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Interview of Robert Young by Daniel Martin on 1995 November 30, Niels Bohr Library & Archives, American Institute of Physics, College Park, MD USA, www.aip.org/history-programs/niels-bohr-library/oral-histories/25847
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Current personal information; Acoustical Society of America (ASA) membership, since 1929; activities for the ASA, including committees, standards, editorial; family background and early education; Ohio University (1926-1930); University of Washington, Seattle (1930-1934); C. G. Conn, Limited, Elkhart, IN (1934-1942); University of California Division of War Research at San Diego (1942-1982); publications, patents and patent reviewing; standards review and preparation; wife and children and their occupations; editorial work for musical acoustics.
My name is Daniel W. Martin. Today's date is November the 30th, 1995. We are at the Adams Mark Hotel in St. Louis, Missouri. The time is 1:30 p.m. Central Standard Time, and I am about to interview Robert W. Young for the Acoustical Society of America. Robert Young is a very long time member of this Society, as we shall bring out in the interview. He has been involved in many of the technical committees, is a former President of the Society, and has probably attended more meetings of the Society than any other person, and we will go into that in the interview. Bob, what is your present address?
1696 Los Altos Road, San Diego, 92109.
You've been there a long time, too?
And what is your present telephone number?
Area 619, 273-8732.
And you are retired, I assume? Still doing some consulting?
All right. Is there a name for your consulting business?
When one is needed, it's R.W. Young Acoustical Consultant.
All right. How long have you been doing acoustical consulting?
That's about 43 years. All right. We're going to ask you some questions now about the Acoustical Society and your relationship with the Acoustical Society. What year did you join the ASA?
In 1929; I think it was August.
And this was the year in which the Society was founded, right?
This is a few months after the May meeting organizing the Society.
What was your age and profession at that time?
I was then 21 and getting ready to start my senior year as a physics major at Ohio University.
Is this the University in Athens, Ohio?
Yes, this is the original Ohio University.
What area of acoustics were you interested in at that time?
I majored in physics because I was interested in the functioning of the violin which at that time I was studying, as well as other musical instruments. So I really went as a major in physics because that was a place I could learn about acoustics.
What were your reasons for joining the Acoustical Society?
I wanted to learn about acoustics and tell other people about acoustics. I should explain that I, as well as studying violin, had also started playing the piccolo and later the flute in my further experience with musical instruments.
Was there any particular person who encouraged you to join the ASA?
I think the first one might have been Dayton C. Miller. In fact I had approached him about continuing with graduate work in view of his interest in musical instruments.
And was he later one of the first presidents of the Society?
I think he was the second president.
After Harvey Fletcher?
After Harvey Fletcher.
Miller of course was at the Case Institute of Technology?
Where he became famous as a physicist.
The reason he didn't take me on as a graduate student, with an interest in musical acoustics, because he was at that point more concerned with relativity, and was devoting his attention to that subject.
What ASA Committees were you a member of, or are you a member of? I'd imagine there are quite a few. You almost need a list for that, don't you?
I think I was the second chairman of the Committee of Musical Acoustics.
This is back before the technical committee system?
Actually, Musical Acoustics was the first of the technical committees.
It existed as a committee of the Society before the technical committee system existed, right?
That is the correct description. I think I was an early chairman of the Architectural Acoustics Committee. Somewhere along the way I was talking about the measurement of noise, and had been measuring noise in the community for more than 30 years — and I guess more descriptive term would be that I have been measuring the noise from the Naval Air Station at Miramar. Now in 1998 my automatic noise monitors are measuring the noise of Marine helicopters and aircraft stationed at the Marine Air Station, Miramar.
That's in recent years? Relatively recent?
I think I started in about 1957.
That's only 40 years ago. OK. When did you start into standards?
Early in 1941 I went to work at the University of California Division of War Research in San Diego at Vern Knudsen's invitation. American Tentative Standard Acoustical Terminology 724-1936 and American Standard Specification for General Purpose Sound Level Meters 724.3-1944 provided bass for the calibration sheets for the dydophones we were then using for submarine noise and ambient noise in the ocean.
