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Interview of Louis Sutherland by Ken Plotkin on 1994 June 9, Niels Bohr Library & Archives, American Institute of Physics, College Park, MD USA, www.aip.org/history-programs/niels-bohr-library/oral-histories/31148
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This interview by Ken Plotkin provides a fairly detailed story of the life, education, principal work activity and family of Lou Sutherland. This includes his initial activity in high school, his college career at the University of Washington, initially as a civilian but mostly in a Navy college training program that culminated by graduation, in 1946 with a BS in Electrical Engineering and commission as an Ensign in the Navy after the end of WWII. The interview identifies the beginning of Lou’s activity in acoustics in 1949, after completion of his MS in EE in his first job as a research technician with the Dept. of Speech at the University of Washington. He subsequently continued on in 1955 with work in acoustics for the Boeing Company, and then on, in 1964, to Wyle Laboratories where he retired in 1989 as Chief Scientist for Wyle Research, the acoustics technology arm of Wyle Labs. As the interview details, his work at Boeing, and subsequently at Wyle, has involved work in Aerospace Acoustics including rock and aircraft noise and response of structures and people to such acoustic environments. As described in the interview, Lou’s activity since retirement has continued in these areas and expanded to include structural response to sonic boom and blasts. Lou is married with three children and lives in Rancho Palos Verdes, CA. Lou’s other professional activity, including extensive involvement with classroom acoustics and his awards are also described in the interview and/or in the addition.
Okay, my name is Ken Plotkin. Today is June 9, 1994. We’re at the location of the 127th meeting of the Acoustical Society in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States. The time is about 2:00 pm, and I’m about to interview Lou Sutherland for the Acoustical Society of America. Lou has been involved, among other things, with the technical committees on noise. Okay, following the rules and the script, Lou, what’s your present address?
27803 Long Hill Drive, Rancho Palos Verdes, California, 90274.
And your phone number?
Phone number is 310-541-7654.
And who’s your present employer?
And what’s your present business?
I’m in business for myself as a Consultant in Acoustics, aka LCS-Acoustics.
And that goes for your title as well?
And we might mention your previous title was Chief Scientist for Wyle Laboratories.
For the Wyle Research portion.
(Which was the best part anyway.) And how long have you been self-employed?
And since this is relevant, how long had you been with Wyle before that?
I was 25 years with Wyle before that.
And what have you done during your 25 years with Wyle and your five with yourself?
Well, primarily, environmental acoustics and emphasizing, initially, rocket noise and rocket noise problems. Sonic loading of all sorts from rocket launch facilities and getting into some areas of physical acoustics, and then going on into environmental acoustics with aircraft noise, environmental pollution, human response to sound, environmental evaluation of human exposure to noise. And more recently, focusing on structural response to sound at low frequency sound and sonic boom.
What year did you join the Acoustical Society?
I believe it was about 1953. That’s my best guess.
And what was your age and your profession at that time?
Well, I would have been 27, and I was a research technician for the Department of Speech and Hearing at the University of Washington, where I started work in 1949.
And what area of acoustics were you interested in then?
Well, at that time, I was really specializing in maintaining and repairing their audio equipment for instruction and research and testing in speech and hearing.
And what were your reasons for joining ASA?
Well, it was clearly the key society that I wanted to be associated with to continue in the field of acoustics.
Was there anybody who encouraged you to join ASA?
I believe the gentleman that I was working with at that time was Shapley, or Dr. James Shapley. He was on the staff and provided a great deal of guidance and support for me at that point.
What ASA committees were you a member of, or are now a member of?
I’m a member of the Technical Committees on Noise and Architectural Acoustics, and I had been a member prior to this, and those are the only two — that’s the committee that I’ve been involved aside from some involvement with the Technical Committee on Physical Acoustics.
What about the Standards Committees? I know you’ve done lots there.
I was Chair of working group S12-9, in the S12 Committee, dealing with impulsive — or community response to high energy impulsive sounds. I was a member of an ad hoc committee under the Technical Committee on Noise, working on trying to increase the Society’s role in noise and noise effects. A couple of years ago held a short position on an ASA Nominating Committee.
Is there any particular ASA meeting, or meetings, that stand out as being something special, humorous, different?
