Wayne M. Wright

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ORAL HISTORIES
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Interviewed by
E. Carr Everbach
Interview date
Location
San Antonio, Texas
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Interview of Wayne M. Wright by E. Carr Everbach on 2009 October 28, Niels Bohr Library & Archives, American Institute of Physics, College Park, MD USA, www.aip.org/history-programs/niels-bohr-library/oral-histories/38092

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In this interview Wayne Wright discusses topics such as: Acoustical Society of America (ASA); acoustics; University of Texas at Austin Applied Research Laboratory (ARL); graduate school at Harvard University; advised by Ted Hunt; working at Kalamazoo College; David Blackstock; ultrasonic acoustics; underwater acoustics with Herman Medwin; his family background; Bowdoin College for undergraduate education; Myron Jeppesen; working at Raytheon.

Transcript

Everbach:

Okay. It’s October 28, 2009, at about 9:09 in the morning. We’re at the San Antonio Acoustical Society meeting. I’m here with Wayne Wright and we’re in a place called the Original Mexican Restaurant, across the San Antonio river walk from the Hyatt Regency Hotel. The name of the interviewer is Carr Everbach and the name of the interviewee is Wayne Wright. And, I guess this will be under the auspices of Physical Acoustics, to which Wayne has contributed in a variety of different areas, and we’ll get to that in a second.

Okay, so the first section is called “Present Status of Interviewee.” What is your present address?

Wright:

Georgetown, Texas.

Everbach:

Okay. What is your present telephone number?

Wright:

512-863-6893.

Everbach:

Now, why they would want to know that, I’m not sure. But, who is your present employer?

Wright:

Well, I’m basically retired, but I have a part-time position at the University of Texas at Austin, Applied Research Labs.

Everbach:

What is their present business?

Wright:

Education and research.

Everbach:

And what about the ARL?

Wright:

Contract research, primarily for the federal government but also for private industry.

Everbach:

And, what’s your job title now?

Wright:

Research Fellow. I’m also Professor Emeritus at Kalamazoo College in Michigan.

Everbach:

How long have you been at ARL?

Wright:

I’ve consulted there since the ‘70s, but for ten years since I retired from teaching.

Everbach:

Can you be more specific about what you do there?

Wright:

I’m an experimentalist in physical acoustics, and I’ve made myself available as needed to work on projects both there and on the campus. Occasionally I’ve shared in the direction of a graduate student, working with a faculty or staff member who takes care of the theoretical aspects of the student’s work.

Everbach:

Can you say who the theoretician is, or would you rather not?

Wright:

Well, Mark Hamilton is the most recent.

Everbach:

That’s great. Okay. So, we’ll move on to Acoustical Society of America related questions. What year did you join the ASA?

Wright:

I believe it was about 1958.

Everbach:

And, what was your age and profession at that time?

Wright:

I was a graduate student at Harvard University, working with Ted Hunt. And, I must have been twenty-three.

Everbach:

Okay. What area of acoustics were you interested in at that time? How did you wind up in Ted Hunt’s lab?

Wright:

I was an undergraduate physics major at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine. The instructor who had the biggest influence on me was Myron Jeppesen, whose research was in optics. I applied to Harvard’s Division of Engineering and Applied Physics, with the vague thought that I would study optics. When I got there, I found Prof. Hunt had pulled my files, my folder.

Everbach:

So Ted Hunt picked you?

Wright:

Yes.

Everbach:

How did you come to join the ASA? It may be obvious, since Ted Hunt was such a big wheel in the ASA, but…

Wright:

He was a strong mentor to his graduate students, and he recommended ASA membership.

Everbach:

So, he basically said to all his students, “You guys are going to be joining the ASA and you’re going to be coming with me to meetings, and publishing in the journal?”

Wright:

Essentially. He also was active in the Audio Engineering Society and IEEE.

Everbach:

Did you join those too?

Wright:

I didn’t, but I did give a paper at an IEEE meeting.