All right. We'll probably come back to that. We'll just think now of positions in Society that you have held over the years. You were president of the Society, I believe?
About when was that?
25 years ago; it was 1960-1961. I want to mention that the year I was president of the Acoustical Society of America I also attended an international standards meeting in Helsinki, and part of my duties with the Navy Electronics Laboratory at that time was to find out what people on the other side of the iron curtain were doing about measuring submarine noise, as I had been doing in the United States.
All right. We'll come back to the career matters later. I think mention should be made that Bob is now an emeritus associate editor of the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America and became an associate editor in the '40s. Is that correct?
That is correct. By 1945 I was associate editor for noise, patents, standards, and musical acoustics.
I see. There weren't many associate editors in those days, were there?
By 1952 there were five associate editors: L.L. Beranek, G.A. Miller, H.F. Olson, R.B. Landsay, and myself. In connection with our editorial duties, I should mention that Editor Floyd Fireston would bring the associate editors together for lunch near the end of an Acoustical Society meetings. One of our first duties was to check papers of which we should invite the authors to offer their manuscripts for publication.
I see. Most of the manuscripts had been used in their presentations at the meeting, I suppose? Are you about the current speakers at the meeting?
Often times, the papers were not written down as presented, but this was an excuse to write them down and submit them for publication. This was a rather different situation than exists now, where there is an overriding flood of papers, or even talk about how to reduce the number of pages.
Yes. All right. There are other positions that Bob has held. He has been involved in many ad hoc committees. Is there any particular ASA meeting that you attended that stands out as being something special or humorous or different from the other many meetings that you have attended?
I'm afraid my memory of 105-odd meetings is not able to select one.
I think we're having the 130th this time?
And you've attended 105, did you say?
I did not attend any meeting before 1935.
After you joined?
After I joined in 1929. The principal reason I did not attend before 1935 was that I was a graduate student at the University of Washington in Seattle.
The meetings were mostly on the East Coast?
I think I, as a teaching fellow, received $50 a month that in those days one could live on, barely. Not enough to pay for transportation.
Right. Well, I congratulate you for the large number of meetings that you've attended, Bob. Are there any ASA members that you met that specially influenced your future? Now, you've mentioned Dayton C. Miller, whom you had met. Are there any other members you'd like to mention?
Vern Knudsen who brought me to San Diego, and with whom— I'd had some contact previous to my coming to San Diego.
Was there anyone at the University of Washington, where you did your graduate work, who was involved in acoustics?
Yes. The head of the department Professor Osborn was somewhat interested in acoustics, particularly the musical acoustics I was thinking about. Just prior to my arrival in 1930, a professor in the physics department, whose name I think was Anderson, had set up an extensive musical acoustics course. There was a special lab for that purpose equipped with a grand piano and a square piano, a demonstration keyboard that could be set for just intonation as well as equal temperament and perhaps one other. There was a quite useful and informative laboratory for musical acoustics.
This is at the University of Washington?
At the University of Washington. Music majors were encouraged to take one class in physics, usually the musical acoustics course, which was the course that he taught. I inherited teaching that class and the laboratory.
Is there anything you care to say in a general way about the Acoustical Society, past, present, or future?
I have found it an inspiring experience, so I am trying to attend all the meetings that I can of the Acoustical Society of America.
Good. Besides ASA, are there other professional organizations that you belong to?
I became a life member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1946. I continue to be a regular reader of Science every week.
But the Acoustical Society of America has been your principal focus over the years; is that right?
Now I'd like to ask you a few questions about the early years before college. When and where were you born?
I was born in Mansfield, Ohio, the 11th of May, 1908.
Before entering college, where were some of the places that you lived?