Well, I can certainly remember the first meeting here in Boston at MIT, years ago. It was a particularly significant one for me. I was very fresh in the area of acoustics and I remember vividly being met at the door of the Kresge Auditorium by Dr. Richard Bolt, being as gracious as he is, and has always been, greeting new people. That was a particularly memorable meeting for me.
Are there any ASA members that you met that especially influenced your future?
I would say Harvey Hubbard and Ken Eldred and Joe Pearcy, might be three examples of people: Harvey, based on his incredible success in work in aeroacoustics, and aircraft noise; Ken, in providing some support and guidance initially with Wyle; Joe Pearcy, in providing some guidance and work with the area of sound propagation. I should also, by all means, mention the late Dr. Norm Meyer, who was the director of research at Wyle and provided a great deal of encouragement and support for me, while I was at Wyle.
Is there anything that you care to say about the ASA, past, present, or future?
Well, it’s been a rock for me in terms of providing a professional anchor, and I see it going in new and exciting directions. The growth of the Society membership is indicative, I think, of continuing interest in a fascinating field, with so many different facets to it, that will continue to provide myself, but I think also the membership, [with] a great deal of satisfaction for contributing to technology and an area of science, which is a very exciting one. I have a general, simple-minded conviction that any action that ever takes place in the world must always be preceded by communication, and therefore, I feel that anything that relates to understanding more effectively how people are able to communicate in all facets, is a key significant element of progress in human kind.
Besides ASA, what other professional organizations do you belong to?
I’m a member of the Institute of Noise Control Engineering. I’m presently President Elect of that organization. [I’m also] a member of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. And also a participant in the Society of Automotive Engineers A-21 Committee on Aircraft Noise.
Okay. Now, when and where were you born?
In 1926, June 2 in a little town called Walla-Walla, Washington — an Eastern Washington college town.
And before you went to college, where were some of the places you lived?
I moved from Walla-Walla in 1937, when I was 11 years old, to Seattle, Washington. And I had lived there until I moved away in 1964.
What were your parents’ occupations?
My father was owner and manager of a plumbing supply company, in Walla-Walla, and following his death, my mother took over the business and subsequently operated a number of activities to keep the family going in the depression years. Later in her life she was a house mother for a sorority. During the war, she operated and managed a refugee center in Seattle operated by the American Red Cross.
And how would you describe yourself during your early years?
Oh, inquisitive, not terribly involved in sports, but eager to learn. Enjoying music, having a great time — especially in high school where I was privileged to join a stage force, and [that] made a great part of high school most enjoyable, in terms of having involvement with backstage activities.
And what did you want to be when you grew up?
Well, I wanted to be, at first, a civil engineer. I happened to be sold, by a high pressure magazine salesman, the first copy of Life Magazine — the first issue, much to my family’s consternation at that time. I was about ten years old. The cover had a Boulder Dam picture on it, and that somehow locked me into being a civil engineer, but then later on I decided I wanted to be a chemical engineer, and neither of those two things came about, because of some other chance things that happened later on.
Before college, what were your hobbies?
Oh, I liked stamp collecting, and I liked music. I liked camping, and I think some of the special interests were primarily — one activity that really did involve me an awful lot in high school was the work behind stage — stage force and hi-fi kind of activity. In those days hi-fi was really 78 RPM records and bare bones work with electronics.
With electronics, rather than just tones.
Did you have any heroes?
Well, I can remember vividly screaming and shouting my lungs out at Richard Bird when he appeared at a lecture tour in Walla-Walla decades ago. He was a hero. I think I remember reading a biography of Thomas Edison and enjoying that. Those are perhaps some of the hero’s that I thought a lot of at that time.
What subjects and advanced activities did you enjoy most in high school?
Well, I enjoyed math. Flunked solid geometry at the instigation of a very competent and very capable solid geometry teacher, in recognizing that I was dragging my feet, and pushed me on to do much better the next time. Enjoyed physics tremendously — had an awfully fine teacher. And the sideline activity, aside from that, was the work on the stage force, that I mentioned earlier. That was just a barrel of fun — I really enjoyed that.
Looking back, was there any person, or persons, during that time that had a strong influence on you and your future?
Well, I perhaps think of the man that taught a speech class that kind of dragged me out of being somewhat of a wallflower at that point and time, and made it possible for me to be a little more assertive. Also his managing and directing the stage force crew provided a lot of good guidance and support. And certainly, my mother was a strong influence on my activity and work during that period. And a minister during high school years provided a lot of strength and support through the high school youth group that I was involved in.