Everbach:

Okay. What ASA technical committees were or are you a member of?

Wright:

I’ve served several terms on the Physical Acoustics Technical Committee.

Everbach:

Okay, what positions in ASA did you hold, or do you presently hold?

Wright:

I chaired the Education Committee for a couple stints, in the 1970s. I also served on the Coordinating Committee on Environmental Acoustics for a decade, and as its secretary for most of that time. I chaired the Physical Acoustics Technical Committee in the early 1990s. I’ve also been on the Technical Council, the Medals and Awards Committee, the Executive Counsel for the past three years, and now the Acoustical Society Foundation Board. I’ve chaired the Prizes and Special Fellowships Committee since 1994.

Everbach:

Okay. Is there any particular ASA meeting, or were there any meetings, that stand out as being something special, or humorous, or different, or occurrences that you’d like to relate?

Wright:

At the moment I have trouble picking out one particular meeting.

Everbach:

Were you at the meeting, for instance, when Ted Hunt died?

Wright:

Yes.

Everbach:

I mean, that’s not humorous, but it might be memorable. I’ve heard stories about that.

Wright:

That was memorable.

Everbach:

That happened long after you were gone from Harvard. You were at Kalamazoo College at the time, weren’t you?

Wright:

Yes. I was in the meeting hotel, sharing a room with David Blackstock, when he received a phone call from Mrs. Hunt shortly after Ted’s fatal attack. The following year I organized and chaired sessions at the Boston ASA meeting, commemorating Hunt’s academic life.

Everbach:

Any other ones that stand out?

Wright:

David and I shared rooms for many years at less expensive hotels in the neighborhood of the meeting hotel. Some of those were memorable. (Laugh) A couple of the hotels obviously were used by another class of people, or profession.

Everbach:

I just have to ask, I haven’t seen David at this meeting. Is he well or not?

Wright:

He’s had a small bout with pneumonia and he’s…

Everbach:

I see. Okay.

Wright:

He’s suffering right now from the after effects of the medication, or the effects of the medication.

Everbach:

Well, I figured he would try to be here, especially since it’s not that far?

Wright:

He did. He especially wanted to attend the Beyer session.

Everbach:

I thought about that as well. Of course, he was a presenter at the previous Beyer thing, in Indianapolis, I think? Or, I forget when it was. So, going back to those early days, other than Hunt himself, were there other ASA members who influenced you, or guided you, or directed you? Are there conversations you had that helped you focus on areas, or answer questions, or solve problems? Was the ASA more than just the place you went with…

Wright:

Yeah. There were a number of older ASA members who were especially sympathetic and helpful to younger members. I recall particularly Martin Greenspan. One of the unusual things about Ted Hunt’s research lab was his use of his graduate students’ research to broaden his understanding across the areas of acoustical research. In my case he suggested a project that involved measuring ultrasonic velocity dispersion in certain organic vapors by using high-frequency electrostatic transducers of a type that had recently been developed in Göttingen, Germany. This work wasn’t close to that of any of the other lab members at that time.

Everbach:

You were the microphone guy?

Wright:

Yes, I was the microphone guy, but my interest was at ultrasonic, not…

Everbach:

Not audio?

Wright:

I got to know folks at Göttingen, as well as Jim West and Gerhard Sessler at Bell Labs. I met Ted Litovitz at Catholic University, who was interested in dispersion in gases. So, there were a number of people at other institutions who I would get together with twice a year at Acoustical Society meetings.

Everbach:

Is there anything else you’d care to say about the ASA, past, present, or future? What role did it have, has it had in your life?