In 1922, the family migrated to Colorado where we lived in Boulder for a couple of years. I started high school there. That particular high school was called the State Preparatory School because it was originally organized to provide a place for students who later wanted to go to the University of Colorado at Boulder. It was a preparatory school to which students could come when high schools were not so readily available throughout the State of Colorado. There was a particular custom of the high school in Boulder (the State Preparatory School) where the freshmen were called Ones). The sophomores were Toots. The family stayed in Boulder, Colorado for two years, 1922-1924. I did want to mention that I was interested in hunting. I would frequently go into the mountains, right handy, and my high school friends — a couple of them — were also interested in hunting. One of them later became Professor of Mathematics at the University of Colorado. The other one, his father had a music store and I was interested in testing pianos they sold.
Where else did you live, Bob?
My father owned a grocery store in Mansfield, Ohio. After we returned from Colorado to Ohio, my father bought a tire store in Coshockton. I of course attended high school in Coshockton.
How about your mother?
My mother — first of all, my mother was the daughter of a small-town physician in Ohio who gave her good instructions about health matters, which she in turn passed on to me.
You think that has something to do with your longevity?
I suspect so. I must say that the Alsatian branch of the family lived for a long time. My paternal grandparents died at 88 and 91 years. My father lived to 102; my mother lived to 92.
So you have a bunch of long livers before you. That's what it takes, they say. How would you describe yourself during those early years. You already mentioned hunting. Was there anything else that you were interested in besides musical instruments and hunting? Or what did you want to be when you grew up in those days?
Well, I was taking both violin and piano lessons for a while. My sister, ten years older, played piano much better than I. She came to Boulder teaching English. I continued playing violin in the high school orchestra. That happened all the way through high school and Ohio University, and continued for a number of years thereafter, whatever the local music organization was.
Did you study science subjects, particularly, in high school?
I had a physics course and one of the subjects we studied was the equation for calculating the frequency of a vibrating string by its length and mass per unit length. That really convinced me that I should study physics at the university.
Looking back, was there any person or any people during that time frame — high school and thereabouts — that had a strong influence on you and your future? Other than your father and mother? Music teachers, maybe?
I don't remember the music teachers particularly, except I took my lessons regularly.
We'll go on to the college years. You have already said that you went to Ohio University at Athens, Ohio. What was your major there?
My major was physics.
And your minor?
OK. What made you choose Ohio U?
Because my sister, ten years older, attended Ohio University, and she in turn was influenced by a then high school teacher in Mansfield whose home was at Athens, Ohio and who later came back to Athens.
Did you ever change your major or did you stay with it all through college?
I stayed with physics and mathematics all the way through.
Did you belong to any special clubs or participate in any special school activities at Ohio U? You mentioned violin. You were in orchestra.
Yes. Phi Mu Alpha Symphonia, a music fraternity that took me into membership early. There was also a fraternity called Phi Delta Gamma concerned with debating and speech. I participated in a contest for public speaking for which I received a prize.
Were you engaged in sports in any specific way?
I was not engaged in sports.
Were there any teachers or professors or someone special at Ohio U that influenced you one way or another?
I came there with my interest in musical acoustics.
Is there any person that you might have had as an inspirational model in those days, a scientist or religious leader, politician, anybody like that?
Well, I've already mentioned D.C. Miller, whose books I had read as well as correspondence with him from time to time.
Looking back, would you go to the same college and have the same major if you were to start all over again?
I think I would follow through the same sequence, yes.
Good. You went on from there to the University of Washington?
Is this where you got a master's degree, or did you go on directly into a doctorate?
I did not receive a master’s degree; I continued on immediately to a doctorate. I had the teaching fellowship which kept me alive. During the summer I had jobs as leader of an orchestra on ships to the Orient and a summer in Yellowstone Park.
Was this is a passenger ship?
Where did it go? In the Pacific?
I should back up to say that just after I graduated from Ohio University I had a ship’s orchestra job which took me to Europe at the beginning of the summer. This gave me six weeks to travel around Europe; another ship’s orchestra job paid for transportation back to Ohio.
Were you playing violin at that time?
I was playing violin, oboe, saxophone, flute, and piccolo.
I had the experience of being a trumpet player and singer in a similar ship's orchestra situation.
Cunard Line, maybe?
Cunard Line, right.