Where did you first go to college? And what was your first major?
That was the University of Washington, Seattle, Washington. At the early part of the college activity, I had gone from the civilian status to the Navy — joining the Navy in something called the V-12 Program. This was a program to get a college degree paid for by the Navy, and go on from there. I was anxious to continue my interest in chemical engineering and told the interviewing Naval Officer of my interest, and he said, “Well, we have no use for chemical engineers in the Navy. What else do you want to be?” So out of that chance decision I had choices of mechanical or electrical, and so I chose electrical, and that’s what got me into that major. I chose the college because it was convenient. I was living there in Seattle and wanted to stick around close to the family, and the reason for the major was the one I just mentioned. It was a spot decision with no prior concern or background in it.
So then after switching from chemical to electrical engineering, did you make any other changes in college or major?
No. Not really, during that time. Stayed with it and thoroughly enjoyed it.
As an undergraduate, did you belong to any special clubs or participate in any special school activities?
I was involved in back stage support work for an amateur theatrical group. Helped them in their back stage preparation, but not too much else because at that time, being in the Navy, you didn’t have a lot of spare time to get involved, though I was also a member of a fraternity.
During your undergraduate college days, was there any particular person, teacher, professor or somebody special that had a strong influence on you, or on your future?
Yeah, I think the head of the EE department, Professor Austin Eastman, a very competent teacher, a very competent author of books in that area, and Professor Ryland Hill — superb lecturer and teacher in electrical engineering — I think were perhaps the two people that made such a difference in my undergraduate work.
During that period of your life, did you have an inspirational model?
Well, I guess maybe the minister that had been involved in our church. Politicians during that period of time — I’m trying to think, but I’m drawing a blank on that one.
That’s okay, there doesn’t have to be an inspirational model. Did you ever — were you ever a rabble-rouser? Did you ever participate in rallies, protests, causes?
Well, I think I supported our youngest son, perhaps more than anything. I went one time with him on a trip to San Francisco from Los Angles in a rally related to the Vietnam War at that time. And really it was more supporting his position than it was exercising my own input.
Looking back, would you go to the same college and take the same major if you could do it over?
I think I was incredibly fortunate to, through a series of chance decisions, to have happen what did happen to me, and yes, I think if I had the choice, I would certainly do it again — perhaps at another college. Knowing how exciting acoustics is, I might have indeed wanted to have attended one of the schools that provided a more ambitious program in acoustics — MIT, Penn State, Illinois Tech, some of those.
Did you go on to graduate school?
I did — staying at the University of Washington, again, because it was most convenient at that time, although I did inquire seriously with other schools.
And how were you supported?
Well, I had a research fellowship under the electrical engineering department, who were given a grant, by one of the power companies, to evaluate the heat flow to heat pumps in the ground. There was substantial business and interest by the power industry, to avoid running into disasters where entrepreneurs, over eager to employ this new technology, were freezing up peoples’ back yards by drawing too much heat out of the ground and causing severe structural damage, so they needed some fundamental work in this area. I was delighted to have a chance to work on that field. Learned quite a lot about heat flow.
And also how to dig a ditch.
That’s always worth-while too — did that the eight year [Perhaps: did that for eight years].
I learned I was left-handed with a shovel — I never did that before.
Did that work produce a Master’s thesis?
Yes it did. The thesis was on heat flow to a buried ground coil, both steady state and transient heat flow, which was kind of exciting. I really enjoyed that.
I’ve been having trouble with my heat pump, maybe you could help — oh never mind. Who at that school had the greatest influence on your future?
I think probably Ryland Hill, and a gentlemen — a professor in the Physics Department — who provided some credible guidance and strength in getting me turned into a more studious graduate student in the area of Classical Mechanics, which was his specialty. His name escapes me at the moment, but he was a marvelous teacher, and marvelous person to guide young students.
Did you continue on for a Doctorate?
Not at that school, but I did make a stab at it later on with the generous support of Wyle Laboratories, at that time under — my boss was Norn Meyer, and he provided the encouragement and support to continue for a period of time at the University of Technology in Loughborough, England. And I undertook three years of activity toward the Doctorate, but that was some time ago, and unfortunately, I did not finish the thesis. That did not come to fruition.
Did anyone at the University of Washington have an influence on your future?