Wright:

It was indeed very important to me. Over the years I’ve had closer friendships at ASA meetings than back where I was teaching. Although we saw each other infrequently, we spent a lot of time together at the meetings. ASA was a fairly small, congenial group. Between the Education Committee and the Coordinating Committee on Environmental Acoustics, I got to know a number of people from areas quite distant from physical acoustics. It was interactions at Acoustical Society meetings that led to my sending graduates to David Blackstock at the University of Rochester, and to my spending a summer there. They also led to my spending a sabbatical year at the Naval Postgraduate School, working on an underwater acoustics project with Herman Medwin. I spent part of the summer of 1958 at Harvard, working with Fred Fisher on his postdoctoral research. He left before it was quite finished, so I completed it and shepherded his technical reports through the publication phase. I saw Fred at ASA meetings, and much later arranged to spend two summers at Scripps, at the University of California at San Diego, working on his projects. One very interesting summer research experience was with Ted Brown at the NOAA Wave Propagation Lab in Boulder, Colorado, and involved atmospheric propagation.

Everbach:

Now, these were all people you knew through ASA?

Wright:

Yes.

Everbach:

Besides ASA, you mentioned you had given papers but not joined IEEE. Are there other professional organizations that you are a member of?

Wright:

Not now. During my teaching career I belonged to the American Association of Physics Teachers and was active in, and served as president of, its Michigan Section.

Everbach:

Have you provided an oral history like this for any other organization, for Kalamazoo College, or…?

Wright:

No.

Everbach:

Okay. So now we’re going to go back to your earliest years. When and where were you born?

Wright:

Sanford, Maine, in 1934.

Everbach:

Before entering college, where were some of the places you lived?

Wright:

Just the small town of Sanford, Maine.

Everbach:

Okay. What were your parents’ occupations?

Wright:

My father had some training as an engineer at General Electric, but he came back to Sanford and worked in a local textile mill, got married, and built the house where I grew up. He managed a bank, a small savings and loan association, for most of the time I can remember. He was active in a state Banker’s group and went off to conventions every year. I very early on got a feeling for the importance of professional society meetings and regular upgrading of one’s knowledge.

Everbach:

Did you have brothers and sisters, and…

Wright:

One sister.

Everbach:

Your mom was?

Wright:

She worked at the local Navy air base during the war, but otherwise was a homemaker.

Everbach:

How would you describe yourself during those early years? How would you characterize yourself? Were you scientifically inclined? Your dad was an engineer and did some of that come to you?

Wright:

He encouraged me to tinker, to build things, to keep active.

Everbach:

He didn’t train you, or instruct you, or…?

Wright:

No.

Everbach:

And so, you basically — well, I don’t want to put words in your mouth.

Wright:

I tried to construct many things that didn’t work. I learned a lot from experience and failure.

Everbach:

What else did you do during your early years?

Wright:

We raised a garden. I sold fruit and vegetables from a wagon in front of my grandparents’ house near the town square. I was active in Boy Scouts, and went as far as Life, but didn’t pass my life-saving merit badge, to become an Eagle.

Everbach:

Okay. As a youngster, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Wright:

I thought a lawyer. In a small town there’s a limited number of occupations you’re exposed to, and we knew lawyers that we respected. My eyes were not particularly good and I didn’t have glasses until I was out of high school, so I had trouble with reading speed. And, I found I could handle physics and math well. They didn’t involve so much reading or memorization.

Everbach:

Before college, what were your hobbies, or special interests, or heroes?

Wright:

Well, this was during World War II as I was growing up, and airplanes were a particular interest. I was an official spotter for a period, having shown an ability to identify common US and German planes. I had regular postings at what we called the “post,” off in the countryside. I think the only notable thing that happened there, not by us, was capturing a few German prisoners of war that had gotten away from camps. Submarines occasionally landed on the Maine coast near us also.

Everbach:

Yeah. That’s what I was thinking about. We never had an air invasion, but there were submarines crawling around.

Wright:

Yeah.

Everbach:

Well, you already touched on this a little bit. Again, pardon some redundancy in the questioning. What subjects, events, or activities did you enjoy most in high school? You’ve already mentioned that you gravitated toward physics, math, and those things, partly because of vision reasons, but also they must have given you some satisfaction or you must have been good at those?

