme in your history. Before entering college, where were some of the places you lived?
That is a very simple one to answer. Very shortly after the work at MIT was completed, my father and mother and I came to Los Angeles and I lived in the Highland Park area of Los Angeles right adjacent to Pasadena for all my life up until I left UCLA.
Now does this say that your father worked in trades as a carpenter and a tinsmith?
And a plant manager?
That's right. My father was a very able person in the use of his hands and it built up a great interest in me. I love to construct things and build things and that's why my initial interests when I was young were in aviation. And Lindbergh of course made his famous flight. I immediately wanted to follow suit and become an aviator. I built many model airplanes and I won model airplane contests. In fact one of my prizes was a flight in a biplane, one of these very first early biplanes with an OX-5 engine.
So you were interested in the exciting sciences and technologies that existed at the time of your youth?
That is right.
And then radio came along. In fact, it's an interesting story that I was starting to build a glider, and I had gotten, had just built a few of the wing I was starting with the wing ribs and I built several of them, and then my interests turned to amateur radio and gradually got away from aviation.
It sounds like the UCLA Physics Department was more interested in your amateur radio background than in your aviation interests.
That is very true, yeah.
Did you ever become a pilot?
I never did. After I retired I went out and took two flight lessons, and I loved it but I realized that it was so much work and I had so many other interests that I had decided not to go through with it.
The occupations you described for your father, two and three of them anyway, I would call those of a tradesman.
Was he a tradesman? Would you describe him as a tradesman?
He was originally a tradesman, and then he got into the fertilizer business and he became a plant manager for the Amer For a while he worked for the American Agricultural Chemical Company, which was a major producer in South Los Angeles, and then when they went out of business at the time of the Depression he got a job at another fertilizer plant where he was plant manager. And I used to work there on my off hours and gain a little extra money for putting myself through college.
I see. So your father moved from the MIT area to the Los Angeles area while he was still a tradesman?
And then while here he made that transition to being a plant manager.
That is correct, right which he worked, which he did entirely during my college years. And at the time I graduated. He retired shortly after the time I came down to San Diego.
If your father was a tradesman and your mother had gone to Cal Tech, then was there a discrepancy in their educations? How did he ever land such a well educated woman?
Very interesting. Yeah. It was a very fortunate thing, and my mother was much more influential in our intellectual life than our father. Our father was interested in our physical life. I mean, I used to love going to baseball games with Dad and that sort of thing, and he taught us all the trades that we needed to know like carpentry and soldering and so on. He could do anything. He built houses and he wired houses and he plumbed houses. In those days you didn't need to be licensed to do those things. He did them just with his skill, and motivation.
And your mother was a housewife? She was devoted just to raising children?
That is right.
She had no other career outside the home?
That is correct. But she had very many interests outside the home and she was very active in church work and very concerned about politics and things of that sort.
She was a real social activist.
And there's a thread of that in your life, isn't there?
There certainly is. I inherited that. It goes on today. In fact that's the reason why I'm not as active in science now. I am more active in social interactions.
Say a few words about it, just in case we forget and don't get to it, about your social activism today.
It's primarily related to the peace program, the peacemaking program of the Presbyterian Church USA. And I felt that That program was instituted, oh some, a little over ten years ago, and as soon as it appeared in the literature of the Presbyterian Church, I said, "Well now that's something that is very attractive." I feel that as a person who is interested in keeping the peace through military means, is there maybe a better way to keep the peace. And it's through teaching peace and through religious organizations such as the Presbyterian Church.
And that has been a prime interest of mine. I am chairman of the peacemaking committee of our church. And one of the most exciting things, we have adopted a sister church in Romania in Transylvania which is the northern part of Romania, and if you've been following the Balkans, you realize all of these tensions between the various religious and ethnic organizations and peoples there. And this little church that we have adopted has become a peacemaker in their community. And this has been an exciting thing.
You visited that church, didn't you, in Romania?
My wife, Dede and I visited them twice.
It's not a Presbyterian church either.
It's not a Presbyterian church. It's a reformed church. It's a Protestant church, but it's a liberal reformed church that teaches love to everyone, and this includes the Romanian Orthodox Church, which is the official government church which is the one which is not exactly a loving type of a community. They feel that force is a very important part of their beliefs. And yet in this community our church has broken down that barrier and by community service they have now formed a community of friendship with The Romanian Orthodox. This Reformed Church is Hungarian Reformed. They speak Hungarian, by the way. Because you see, Transylvania was not originally part of Romania. After World War I, Transylvania was made a part of Romania as a part of WW I reparations.