I think your questions really started with the University of Washington.
I was going to ask you how you were supported, so you anticipated the question and answered it very well. Were there any specific projects that you worked on at your graduate school level?
I measured and reported standing waves in the flute.
This was published in the Journal, was it not?
This was published in the Journal of the Acoustical Society.
Was that your doctoral thesis?
This was my doctoral thesis, as it turned out.
Who at University of Washington would you say had the greatest influence on your future?
I think my thesis advisor, Donald H. Loughridge. (Spelled out)
He was in the physics department?
All right. I remember your article on the flute quite well. While you were a student at the University of Washington, did you ever conduct classes? I assume you did so as a teaching assistant.
Yes, I had regular classes that were supposed to be available for discussion of the physics lectures.
Quiz classes, they called them at our university.
Yes, that's right. And I also taught the musical acoustics class and laboratory.
When the professor was on leave?
Yes. He was working at a government laboratory.
Were you ever in the military, Bob?
No, I was not.
You were involved in navy laboratories?
In World War II I was classified in the first draft 1-A. But in the meantime I had received an invitation to go to the University of California Division of War Research at San Diego, and that was quite a sufficient release from the draft status. In San Diego I worked in the war-time effort, particularly on submarine acoustics.
Did you ever attend a technical or business or trade school?
OK. After college, what was your first place of employment, and what was your title in that job, and what did you do there?
My first employment was at the C.G. Conn, Limited, in Elkhart, IN in the Experimental Department. I've forgotten what my particular title was. By 1930 I was head of the Experimental Department.
This was a band instrument company?
Yes. C.G. Conn Ltd. also owned the Hadorff Piano Company. I made some trips to the Hadorff factory and made some suggestions about possible descriptions of the inharmonity of piano sounds.
I know there are many things that you did there. I had some personal familiarity with it. This is where you worked on a device called the chromatic stroboscope. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
Yes, I'd be very happy to talk about the chromatic stroboscope. The reason this was called a stroboscope was that a frequency measurement was made by rotating a patterned disk at an appropriate speed so that when the patterns stand still the disk speed is an indication of the frequency of the sound being produced.
What made the pattern stand still? What happened to the frequency of the sound?
When the flashing rate caused by the sound being tested is equal to the rate at which the black and white dots pass in view, the stroboscopic pattern appears to stand still. This is the reason the instrument is called a stroboscope. The chromatic part comes about from the fact that twelve patterned disks are driven by a gearbox whose gear ratios are chosen to be close approximations to the twelfth root of two, the frequency ratio of a chromatic semitone. This is why the instrument is called a chromatic stroboscope. The patterns and rotational speed were chosen so that the lowest C on the piano could be measured; (that is to say, the frequency thereof) and the highest B on the piano. There are not enough spots on the disk to go the highest C.
There was one disk per note in one octave of the scale?
That's right. There are twelve disks, and each one of them contain seven patterns at octave intervals. So that by alternating these gear ratios, the greatest error of the approximations to the frequencies of chromatic scale, over the entire range of the piano is a tenth of a percent of what the frequency should be. When this device was first in operation, early in 1937, it was the most precise instrument available for measuring over such a continuous frequency range.
You had a partner in the design and development of this; who was he? What did Hugo Schuck do?
Hugo Schuck designed the adjustable tuning fork which drove the synchronous motors of the chromatic stroboscope at the appropriate speed. The speed ratios themselves that provided the chromatic intervals came from Allen Loomis, who was then head of the Experimental Department. In fact he is the one who, in 1934, took me as a finishing graduate student to come work for the Conn Company in the development of various musical instruments.
I remember Mr. Loomis; I met him myself when I visited your laboratories. You also published something in connection with the Conn chromatic stroboscope. Would you mention that?
Well, I did write a couple of papers for the Conn's description of it, but the most important one was “An Improved Chromatic Stroboscope” with Allen Loomis, J. Acoust. Soc. Am. 10:112-118 (1938). The next paper by O. Hugo Schuck was about speed change by an adjustable tuning fork. The paper about the speed adjustment was written by Oscar Hugo Schuck.