Wright:

Yes, I was. I graduated as valedictorian of my class. I was in competition with a childhood friend from my neighborhood, who was a year younger, for academic honors at the high school. A prize was given each year to the underclassman with the strongest academic record. One had to “win” it for three years to take full possession. I got it my freshman year; he got it his freshman year; then I won it the third year. So, we each prevented the other person from retaining it.

Everbach:

This was a pretty small high school, I imagine?

Wright:

Yeah, a hundred or so in the class. My activities included debate, chess, and student manager of the baseball team —

Everbach:

Baseball? Even with the eyes?

Wright:

I didn’t play.

Everbach:

Oh, you were a manager. I see.

Wright:

I was responsible for the equipment and chasing foul balls and, (Laugh) organization.

Everbach:

Looking back, was there any person or persons during that timeframe who had strong influence on you and your future?

Wright:

I don’t think of any particular person. Some teachers, Boy Scout leaders, and professionals in town helped guide me as I grew up.

Everbach:

When I asked Floyd Dunn he said, “Lou Gehrig.”

Wright:

Well, I remember Ted Williams, as my father followed Red Sox baseball on the radio.

Everbach:

Baseball wasn’t a passion?

Wright:

It wasn’t a passion.

Everbach:

Okay. Let’s move on to the college years. Where did you first go to college, and what was your major?

Wright:

Bowdoin College, Brunswick, Maine. Physics.

Everbach:

And, what made you choose that college and that major?

Wright:

Well, in my small town of Sanford the two most rigorous colleges that people tended to go to for general liberal arts studies were Bowdoin and Harvard. I didn’t feel socially prepared for a large place like Harvard.

Everbach:

And then later you went to Harvard, but we’ll get to that.

Wright:

And then I went — yeah —

Everbach:

As an undergraduate, did you ever change your major?

Wright:

No.

Everbach:

No? As an undergraduate, did you belong to any special clubs or participate in any special school activities. You’ve mentioned some in high school. Did you do any of that in college or did you do chess or something.

Wright:

I was on the track team, and enjoyed hiking and rock climbing with the “Outing Club.”

Everbach:

Okay. Did you hike in the mountains of Maine?

Wright:

In New Hampshire.

Everbach:

In New Hampshire.

Wright:

I went along with the family tradition of a college friend. For each of four years, between Christmas and New Years, we climbed one of the White Mountains.

Everbach:

Oh, okay.

Wright:

Once we made it to the top of Mt. Washington, once bad weather forced us to turn back. Once we reached the top of Mt. Adams, which is the next mountain to the north. And once our judgment said, “turn back.” So, that was kind of a …

Everbach:

A theme, it sounds like.

Wright:

Not considered the most sensible thing to do. Between Christmas and New Years the weather doesn’t tend to be summer-ish near the tops of those mountains.

Everbach:

Right. Of course. Okay. Can you tell us about your undergraduate college days? Was there any particular person, teacher, or professor, or someone special who had a strong influence on you or your future?

Wright:

I think Myron Jeppesen, the optics teacher, who also supervised my senior project.

Everbach:

And, other than his saying, “Go to Harvard for grad school,” were there any other influences? Did he, this is pre interest in acoustics, I suppose? It was just classical physics, optics?

Wright:

It turned out that a fellow several years ahead of me had gone on to Harvard. He got a masters in applied physics there and transferred to Brown, where he received the Ph.D. in acoustics. He then went back to Bowdoin and taught physics during my senior year.

Everbach:

Okay. So, he didn’t have a big influence upon you, but he was, I mean directly, but he…

Wright:

But, there was a connection.

Everbach:

He set an example, and a connection? He was the acoustics guy at Bowdoin. You were there. But, you didn’t take that course?

Wright:

No. He didn’t teach acoustics that year.

Everbach:

Okay. Did you ever participate in a rally, or a protest, or have a cause? We’re still talking about during the undergraduate years.