Well, again, I think it was a case of wanting to be in an area where I was most comfortable and, having been discharged from the Navy, [I] wanted to consider other options, and I did seriously look at the potential for work at Illinois Tech, and I think I even inquired at MIT at the time. And I believe, at that point my qualifications weren’t quite up to their standards, so I felt quite comfortable with staying at the University of Washington, and I have no regrets.
When you were a student, did you ever conduct any classes?
No, I don’t recall, as a student — but I did teach one or two later on while I was at the university working in the speech department trying to provide some background on electronics and electro-acoustics to speech students.
Okay. You described being in a Navy program. Could you describe your military career?
Yeah, it was primarily –- while I was at the University of Washington, in the program called V-12, which was essentially a case of sending a student through college, getting a bachelor’s degree, and then receiving a commission as ensign. And I spent a year of active duty, just after the war had ended, in a variety of activities on the West Coast. One of those as Executive Officer on a wooden mine sweeping ship. A very small ship. And then, later at the destroyer base in San Diego. Oh it was busy work. I enjoyed it, had a lot of fun. Good seamanship activity, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Beyond that, nothing terribly exciting.
Did you attend any military training schools?
Yes. One of my first exercises after reporting [for duty] — having graduated, I had to spend a year at active duty — and my first assignment was to the mine sweeping ship, and the week after I reported, the Skipper and the Executive Officer were discharged, leaving the young third officer with being the Captain, and me as Executive Officer. Having no seamanship experience, the new skipper sent me to a seamanship school. And I can recall vividly the one time when I was put into a training booth to undertake an attempt to navigate a ship given only audio cues by talkers on where the ship was, presumably in a total blackout. If it had been a real ship, there would have been a serious problem. The trainers almost cracked up trying — [laughs].
Other than surviving that experience, was there anything in your military service that had a significant effect on your future?
Oh, I think that didn’t necessarily have a lot of influence, but I did enjoy the association with the Office of Naval Research for many years after being discharged, and that was a lot of fun. I always enjoyed that.
And what was your highest rank?
In the Reserve, I was a Lieutenant.
On active duty, how high was that?
[I] was discharged as an Ensign, and then under the Reserve after retirement as a Lieutenant.
Did you ever attend any technical, business, or trade school?
Did you ever take any correspondence courses?
Quite a few for the Navy. On seamanship, on nuclear effects, on damage control, communication. I can recall those were the type that I took in order to qualify for promotion. And I did complete each course.
And after college, what was your first place of employment and your title, and what did you do?
I worked as a Research Engineer at the Department of Speech and Hearing in the University of Washington, Seattle. And my primary activity was maintaining and repairing their speech and audio equipment for speech training, disc recorders; maintaining audiometers for the hearing testing clinic. And that included in one case, undertaking moonlighting work of building a highly specialized speech audiometer for the Children’s Orthopedic Hospital in Seattle.
Was there anybody there that had an influence on you or your future?
I think perhaps I’ve already mentioned it, Jim Shapley, a very capable speech teacher and hi-fi enthusiast in the days when you had to build your own hi-fi audio amplifier.
And another gentlemen, Hadley, if I remember correctly, who is still there — or was there, and I think has retired since.
And how long were you there?
For about six years. I believe I left in 1955.
And what title did you have?
I think it was nothing much more than what I had started out [as] — because it was pretty much a singular situation. The job didn’t offer a lot more of opportunities, so while it was a marvelous background in training to get into acoustics, it didn’t offer a future, and that’s why I left.
And where did you go from there?
I went to the Boeing Company, into their acoustics group, and had a grand time being able to apply what I had learned — an awful lot about acoustics—right there at the Boeing Company, and got involved in some of their early measurements of aircraft noise on the Prototype 707. Stayed with them in that activity for a good many years, and then went on to become a lead engineer in their acoustics group on the Saturn Program and on some other specialized aerospace programs and projects before I left for Wyle in 1964.
So, your accomplishments at Boeing were working on those — the Saturn and the 707?
Right. And a B-52 engine Noise Suppressor, at one time, was a serious consideration.
I just wanted to run through the list of projects that you worked on at Boeing.