It has been Hungary, right?
Yeah. It had previously been Hungary, but because they were on the wrong side during World War I, they were forced to become part Romania. This, they of course didn't like, and there were great hatreds and tensions there. But those are being broken down now, and it's spreading out. They have what they call an Ecumenical Community Prayer Service in which they invite the Romanian Orthodox, the Roman Catholics, and the Unitarians. I didn't know this before: the Unitarian Church was founded in Romania.
I had no idea.
So they all meet together in a friendship mode in our church, and our church has built a new Ecumenical Conference Center. When I say "our church," our sister church that we have been supporting. So they are sending an avenue, a direction of peace in the Balkans which we hope will be kind of a grassroots thing that possibly, may spread.
So under the influence perhaps of your mother
If we go back that far.
Yeah. And you, acting as an emissary of your church, have founded a movement in Romania that acts, is a force, an ecumenical force and a force for peace and love in the world.
Very definitely. It's starting in a small village, but we hope and pray that this is something that is going to expand, and we think it will.
Yeah. Thank you for mentioning that. I'll try to get back to the ordered questions.
Okay. I'm glad you gave me a chance to get this major interest in.
Yeah, while we still have time here. I should have asked, how would you describe yourself during these early years? And by "early years," we are talking about your growing up. Pre- college how would you describe yourself aside from your interest in science, in aviation, ham radio. Is there anything else about your life? I mean were you very social, were you very shy?
I tended to be on the shy side, and my interests were primarily in science. I was vice president of the Physics Society in high school, and I was a ham radio operator right after high school. I loved the beach and I loved water. I loved the beach and boating. And shortly after, just as I entered college, I got interested particularly in sailing. And as you look around, why you'll see the evidences of the trophies that I have won in sailing competition.
So there is fulfillment in your life then insofar as you've become sailor, you became a ham radio operator, you became a scientist, but you never became an aviator.
Never became an aviator, but sailing kind of replaced that.
With sailing, you're interacting with the atmosphere. In fact at an interface between the atmosphere and the hydrosphere, and it's a very interesting and challenging area of sport. So I've done that, I've continued to do that, and in fact up until now I'm still a champion in my sailing class and I'm defending my championship on the 15th of April.
Do you have a boat?
I have a boat. It's a 16-foot sloop, called the skimmer class. It's a cleaning planing type hull that's designed for skimming over the top of the water rather than plowing through it.
Who crews with you on that boat?
Well, my wife Dede crewed for me up until oh about ten years ago, and now I have a younger fellow that is my regular crew.
The next question I think we've answered pretty well. As a youngster, what did you want to be when you grew up. You wanted to be an aviator, right?
Uh-huh [affirmative]. It was inspired by that fellow who had just flown across the Atlantic?
He was my hero at that time.
Yeah. So quite naturally you wanted to emulate your hero.
And we also covered what were your hobbies or special interests before college, although I see something, two things here I didn't notice before autos and motorcycles.
Yeah. That was an interest that I had right up until now. I love driving and working on both motorcycles and automobiles. I gave up motorcycles about fifteen years ago, but my son, my youngest son has picked up that interest and he's still living with us. We have a yard full of motorcycles and automobiles. I converted a Fiat Roadster to electric drive. That was an interesting challenge. If gasoline prices continue to go up, I'll put new batteries in it.
Wow. I get a sense of a continuity to the days Well, with your father's occupations as a tradesman and as your work with the UCLA Physics Department in the machine shop, and I sense a continuity of that to this day, so that you did things with your hands too.
Yeah. So you seem to have combined your mother's idealism with your father's abilities.
I think that's well put. I think that that is pretty well the way I developed.
Question seven is: What subjects, events, activities did you enjoy most in high school?
In high school I remember scouting was a very interesting part of my high school because the scout troop had such interesting things they did. I loved mountaineering and hiking, and they had a model airplane contest which I won, and that made me it was very satisfying. And going to the beach, living inland near Pasadena it was a great treat to go down to the beach, and we used to go down to Long Beach and Alamitos Bay. I got into sailing there at Alamitos Bay, and I was sailing 16-foot skimmers at that time the same boat that I am sailing still. I went through a stage where I had oceangoing 25 and 30 footers and I have a World Championship trophy which I won in the Coronado 25 foot class.