Wright:

Most of the Bowdoin students at that time joined fraternities. There wasn’t enough housing in the dorms, or capacity in the dining facilities, to accommodate much more than the freshmen. So, sophomore year you pretty much had to join a fraternity, and I joined a national one, Alpha Tau Omega. Membership officially was limited to “White Christians.” We accepted a couple of Jewish students, but we didn’t have the guts to take a Black fellow. Soon after my graduation, the chapter was kicked out of the national fraternity. Before long all national fraternities with discriminatory membership clauses were banished from the campus.

Everbach:

Looking back, would you go to the same college and take the same major, if you could start all over again?

Wright:

Very likely. I received a competitive “State of Maine Scholarship”, which covered the rather modest first year’s tuition. With comparable financial aid, I probably would go there today also.

Everbach:

Okay, let’s move up to graduate level, Masters degree. Did you go on to graduate training for the Masters degree? And, in particular when you got to Harvard it was in the Ph.D. program, and so there really wasn’t a Masters?

Wright:

No. The Masters was offered in Applied Physics.

Everbach:

It was a stepping-stone?

Wright:

A stepping-stone.

Everbach:

Not Ph.D. first year? Okay. You’ve already discussed what led you to Harvard. How were you supported? Was it all through Ted Hunt’s ONR money, or did you have to do other things? Were you a teaching assistant? How did you support yourself during the graduate days?

Wright:

The first year I had a scholarship. The second year I was a lab assistant. For the third through fifth years I was supported by Hunt’s ONR funds. The summer after college, and the next summer, I worked at Raytheon Company in Bedford and Maynard, Mass. And I didn’t have much other assistance during that second year, so I kept the job half-time at Raytheon for most of the fall semester, which was not a good idea.

Everbach:

Trying to do both work and…

Wright:

Yeah. But, I felt that financially I needed to. I worked in the lab out at Maynard first, and then on a small ship in Boston harbor, mounting transducers on pilings of the docks. This was before the harbor was cleaned up. So, it was a pretty filthy job.

Everbach:

Yeah. And, that’s the Raytheon work?

Wright:

Yeah.

Everbach:

What were you doing, what did you do for your masters work?

Wright:

It just required courses.

Everbach:

Just courses? You had no Masters thesis? It was just a degree that you got after you completed your coursework?

Wright:

It was essentially a…

Everbach:

A pre Ph.D.?

Wright:

A consolation prize, that is — it was so that you would have something to show for your Harvard experience if you didn’t pass your orals and go on for the Ph.D.

Everbach:

Other than Ted Hunt, is there anyone else during those early years, those masters years, that influenced you? And, was it Hunt who directed you in a particular direction in acoustics, or did you choose that?

Wright:

He did most of the direction. I spent a postdoc year after the five years of graduate school.

Everbach:

At Harvard?

Wright:

At Harvard.

Everbach:

Okay.

Wright:

For my doctoral research I developed and used ultrasonic transducers for use in gases. A second part of my project, measuring the velocity dispersion, did not work out. In order to measure sound speed in a gas other than air, one had to mount these transducers within a cell and evacuate it, and then fill it with the gas of interest. In the process of pumping the air out of the cell, the air film underneath the transducer diaphragm changed, so the sensitivity changed. As a result you got drifting sensitivity; there were great limitations. The transducers showed a lot of promise. The part where I was going to work with a physical chemist didn’t. This postdoctoral year I wrote up papers and gave a talk to IEEE on the microphones. And, one of the other people in the group, Charlie Remillard, was interested in the generation of thunder by lightning. He had the opportunity to go to the General Electric research labs in Pittsfield, Mass., out in the Berkshires. I went along and took the microphone and necessary electronic apparatus, and the idea was, “Can we measure sound?” What happened was that the electrical discharge got into the electronics and swamped everything. So I didn’t succeed with measurements, but I learned quite a bit about these electric discharges and the interaction with circuits.

Everbach:

The necessity for shielding and Faraday caging everything?