And you published some tables?
Yes. I was just musing the other day, I took my HP 11-C calculator to calculate some frequency intervals which might be related to the musical scale…
…Kahn chromatic stroboscope and particularly about the set of tables you published to go with it.
Yes, I was remarking that recently I was using a pocket calculator to calculate some frequency ratios, insignificant figures or something like this, in order to calculate the frequencies to begin with, I wrote a Taylor Expansion [?] for one semitone, and from this interpolated to get the various multiples for the entire chromatic scale at one cent intervals; that is, the 1200th root of 2 being the ratio.
But your original tables were not made this way, or were they?
The original tables were made with a marschant calculator which I think had eight figures available.
I had the privilege of writing the review in the Journal of the Acoustical Society for your booklet on frequency descents as my first assignment from then editor Professor Watson, who was my professor. You also, while you were at Kahn, did considerable research work I know on pianos. Did you do any on orchestral instruments?
Yes, in fact that was the principle activity where we would change the dimensions of the instrument to modify the tuning some particular note that was not quite what it should be. So I had a complete set of tables with different fingering for different instruments on which the results of the tuning could be compactly assembled. So that by the time Pearl Harbor took me away from musical instrument testing I had tests on all the instruments currently manufactured by G.C. Kahn, Ltd.
How would you summarize the work that you did on pianos? I'm sure it covered many different aspects of piano tone.
Well, primarily, what I learned there very early was that the intervals are not exact 2 to 1 frequency ratios but are so-called stretched octave. As a consequence, the top octave of the piano is likely to be tuned with — oh, I've forgotten. Anyhow, the intervals could well be half a semitone sharp by the time one looks at the top C. Similarly at the bass end, the fundamental frequency is lower than it should be. I'd have to look at the original tests to find out, refresh my memory on how much that is. But the basic reason is that the string itself, due to its rigidity, does not have harmonic modes of vibration but the frequency goes up, I guess it was the square of the mode number or something like that, so that when the tuner tunes by zero beat, this results in the upper note being sharper than one would expect from a 2 to 1 frequency ratio.
You also did some work I believe on the effect of environment on piano. Like humidity, perhaps.
Yes. I watched the tuning of a Steinway 80 piano as the relative humidity changed from — I've forgotten. Anyhow, when it's dry in the wintertime the frequency goes down somewhat versus what happens when the humidity is high in the summertime. I should remark that San Diego weather reports for the last several months show 100% relative humidity in San Diego on some days. That happens to be related to the microphone sensitivity that I am currently watching as I monitor the noises at the station in Miramar.
So you continue this part of your research through the years after you moved on from C.G. Kahn to the navy lab, right?
Yes, I've been busy all the time.
How long were you at C.G. Kahn? How many years?
Well, I arrived there in the summer of 1934 and I think it was the first of December, first of January 1942.
After Pearl Harbor? In December 7th?
That's the correct state of affairs. So I drove to San Diego in the course of a week and a half; I think I may even had the chromatic stroboscope with me at that point. Anyhow…
Have you had something published in your career, Bob?
Yes, I've had something published.
You published many places?
Yes, something more than one hundred papers, I should look at the reprint list. I think the reprint list is something like 150, thereabouts.
I know you have many papers in the Journal of the Acoustical Society. Where else have you published?
In all the proceedings of the International Congress on Acoustics, has had several of them. Institute of Noise Control Engineering has had some papers on the noise problem.
It seems to me that you have published also special articles in encyclopedias and places like that?
Yes, McGraw Hill Encyclopedia for Technical — Encyclopedia, I guess it's called.
Did you publish anything in Groves Dictionary of Music?
Oh yes. I thought that, where I first set out the general framework of the stretched octave on the tuning of pianos. I guess that has remained the major article in Groves Dictionary of Music concerning the behavior of the piano. But there are also other articles there about musical instruments.
Have you published in any of the European journals, either Das Music Instrument or Acousticaseitschrift or anything like that? I think I've seen something of yours in Acoustica.