Wow. What year was that?
That was in 1972 I think.
Wow. Have you found any other members of the Acoustical Society who share your passion for sailing?
Oh sure, yeah.
Care to mention any names?
Well, there were quite a few of them that we shared our sailing interests. Paul Veneklassen, Ira Dyer, and Ken Eldred come to mind. In fact, Ken Eldred used to sail with my brother up in the Long Beach area.
Yes, and he was a naval officer. I think he studied marine architecture or something.
I think that's right.
I know some younger people who have a passion for sailing, like Alf Warnock, but there is probably a whole slew of people who could identify with that.
Oh yeah. No, I don't remember right offhand the names of some of the others, but I know there are quite a number of them that we like to swap sailing yarns with when we get together.
Do you still hike?
Yes. Not at rigorously as I used to, but I still hike. My oldest son operates a mobile home park up at Truckee in the High Sierras. Do you know where Truckee is? It's right near Lake Tahoe. So we hike in that area.
You and Dede?
Both of us, yeah. Yeah, she's a good hiker too.
Back to your college oh, before we go to your college years, one last question. Looking back, was there any person or persons during this time frame, you know pre-college, that had a strong influence on you and your future?
Oh yeah. A couple of my colleagues as I graduated from high school. One of them was our assistant scoutmaster, and he is the one that got me interested in radio. In fact he had the little ham radio handbook that he showed me and got me interested in working for my amateur radio license. In fact I was working for a merit badge in aviation. After I won the aviation merit badge, he got me interested in radio, and at that time I got so interested in ham radio that I spent all my time with my transmitter working with other hams all over the world and I forgot all about scouting. So from then on scouting kind of disappeared. But I had another friend, Paul Dutcher, who was a neighbor who was also interested in ham radio at the same time. He got W6GEX. I was W6GEZ. And we both went down and took our exams at the same time to get our licenses, and we had a lot of fun working together. I've lost track of him, but he was very influential in pushing me toward electronics.
It seems as if you really did fulfill some of your aviation ambitions through your awards and building model airplanes and
That is true. I was very I was very taken with the achievements with model airplanes, and I think that I never really I missed anything by not going into aviation.
Going on to college years now from high school years at the undergraduate level, I think you've told us that you went to UCLA in 1932 and that your major was physics. There is a name here, Dick Alderson.
Oh yeah. He was a neighbor who was at UCLA. He was one that encouraged me to enroll at UCLA and he's the one that got me interested in a fraternity there which I joined. It was a Christian fraternity, and it was through that fraternity that my interest in the church really materialized.
Oh, that's interesting. That's something we haven't discussed before, because you said your mother was active in church activities but you never said that you were.
I was not particularly interested in them. This fellow Dick Alderson was a member of the church that my mother belonged to, and he was the one that got me interested in this fraternity at UCLA.
So there was a kind of a continuity there, almost as if some angelic hand was guiding you.
That is a good point, yeah. In fact Dick Alderson was an assistant scoutmaster, so that was another tie-in also.
Yes. Now it sounds almost as if it were planned.
It does sound that way, doesn't it?
And you already told us about why you chose physics and why you chose UCLA, that this Professor Art Warner at ?
At UCLA, ex-Cal Tech Ph.D.
And you were referred to him, and he was your advisor?
He was my advisor throughout my entire nine years at UCLA.
And there's a question here: As an undergraduate, did you ever consider changing college or your major?
I never did. It turned out that physics was even more rewarding than I expected it would be and it turned out that during my last years there the course in electronics was established at UCLA under Art Warner.
And Art Warner had one of the first magnetrons ever built, and when he needed somebody to help run the curves on the performance of the magnetron I was selected to do that. And what a thrill that was. That was back in, oh, around the late thirties.
Yeah. That was a real good contact to have there.
Question four is: As an undergraduate, did you belong to any special clubs or participate in any special school activities? I see that you have two things here, sailing a Tiller and Sail
That's right. I was one of the founders of the Tiller and Sail Sailing Club at UCLA.
Ah. So you brought something to UCLA!
UCLA did not have any official sailing team, so when the first intercollegiate west coast regatta was held we members of Tiller and Sail represented UCLA in that regatta. And I have here on the wall a picture taken of that first intercollegiate regatta.