Oh, first was just basic ally supporting the acoustics lab, which consisted of perhaps half a dozen people in the 707 noise measurement work —and there was a great deal of it, initially — just bare bones measurement of the hose signature of the 707. Then later on, very quickly, they got into a lot of noise suppressor activity and [I was] supporting again, purely from a measurement standpoint, that work. Later on, drifting into the B-52 program and working on development and measurement and evaluation of an engine noise suppressor for the B-52, because that aircraft was subject to a considerable amount of sonic fatigue damage to the wings from the engine noise. That included a lot of work on a model scale, which we undertook in some great degree of precision after learning how accurate it was. Going on from there to, I guess, the Saturn program, acting as lead engineer for the noise and vibration work during the initial activity with the Saturn, where Boeing was the booster prime contractor, and again doing a lot of model work. I recall vividly one model exercise where we were trying to show our skills and demonstrate the ability to a management group and the power plant people in the firm, in a model experiment for demonstrating rocket noise. The whole apparatus blew up in our faces the first time. Needless to say, that was not a well received demonstration. Went on from there to the Hybex Program, which was a short-term version of an extremely high speed, anti-missile system. If you blinked you missed the whole launch phase. And that was kind of exciting to get into some active work dealing with high speed aerospace acoustics. Along the way, there was another study that we did for the Air Force on, essentially, development and application of models for aircraft noise. Those are probably the primary things that I worked on at Boeing.
And what prompted you to leave?
Feeling that I wasn’t really necessarily making the progress that I wanted, but also a long term interest in some other work that was being carried out by a gentlemen by the name of Ken Eldred, who at that time had recently joined, and was developing, a group at Wyle Laboratories at Huntsville, Alabama.
Okay, we’re approaching the end of the tape. Let’s flip it over then you can begin the Wyle phase of your life.
Okay, when I left Boeing to go to Wyle, as I say, I was really keen on joining the activity that Ken Eldred was leading. My first assignment was a monster—it was to undertake publishing, or editing — being an editor of — a substantial manual on sonic loading on ground facilities. “Sonic and Vibration Environments for Ground Facilities — a Design Manual” [was] the title of it — about 700 pages, about 500 illustrations. It’s [a] large compendium of practical information, technical background, on essentially that title — sonic loads from engine noise, rocket noise, sonic boom, and accidental explosions. It was about the sonic loading on structures, people and equipment; and it’s a document which I’ve gone back to utilize substantially a number of times. I went from there to other studies related to rocket launch noise and structural response to sound, and went on from their Huntsville activity, then, to Los Angeles, where the focus was on aircraft noise. There, I got into supporting the technical background development by the research staff under Ken for the state noise standard — the California State Noise Standard and working on projects associated with sound propagation. Some of the latter actually started in Huntsville. I did some studies relative to physical acoustics, working with Landon Evans, and a chap by the name of Mark Lee on sound absorption, and including some fascinating studies on personal noise exposure for an EPA demonstration program to evaluate the overall daily sound exposure of individuals and how this might be documented more completely. That was one of several trial programs that were undertaken by EPA at that time. Other work included a number of system studies on airport noise and aircraft noise for FAA or EPA, environmental pollution type studies, sound propagation studies relative to siren propagation for warning sirens around nuclear plants. And again, most recently, the activity associated with structural response to low frequency sound and sonic boom, has taken place in quite a few studies. That’s really been, I think, some of the highlights of what I’ve worked on at Wyle.
And how long were you with Wyle?
Over 25 years.
And you left at retirement age.
In 1989, September, after 40 years of employment, and my 40th wedding anniversary.
And your title when you left?
I was Chief Scientist and Deputy Director of Wyle Research, which is the portion of Wyle Laboratories in the acoustics field.
And, let’s see, after you left, you kept your hand in it…
Certainly have been —
…which you still do.
— active in supporting Wyle as a consultant and will certainly hope to continue in that role as a consultant to Wyle Laboratories.
And those who are still embedded at Wyle feel the same way. Keep you on as long as —
That’s my privilege.
— until we irritate you too much.
Did you ever write a book or have something published?
Not a book that I’ve written. Chapters or portions of chapters are co-authored — which [is] more accurately stated — co-authored portions of chapters in books. One on physical acoustics, where my portion really was [the] incorporation of a solely authored report for DOT dealing with review of atmospheric sound absorption data, and that report was essentially incorporated in a compendium in the Physical Acoustics series with a chapter co-authored by Hank Bass, Landon Evans, Joe Piercy and myself. And then I’m presently working with Gilles A. Daigle on a chapter on sound propagation, and [I have] co-authored a JASA paper on review of sound propagation with Tony Embleton and Joe Piercy.