Yes, I have published some papers in Acoustica.
How about patents, Bob? Your own patents I'm referring to. I'll come to the reviewing of patents later.
The principle patent has been related to the functioning of the chromatic stroboscope and that went through an interference in the patent office because about the same time that we were developing the chromatic stroboscope at C.G. Kahn — when was it? A man applied for and received a patent on a chromatic tuning device where he accomplished all the change in frequency for the chromatic intervals by frictional disks with different radii of the driving wheel which he hoped would give the chromatic intervals. But when it came to the patent office interference, even though he had applied for and received a patent on this device six months before we did, we were able to demonstrate that his instrument was not capable of measuring the precise frequencies as needed for a chromatic stroboscope that was to be used for piano tuning. So his patent was, even though it had been issued, was declared at least not anticipating our patent, which then was granted a proper patent.
How did you get involved in patent reviewing, Bob? And how many patents do you think you've reviewed? For the Journal of the Acoustical Society, I'm talking about.
At the Kahn company, I was a contact with the patent lawyer for all the Kahn patents, and I guess in that connection I subscribed to the Gazette for the library at the Kahn company that I managed and I started looking at the Gazette for all the patents related to musical instruments, music, anything. So while I was — I guess that's the way I got started reviewing patents because I was already looking the Gazette and ordering copies of patents for my business at the Kahn company.
Did you start the patent review section at the Journal?
No. I've forgotten…
Was it Herb Erf who did it?
It was Herb Erf, then the Treasurer of the Society, who started the patent reviews.
You became patent review editor in what period of time?
Something like 30 years. I'd have to go back and look. Anyhow…
Well, you asked me to review musical instruments in the early 1950s. So that's 40 years ago.
Well, I started the reviews, I believe, about 1945. But as the need for more reviewers, I fortunately engaged the services of you.
And a number of other people.
And a number of other people. But while I was traveling there was one period of three months when I was traveling in Europe, I engaged the assistance of all the other men at the navy electronics laboratory. I had a secretary who was fortunately devoting her full time to my services, and so she helped keep track of the patents and getting them mailed to people and checked back and so forth.
Then you continued patent reviewing; that is, you were in charge of patent reviewing for the Journal of the Acoustical Society until sometime in the '70s, weren't you? I think it was about 1978 that you were thinking of giving it up and I took it over.
I think you have the dates well in mind.
Do you any estimate of how many thousand patents you have reviewed for the Acoustical Journal? Well, I know it's in the thousands.
Well, At least among 700 or so a year, and I guess if you multiply that by 30 or whatever.
OK. I think that —
I would remark that I used to keep the entire file of patents, and I found somebody to give that, couple of file drawers, filing cabinets of patents, somebody at MIT, I've forgotten who, finally took all of — anyhow, I've seen a lot of patents.
Yes. It's been quite a service to the Journal and to the Society, and this service continues with the help of patent reviewers today. One of the principle activities that you have contributed to in the Society over the years, and the profession, is your work in standards, especially acoustical standards on terminology, but others as well. How would you describe what you've been doing in standards?
Well, I think I became involved in a standards preparation sometime around 1946. I've forgotten the particular circumstances. I do remember that…
You were, I think, an associate editor for the standards section of the Journal at about that time.
That's right, that was one of my associate editor duties, and so I was first collecting the reviews for the Journal, but I was also starting the musical acoustic part of the editorship.
I know that you were the person in charge of the acoustical terminology revision that occurred in the '50s. Did you have other activities in standards at that time?
Yes, I was particularly watching the standard relating to the measurement of noise, since I, starting in 1942, was studying ambient noise in the ocean as well as the propagation of submarine sounds, and I guess that's where I, well, I kept watching whatever standards were related to that and I was an early member of standards committees starting around 19 — I was going to say '42 but it was — well, somewhere around 1946 at least.
OK. Could you say anything more about the work that you did at the navy electronics laboratory? You've mentioned several things — noise measurement and propagation. You where there for how long? You've already said you went there in '42, January of '42.