I will. [tape turned off, then back on] Let's get a little more down. This is so interesting. You showed me a photograph here that is actually historical for UCLA. So you actually founded sailing club?
I was one of the founding members of the first sailing club at UCLA. It was called Tiller and Sail, and that was founded around 1940 or so. I don't remember the exact time. But they were the first ones to represent UCLA in intercollegiate yacht racing and this intercollegiate yacht racing has been a part of the UCLA athletic program since then.
And this photograph that I see, this black and white photograph with all these sails was the first That was the event?
That was the first Pacific Coast Intercollegiate Yacht Racing event that included more than just two clubs. This was a multi-club, a multi-school event.
And the schools included UCLA and Cal Tech and USC?
USC and Stanford and I think Cal Berkeley was also included.
Ah. And this club continues today. I don't know if it's still called Tiller and Sail?
It's not called Tiller and Sail anymore, but the activity, the intercollegiate sailing activity still is active at UCLA.
And I believe you said that some years ago, the then current UCLA sailing director contacted you about this and you gave him a copy of this photograph.
That is correct. That is on exhibition at UCLA somewhere in the athletic department.
Ah. So you made history. You brought the sea [correct word as a pun with "C"?] to UCLA, huh?
That's a good point, and actually that photograph was taken by my brother was a professional photographer for Eastman Kodak.
Wow. Another connection. I see also some words here. AGO. Could that be the American Guild of Organists or ?
Well, that's a different AGO. It's Alpha Gamma Omega.
Was that your fraternity?
That's my fraternity, right.
It's the Christian fraternity then.
It's a Christian fraternity. The Alpha and the Omega are of course the beginning and end and the Gamma stands for Christ as the center.
I see. I see. Was it nondenominational or Protestant or Presbyterian?
It was nondenominational.
Does it still exist?
And it still exists. At that time it was the founding chapter. There was just the single chapter. Now they have about fifteen chapters all over the country. It's grown.
Did that play any significant part in the evolution of say your religious sensibilities?
Very much so. Very much so. I had very little interest in the church at the time I joined the fraternity, and my contact with the quality of men who have made up this fraternity was the convincing factor that convinced me that the Christian life was an important one and that I wanted to follow it.
So it was the quality of the members. Were there any particular activities or talks that were memorable to you?
The activities these men, they were outstanding. Our fraternity won the interfraternity scholastic award more than any other fraternity at that time, and we were also very competitive in interfraternity athletics. And when I found out that men could embrace Christian principles in their lives, demonstrate it, and still be competitive in all phases of their life including athletics, I was convinced that that was the way I wanted to go.
It seems to me that they had nothing but brains, brawn and character. But you were impressed.
I was impressed by all three of those factors. I felt privileged to be allowed to join that organization.
And were there any other professors or teachers or anybody special who had a strong influence on your future? You mentioned Norm Watson and Vern Knudsen and Art Warner. Homer Goddard? That's a name I haven't seen before.
Yeah, Homer Goddard was a member of the fraternity who took me under his wing and tutored me in my Christian beliefs.
This is tape two, side one. The time is 5 o'clock. I know you have to leave soon for a sailing meeting. But this is Bob Gales, it is 31 March 2000, and we're continuing with the second tape, side one. You were talking about Homer Goddard and your fraternity.
Yeah, he was a very outgoing person and he sort of took me under his wing. I was a freshman and he was oh, an upperclassman, and I had difficulties in melding my belief in science with the belief in Christ. And he was able to satisfy all of these, and particularly by looking at his life and the life of these other men of the fraternity convinced me that those two things do work together well. And it changed my whole philosophy of life in that sense, that I became an activist for Christ and for good and my fellow man. Homer Goddard later went to Princeton Seminary and became an ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church USA.
From that time.
I must have. Uh-huh [affirmative]. Inherited the need for it probably from my mother.
Uh-huh [affirmative]. Well, it sounded as if she planted the seed and tended the garden.
That's what it amounted to.
There are some words here, "son of F. R. Watson." You didn't mean that Homer Goddard was ?
No, no. No. That Norm Watson was the son of F. R. Watson.
Yeah. I see. And question six is that: During this period of your life, who was your inspirational model, as a scientist, religious leader, politician, physicist, leader, movie stars, [inaudible word], etc.? And you had marked down here FDR and Billy Graham.