That’s in your written submission on this topic [which] includes a list of all your publications which would—rattling those off would — use up more tape than we have at our disposal today.
Well, not too many actual publications, but probably one or two hundred reports, and numerous oral papers.
And the short course?
A short course for AIAA on sonic boom effects, that’s true.
And what’s your present marital status?
Happily married to my wife, Marilyn J. Sutherland. Marilyn Janet McLean Sutherland. McLean was her maiden name — that’s Scot. She was a social worker, initially. Later on she became a teacher in special education for mentally handicapped children, and did that at first as a volunteer, and then as a paid staff person in Huntsville, and then later in Los Angeles for many years, and was very successful at that. She has been retired from that work for quite some time.
When and where did you meet her?
Met her in 1947 on a double date with my roommate, and after the first date we realized this match didn’t work, so we switched dates, and we both married the alternative, later on through the Congregational Church in Seattle, Washington. We got married there in 1949, September 10, and we have three children, ages 45, 43, and 41. Boy, girl, boy, in that order.
Is there anything special about them?
Well, we —
Other than their gene pool?
[We’re] proud of them. Our oldest son has taken on the hobby of growing bonsai plants and has probably 200 plants. Really, really marvelously successful in that area. He’s recently had been given the chance to study under a grand master in bonsai plants in the South LA area — in the Southern California area — one of the top people in the country. Our daughter is doing extremely well as a special Librarian in the University of Washington Drug and Alcohol Abuse Institute (and is now Deputy Director there). She has taken a relatively modest job and has made it into a state-wide informational service of substantial note. And our youngest son is doing very well as a district representative for Nissan Motors in Dallas, Texas, as a central area, but is working out of there in other areas such as Memphis, Tennessee, and doing extremely well as an imaginative person.
And what’s your favorite form of entertainment?
Well, I think probably both drama and music, especially vocal. We enjoy a good drama.
Who are your favorite authors and [what are your favorite] books?
Michener is one of my favorites. And I’m enjoying some of John Grisham’s current books, but Michener — I’ve never been disappointed in any of his books.
Are there any particular books [that are favorites]?
Yeah, Hawaii, of course, but [also] Colorado and the book about Israel, The Source, I think it was. All of those are fantastic. Chesapeake was another one — marvelous, marvelous book by Michener.
Who are your favorite movie stars? And favorite movies?
Spencer Tracy; I always enjoy Katherine Hepburn, Henry Fonda; Good westerns. John Wayne was always a — being a fraternity brother — he was always a hero, too.
He was your fraternity brother?
Hum. That’s neat.
Not that you’d know that, but I —
Music, singers, songs?
Oh, I tuned into opera when I was a young kid. I used to sit in our attic and play my mother’s old 78 rpm opera records on a Cactus Needle — hand cranked Victrola, so I became sort of self taught to learn to enjoy opera tremendously, but I enjoy anything in the way of good classical music, in general, and I can listen to it, for the most part, for an unlimited time. But I especially enjoy good opera. Italians opera’s are my preference; I don’t go too far with the classical German opera.
[In] the other extreme, what are your favorite TV programs?
Well, let’s see — 60 Minutes is one, but we thoroughly enjoy the news program on CBS — I mean on PBS — McNeil-Lehrer Hour.
Favorite sports and teams?
Oh, the Dodgers in baseball. I think that being from the L.A. area we’ll always enjoy that. And, of course, the Washington Huskies. Having come from that area — always support them.
Favorite type of art and artist?
The Masters — the Dutch Masters. The French Impressionists, those are always enjoyable to us.
Do you have a favorite quote?
I guess related to acoustics, or science, or whatever, it is from — I’m not sure I’m pronouncing it correctly — Poincaré — and it’s something like, “There is a hierarchy of facts to which every researcher may be exposed.” And I’m sure misquoting here, but, “It is those facts which have a great deal of reach which the scientists should pursue” — I’ll say — “many of these facts do not have any reach, they go nowhere, and the concept being, those facts which have a great deal of reach, should be the ones which one should pursue.” Terribly fractioned, it’s not a quote at all, it’s just a concept, but it always has impressed me. And developing that into pursuit of my work by looking at information, looking at that information to discover patterns, I find an incredibly fascinating part of my life.
That’s why you can seem to be able to get more out of other people’s data than the originators ever did the first time around.