Yes. Actually, the laboratory to which I was attached was in the University of California Division of Law Research. Geographically within the navy electronics laboratory. I guess that was it. When the navy laboratory expanded and the University of California disbanded, I continued to occupy my same office, and I think I was there some 40 years.
This was on Point Lomar?
Yes, this was on Point Lomar.
I considered going there myself one time. I went into musical instrument research instead.
Yes, I remember inquiring in that, but I think you did better to stay with musical instruments.
Well, you created the opportunity for me to go there, I know; I appreciate it very much. You're married? When did you get married, Bob?
Second of February, 1947.
And what is your spouse's name?
Evelyn Cross Young.
What is or has been her occupation?
She has helped you in many ways, I know. Doesn't she do some computer work for you or typing or something like that?
Yes. Well, I should remember — I should mention the three children.
That's on the list.
Well, anyhow, she has been the computer operator for word processing as well as being a secretary, several church committees. But anyhow, she's the one that knows where the find something in the enormous documents that computer programmer has produced.
When or where — you told us when you got married. Where did you get married?
And you have children?
There are three: two sons and a daughter.
What would you like to say about them?
Well, they have been very helpful children.
What do they do?
The oldest one, Tommy[?], was a physics major, ended with a masters degree in instrumentation. He has continued to work with acoustical instrumentation. The second son was a mathematics major, Phi Beta Kappa.
Before we pause to give you a rest, you were speaking about your children; I believe we're up to son number 2, you said that he was a math major, Phi Beta Kappa.
He was in an explorer group, so called, attached to Control Data Corporation, a manufacturer of computers, and that's what took him into computer programming and he continued with several jobs after that for computer companies. He presently is working for a so-called C Space Corporation that manages satellites to photograph the ocean and make weather predictions as well as predict the weather for military operations. He just told me that somebody had ordered C-space installation for Bosnia. They've had installations in the Antarctic; he's gone down to some of those, had traveled to Japan and some other parts of the Europe with the computer business.
What has your daughter done, Bob?
She was an anthropology major. I guess she received a doctor's degree somewhere along the way. She has two boys which, one of them in kindergarten, the other in second grade. They both know how to turn on the computer and do certain computer operations there. She has been using computer programs to set up advertising — well, I call it advertising, anyhow — Time Warner Corporation for demonstrations relating to teaching people how to use computers for things Time Warner wants to tell them about.
That's quite an impressive groups of careers you've got there. And these two — you have mentioned two grandchildren. Are there other grandchildren?
No. Except number two son is going to be married next week.
Great! Let's go back for a moment to standards, because your standards activities have been, I think, continuous over all these years. Standards as applied to acoustical standards and international standards. So I know that you have done a great deal of work in connection with the recent revision of the American Standard on Acoustical Terminology. You've spent probably thousands of hours on that, along with Bill Galray and others. You have been a consultant on many standards committees, so many that I would hesitate to name them. I would just like to have you summarize that because it has been a very important part of your service to the acoustical profession.
Well, I have been particularly concerned with tests of what were originally called sound level meters, and then later included integrating features. I have long been associated with preparation of standards for integrating averaging sound level meters. I was fortunate for some, what I guess, all the time that I was employed by the navy laboratories; I was sent to standard meetings, including the ones in Europe, the United States and Australia. So the particular standards groups that worked on the sound level meter standards; I have been an active member of that operation.
I know that you have made many measurements on sonic booms. Have you been involved in any standards work related to that? Or other standards on that? I don't know.
I think I have been related to it but the standards particularly for the measurement of sonic booms are, from my point of view, are still up in the air.
To make a bit of a humor, they're still up in the air. I would like to go, for a moment, to another thing for which you are so widely noted that I've had a telephone call recently from someone in Europe — no, someone had received at the navy laboratory a document that was sent to you on the subject of musical acoustics by someone who didn't know that Bill Strong was handling that now, and they called me to find out whom to forward it to. I told them to send it to Bill Strong. But you are known around the world as a person who has been involved as associate editor in musical acoustics. How long were you involved in that? Or the journal? You started on that, when, mid-'40s? Or earlier?