Yeah. This was the time of the Depression, and I felt that Franklin [D.] Roosevelt had the vision to see our country through it, and I had very high respect for him. And of course Billy Graham was the activist for the Christian faith, and Billy Graham was a Christian person that made sense. I mean, he spoke to the intellect rather than just the emotions. So those two were very influential in my life. And the interesting thing is, Billy Graham is still around.
That's amazing, isn't it?
But we're seeing another theme here that you seemed to have a need to reconcile the rational, the scientific with the spiritual, and you felt that Billy Graham had succeeded in doing that?
Just as your friend Art Warner had sort of tutored you in those ways too and had convinced you that they could be, your faith and reason could be reconciled.
Well, Art Warner was strictly on the scientific side.
I meant Homer Goddard I think. Yeah.
Oh, yeah. Homer Goddard was, yes indeed.
So he had done that. Now I want to ask you, did you ever participate are you now or have you ever participated in a rally, protest or a cause? And if so, what was the issue and were you successful?
Well, it was rather interesting that UCLA I guess UCLA is well known for their activism. Every cause has an activist at UCLA I think, and I participated on the outskirts of those but never as a real hard participant. But this was, these were a time when Hitler The times leading up to World War II were very difficult times, and we had the military versus the peacemakers, and I was generally on the peacemakers' side until the war broke out, until the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, at which point I had to reverse my leanings.
So you were really not you were trying to avoid war until war was thrust upon your country.
And then you totally threw yourself into the defense of your country.
Yeah. I felt that we had it forced upon us and I still support, I still support dropping the A bomb. I feel that in that situation it was the, it's the closest way to seek peace and I still believe that. I'd hate to see the aftermath of it, but I feel we were justified.
Now looking back at your college years, would you go to the same college again?
I sure would.
Would you take the same major if you could start all over again?
I think I would. At that time well, it would depend a lot about the department and so on. At that time I think I probably would. The Physics Department at that time was so relevant to my prime interests. The Physics Department now may not be. That would be a real challenge to decide. I haven't been that close to them.
But if you lived in those years again you would make the same choices.
Oh yeah. I felt that it was very, very fruitful.
And for your Masters degree you've explained that you'd gotten that in Physics at UCLA. Did you just go straight through? Did you stop to reconsider whether you wanted a Masters degree or ?
I decided that I wanted to do graduate work, and a degree wasn't really the factor to me. It was just the exciting, the wonder of being immersed in the research that they were doing at that time. So I felt that the graduate work was great and I didn't care what degree I got. Most of my colleagues were working for their doctorates, and I probably would have gone on for the doctorate except that when the war broke out the quickest thing was to get the Masters and go to work down in San Diego.
And you were supported in that with the student program at the Physics Department and by occasional work with your father's fertilizer factory?
And you also had an Aunt Nell, didn't you, who helped you?
Oh yeah. Aunt Nell was a maiden aunt who had been a schoolteacher and helped support me. I think she sent me $15 a month. That was very helpful.
Now, you had some comments here about the specific projects that you worked on. Now you have already told us about some of them. You might look over the list again to see if you left out anything important.
Yeah. When I first went to work in the Physics Department on this government supported project for Vern Knudsen, he was conducting an experiment on absorption of sound in gas. And he had me manufacture for him a pipe in which he could transmit sound down the pipe and insert gas at one end and take it out at the other. I built that demonstration for him. He took it to the ASA meeting and came back and said it worked fine and he was able to make the demonstration there. That was one of my first achievements in physics.
I seem to remember that that work with the absorption of sound in gas, anomalous absorption, came out of some work that he did with was it Hans O. Kneser?
Did you know Kneser?
I never met Kineaser.
He was a thermodynamicist I think.
I think so. But Knudsen and Kneser, they were an effective scientific team.
Yeah. I had heard that it grew out of anomalies in the reverberation time in the reverberation room there at UCLA. Did you know that reverberation room at the time?
Did you work in it?
Oh yeah. Yeah, they had two reverberation rooms, and the second one, which was down in the sub-basement, was the one that Paul Veneklassen and I converted into an anechoic chamber.
Ah. That was the one that was the first anechoic chamber on the campus.
Uh-huh [affirmative]. Where did you get your guidance for how to make an anechoic chamber?