I missed mentioning a strong influence in my early life — an aunt who taught me how to play Patience. We’d sit for hours and hours and play, the two of us, this game where you turn cards over and look for patterns of matching cards. I think it left a mark on me somehow.
You’ve been analyzing data and patterns ever since. What are your hobbies today?
Oh, jogging (now just walking) and music, and probably computers, just out of necessity — I’m not sure it’s a hobby — you’re stuck with it, you can’t maneuver without it — but I did enjoy jogging. And traveling, and going out with my wife to dinner.
And what are your future plans?
Well, to continue to stay involved. Continue to stay active. I look forward to another good 20 years or so of fun and enjoyment in games and travel and excitement. Life is an incredible challenge and I’m always anxious to see what is around the corner.
Is there anything else that you’d like to add for posterity?
Oh, I think, nothing I could add, other than my incredible gratitude for having the opportunity to be so honored to be considered having an oral history worthy of being recorded. It’s a great honor and a privilege and I’m especially delighted to have the interview conducted by a person I consider a great friend and eminently more qualified successor to my work, Ken Plotkin. I look forward to great things from him.
Well, I’ll hopefully not disappoint you. Okay, this is the end of the interview with Lou Sutherland, and I’d just like to throw something in — that as having worked with Lou for 22 years, I hope this tape can — no, this tape cannot possibly show more than just the tip of the iceberg on what a wonderful person he is, what a great researcher, what a big influence he’s been. Save it, make sure this one gets preserved and passed around. This is probably going to be the best — the best one in all these interviews. Certainly the best person, maybe not a particularly good job by the interviewer, but a gem of a person.
[laughs] I gotta leave.
Now red as a beet, and he’s running off. This is the end of the tape.
Addition to Interview of Lou Sutherland by Ken Plotkin on June 9, 1994. Date: March 23, 2009
I am honored to have been interviewed by Ken Plotkin nearly 15 years ago and humbly add the following remarks to update the record with key events in my life that have occurred since that interview. Shortly after the interview, I served as 1995 President of INCE and am currently a Board Certified Member of INCE.
Classroom Acoustics. Another very significant activity that has occupied me since 1994 has been my involvement with the development and promotion of the first national standard on classroom acoustics, ANSI S12-60-2001: Acoustical Performance Criteria, Design Requirements and Guidelines for Schools. I co-chaired the working group, the largest ever established by ANSI, with David Lubman that included experts in many facets of the acoustic design of school classrooms. Many, but not all, were members of ASA. The preparation of the standard started in 1997 and wound up with publication of the standard in 2002. (It has just recently been reaffirmed in March of 2009.)
In addition to development of the standard, Dave Lubman and I have been active in promoting its application and have co-authored numerous papers concerning the many significant elements of the standard, including reviews of the limited literature concerning the effect on student learning in classroom which do not have an acoustic environment close to that recommended by the voluntary ANASI standard. I am pleased to say that several states and individual School Districts have adopted the standard as a requirement for school construction, using, for example in one state, a requirement to adhere to the standard in order to obtain state funding support for new schools. These advances have only been possible by the active support and involvement by many stakeholders, several who are members of ASA.
Silver Medalist in Noise. In 2002, at the Joint meeting of ASA and the Mexican Acoustical Society in Cancun, Mexico, I was deeply honored to be awarded, by ASA, the Silver Medal in Noise.
Subsequent consulting work since 1994. Since the interview, I have involved with:
a) Several studies on rocket noise for Wyle Labs or other firms,
b) Structural and human response to low frequency noise
c) Environmental considerations for noise from tour aircraft in national parks, in support of Harris, Miller, Miller and Hanson’s (HMMH) activity in this field and, most recently,
d) Consulting work for Wyle labs on structural damage and rattle response of building structure to blasts or sonic booms.
e) Studies in sound propagation and absorption in the atmosphere.
From 1989 to about mid-2003, I was an active Associate Editor for the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America and am still involved as a reviewer. I am a member, Emeritus and Fellow of ASA and an Associate Fellow of AIAA and a Life member of IEEE.
I think this is enough for an update and I want to, again, express my sincere appreciate and gratitude for the honor of having been asked, back in 1994, to be interviewed for this archival record. I also want to thank Stephanie Jankowski, Senior Administrative Secretary at AIP for her patience and for allowing this addition to be included and thank Ken Plotkin for his key role.
With humble respect,
Lou Sutherland, FASA