I guess I was involved in musical acoustics…
In the editorship, associate editorship for musical acoustics.
I guess it was somewhere around in the mid-'40s.
That means you were actively involved in at for 50 years.
Yes, that's right.
And still attend the meetings of the editorial board. We saw you there this week.
I just wanted to make a point of that. If there's anything you'd like to say about it, help yourself.
In connection with the standards — and this is from the sound level meters — when I first became a member of the executive council — what's this, 1942. Anyhow, the first meeting that I attended there was a standard on, I don't know what it was, a sound level meter or terminology. But anyhow, that was a time when the executive council approved the standards and I voted against that particular draft standard because I had been using the same information in calibrating hydrophones for my underwater sound measurement. So I guess that's one of my early no votes, goes back to 1942. I've been at it ever since.
You want them to get it right, don't you?
I hope so.
Anything further you'd like to say about your associate editorship for musical acoustics articles?
You handled that for a long, long time, and I've sent many articles to you over the years myself.
I've explained earlier that it was musical acoustics that got me to be a physics major.
So musical acoustics is the story of your adult life, right? Not the entire story, but a thread that goes all the way through.
Yes. In fact, it started when I was in high school.
Well, let's see, we have a few more questions here. Is music still your favorite form of entertainment? What's for favorite form of entertainment?
I'm not sure that I have something that could be called a favorite of entertainment. Working with sound measuring instruments and I continue to enjoy doing that, even though it's not so much a musical acoustics as it was earlier. I found it very enjoyable to look at the paper that was handed to me just last night — who's the man that you first had at Baldwin?
Dick Sword. Are you talking about Dick Sword?
Bob Duncan and Dick Sword, and I don't know which. What was the subject?
He gave me…
This is someone here at the meeting?
Oh yes, he hasn't been here all the time, but he just wrote me — …maybe he wasn't at, my 87 year old memory doesn't work very well.
I understand. I have trouble coming up with names myself. I once introduced my daughter as my wife when I was taking her around through the laboratories at Baldwin, and afterward one of the fellows said, "That's wasn't your wife!"
Well, anyhow, he's described some of his musical intervals, in a sense, well, anyhow…
We'll figure out who it is.
He had some intervals. I was happy to read his paper on the subject.
So you're still being consulted in questions of musical acoustics? I'm not at all surprised. Is there anything else you'd like to add? Something that the questions have not prompted or I haven't thought of, or hasn't occurred to you?
Have you finished this?
I've finished the list of questions.
You said you wanted to come back to standards.
We have, in a sense. You have mentioned — well, the thing that I think you have touched upon is your relationship to the standards program over the years. You are probably the champion consultant in terms of the number of standards subcommittees that you have served. That's my recollection.
At least time-wise, that is so.
And I know that you've put in a lot of time on this recently re-issued standard on acoustical terminology.
And we appreciate that very much. It's been a great contribution, and while not everyone has an appreciation for standards, we have a large number of people in this society who do appreciate standards, and they appreciate all the years and all the detail that you have gone into in connection with the standards program.
I just hope that there is some way to get more people to use the standards. If you have to pay $98 to get the terminology standards, there are some people who are not going to buy one.
True. Fortunately, we have obtained copies for all the associate editors, and we had a special price on for the acoustical terminology standard, about half price, back in the summer that resulted in some wider distribution. Well, Bob, it's been a pleasure interviewing you. I thank you for the time that you have spent, and you will get an opportunity to see a transcript of this. I will get the first chance at it, it will be transcribed, and then I'll pass it over to you and you can do the final editing on it, and it will go into the archives of AIP and the Niels Bohr Library down at College Park, Maryland. It will be available. You will be given the opportunity to sign a form that will allow people to read this or listen to the tape and any restrictions that you might want put on it, if any, you can indicate that on the form when the time comes. Thank you very much.
I am happy to have anybody listen to me. I do not want it restricted.
OK. Thanks a lot; I'll turn it off.