There was some material from I think Bell Laboratories that had suggested wall treatments to use for that, and to our knowledge absorbent wedges hadn't yet been invented, so we had multilayers of materials suspended from wires and on all surfaces of the room, and they were graded from a cheesecloth on through a light flannel a muslin, into a light flannel, into a heavy flannel, and backed by a layer of mineral fiber.
So there were sort of discrete steps of density?
And that was the prevailing theory at the time. How did that work?
It worked fine. Yeah. [phone rings; tape turned off, then back on]. The Otological Society supported research on shaping the response of the amplification curve frequency response of a hearing aid to compensate for deafness anomalies, and that was very interesting work. And I hoped to get back to that at the end of the war but never did because the work we were doing at NEL was so interesting I didn't want to leave it.
Navy Electronic Lab.
Navy Electronics Laboratory.
Oh. Had its name been changed?
It's been changed many times. It was originally the University of California Division of War Research, and then it was taken over by the Naval Civil Service and they named it Navy Electronics Laboratory, and it had a lot of different names since Naval Ocean System Center and Naval Undersea Warfare Center and several other names.
Uh-huh [affirmative]. At some point when you came down you had just finished your Masters degree. It sounded like you were working for the university but
That's right. It was the University of California Division of War Research (UCDWR).
There must have been a transition where you were working for the U.S. Navy or for the government.
That came at the end of the war. We had a choice. Some of our people that were working for UCDWR at the University of California went to Scripps and they formed their special underwater sound laboratory Marine Physical Laboratory (MPL) and the others went to work for the federal government at the Naval Electronics Laboratory.
And so you had how many years as a government employee then?
When I retired I had thirty-seven years as a government employee.
Could I ask a detail about that?
Or was that thirty-four years?
Oh. Well you retired in 1980?
I retired in 1980, and I, let's see, '45 to '80. Yeah, that's about thirty-five years.
Thirty-five years? Yeah. And they didn't count your earlier years.
No. The UCDWR years didn't count toward the federal retirement.
I wanted to return to this anechoic chamber that you made. Because it was the first one it was probably historical, huh? And it sounds like some of the guidance came from Bell Labs, from Harvey Fletcher or ?
Indirectly so, yeah. I just followed the instructions that Vern Knudsen and Norm Watson gave me. They had done the design work and probably Sep may have helped do the design work on that.
And when I heard you say something about wires, I wondered if Leo Delsasso [spelling?] was involved.
He was, yes.
He was. Did he play any significant part that we haven't discussed?
Leo played a supporting role and a lot of his suggestions were involved in many phases of our work. More advisory than direct relationship to it. He did not get into the hearing side of it. Knudsen and Watson were the hearing people.
Did you ever get any involvement with hearing aid companies?
Yeah. In 1938 Sonotone in connection with their Audiometer, designed by Dr. Knudsen.
Okay. We'll put this on tape.
When I first came down to San Diego to go to work for the University of California Division of War Research, I was assigned to the listening section. And the head of the listening section was Alton Everest. [phone interruption; tape turned off, then back on]
Offline [correct word?] we found an interesting connection between Bob Gales, Bob Young and Alton Everest.
Alton Everest, yeah.
Yeah. What was that connection again?
Alton Everest was head of the listening section of the laboratory. The listening section was the passive acoustics section.
You mean down here at the ? Whatever they called it during World War II.
At the UCOWR, University of California Division of War Research, and Bob Young was his assistant.
And so how did Bob Young get connected to it?
I don't quite know. They were searching. Bob Young up to then had been working for C. G. Conn Musical Instruments, and so they were looking for anybody that was working in acoustics. And so
And Everest was brought down from Stanford you say?
I'm not sure. The UCDWR roster booklet states Oregon State College. F. Alton Everest. And he's been writing for audio He's gotten to be quite an authority on audio. He's written several books on audio design, particularly design of
Studios, yeah, studio design.
Yes, I think I've seen some of his books. Were they paperback books or ?
Something like that.
Yeah. They're paperbacks.
Did you work much with Everest?
In fact, Everest, when he's written his books and papers that deal with hearing he often sends me the manuscripts for me to review and make suggestions.
Oh. So you are essentially his unofficial, his de facto editor for anything involving hearing.
He may have others too, but I'm one of them, yeah.
Oh, I see. Was there room in his book to acknowledge your reviews?
I haven't kept track of that, but—
It certainly suggests that he learned to respect your views and was responsible for publications.
That he did, right. He was the head at the time we made this discovery of the snapping shrimp and we recorded the whale sounds and so on, he was the head of the group and
With all this knowledge and all this soaking up of information from others, surely you must have had an opportunity to serve as a teacher or a teaching assistant, didn't you?
Not after I left UCLA. At UCLA I was a teaching assistant, and one class they had just before I left was a class in military acoustics. I was the technical assistant teaching the military acoustics class. Delsasso was also active in it, and Bob Leonard.
And who were the students in the class?
Some of the students in the class later came down to the lab as employees and later became important people in acoustics here in San Diego. I'm trying to think of the names of one was Dan Andrews.
I wonder who they were. I mean, I wonder why they were enrolled in the class. Were they in some government program or ?
They were people who had been involved in physics and wanted to go into acoustics applied to the military. In other words, they were seeking people to go into military acoustics, and UCLA of course being one of the principal acoustical schools was named to do that.
Now I understand that you were in the ROTC and that, what, this is your only military training?
Were you in college ROTC?
As an undergraduate during my freshman and sophomore years I was in the college ROTC.
And that was your only military training.
And did you have any technical or business or trade schools?
Yeah. It's interesting, when I was during my aviation years, my high school times, I took a special course in aviation sponsored by The Los Angeles Times at a trade school in Los Angeles.
Ah. Now we've discussed your first place of employment at NRSL or UCDWR I guess was
Yeah. There were two branches: the civil service side of it was the Naval Radio and Sound Laboratory (NRSL). Waldo Lyon. Did you ever know Waldo Lyon?
Waldo Lyon was perhaps the first Ph.D. graduate from the Physics Department at UCLA a lead scientist at the NRSL side and he later founded the Arctic Submarine Research Laboratory there at NEL. He became nationally famous for doing the work that led to the under-the-pole [punctuation?] exercises by submarines.
I remember that. Now your rank when you, after college. You were hired as an associate physicist?
Now I'd really like to ask you this, because it would be so hard for me to figure it out. But when you look back on your scientific career projects and you think about the contributions that were maybe the most important or that meant the most to you, what would you claim the credit for?
That's a very difficult thing to
For example the critical band theory. Didn't your work play a part in proving this and getting this accepted?
I feel that that was one of the major contributions, right, because in the very early days of application of critical band theory we were really the lead laboratory. And of course that work was classified, so it was not published. But
That's interesting. So you might So the people who did the work might not have gotten full credit for it because they couldn't discuss it.
That's very likely.
Were we ahead of our enemies? Did you learn?
Oh yes, indeed.
And also well, I guess it was critical band theory applied to passive sonar detection.
That is right.
So that's what the single most important contribution you think that you made?
I would think so. Later on my group made some very important contributions to speech communication in high level noise. This was under Dr. Webster. You know John Webster.
John Webster's group, which was under mine, it was a subgroup, did work in aircraft carrier flight deck communications. And we were the developers of the first wireless flight deck communication system for the Navy.
I seem to remember there was a lot of work about, uh, around that that turned out to be persistent. Part of it was the electro pneumatic loudspeaker. Didn't that come out of the need to communicate on a carrier?
It may have.
Oh, but you had nothing to do with it.
We worked strictly with headsets. And so we were working with Veneklassen on optimal noise-reducing headsets. So we had a headset, a noise canceling mike, and a special enclosure over the mike so we could communicate in 120 dB noise.
So it was sort of coupled to a radio.
So you could communicate between the pilot, the flight deck director and the tower.
So that must have been a formidable problem, really important to communicate and the noise was so terrible that
It looked like almost a hopeless job to start, but we solved it and it worked.
And did it become a formal Navy product?
Yeah. It's in existence today.
It is still used today, all these ?
Well, it's been further developed, but we came out with the prototype. And if we could have time I'd show you the prototype, but
You mean you have a copy here?
When I retired I brought a copy of it with me.
Bob, I believe that we have a list of all of your publications.
I think you do.
The chapters that you've written in books?
Yeah. Do you have that list?
Yes. You did me a copy somewhere ah yes, it's here, right under the tape recorder, and I will include this with the tape. But I wonder if you can think of any other questions or comments that you'd like to make that I didn't think to ask.
Not really. Let me see. You may not have my complete list. Let me see. I had a complete list here that I looked over just before when I heard you were coming.
Here's the one page that you did give me.
Yeah, I know. That's not my list. Where did I put my list?
I'll stop the recorder for a moment.