Wright:

Exactly. And, so then I started working with a microphone, with small sparks, and I learned a lot about acoustic diffraction and analysis in the time domain, instead of the frequency domain. Very unfortunate, we had no good way to go back and forth between the time and frequency domains. Computers were primitive. I had piles of punch cards and used an IBM 1620, but it was not a very productive way to take fast Fourier transforms, for example.

Everbach:

Yeah.

Wright:

Yeah. But, that year…

Everbach:

In fact, maybe the fast Fourier transform wasn’t invented yet. That Fourier transform you’d have to do, you’d have to do a pencil and paper job.

Wright:

Right.

Everbach:

You couldn’t…

Wright:

So, I guess you’d say that as I’d gone along on the thesis for a year and a half or so, it became clear that I wasn’t going to be able to carry out the original project. I finished it, but part of it was with a negative result.

Everbach:

Yeah.

Wright:

But then…

Everbach:

This is your Ph.D. project?

Wright:

Yeah. But then, during that postdoctoral year I came to life. I was given the title Deputy Director of the Acoustics Research Lab, which was really Hunt’s mentoring to write proposals, to write reports to ONR, to do the very things that a project director has to do, ordering equipment, fighting the bureaucracy, working with machinists, technicians, and a group. I enjoyed what I was learning and the freedom to play around with microphones and sparks. I remember Hunt’s noting this, that I surprised him because I had not been a ball of fire during the doctoral work. It was not exhilarating if you reach the point where you say, “Well, I’m not going to get there.”

Everbach:

Yeah. It seems like Murphy’s Law stopped you and it’s hard to get enthusiastic when you’re beating your head against a brick wall.

Wright:

But, given a free rein, after having the thesis accepted, —

Everbach:

Yeah.

Wright:

— it’s a lot of fun.

Everbach:

Did you teach, as a graduate student? Did you teach classes?

Wright:

I taught labs.

Everbach:

Undergraduates or graduate level?

Wright:

The acoustic courses, which…

Everbach:

They were both undergraduate and graduate courses?

Wright:

Yeah.

Everbach:

Were you ever in the military, other than going out in the countryside to look for German aircraft?

Wright:

I was in the ROTC at Bowdoin for two years, but the third and fourth year expectations conflicted with my upper-level physics labs.

Everbach:

Okay. Well, I know the answer to some of these questions, I think. Did you ever attend any technical, business, or trade schools?

Wright:

No.

Everbach:

You were strictly academic. Correspondence courses?

Wright:

No.

Everbach:

Well, would you continue to spin out the story of how you wound up at Kalamazoo College? I mean, you can take a moment to eat breakfast. But, we are chronologically up to the point where you spent your postdoctoral year as this sort of project manager at Hunt’s lab at Harvard. So, how did it happen that you wound up teaching at a small undergraduate college in the Midwest?

Wright:

I had originally thought of going into industry. My two summers at Raytheon turned me towards staying around for the Ph.D. and for the academic world, because I got very frustrated with not being able to do things. You had to submit a work order to have your piece of equipment taken from one lab to the next lab. And, it might take two or three days.

Everbach:

Yeah.

Wright:

There was much red tape, and the unions were very strong there. I decided I wanted to be my own man, and to work relatively independently.

I had a very good friend at Harvard who was in political science, enrolled in the public administration graduate program, who had graduated from Kalamazoo College and whose father had been on the faculty. Another friend in public administration took a one-year faculty position at Kalamazoo College before he finished his thesis. So, I was familiar with the college through the two of them, and the college was out recruiting for a physicist. And, I said, “I’m interested in a good small college.” They made me an offer and I accepted it.

Everbach:

And, the idea of the small college was basically to allow you to do research easily? You were thinking of avoiding all the work orders and bureaucracy?

Wright:

And to have the close relationship with faculty that I’d had at Bowdoin.

Everbach:

And, that’s why a small college? Okay. So, there was a philosophical point there, as much as a pragmatic one?

Wright:

Yeah. Also, Kalamazoo was a two-day drive from our families. That’s as far as I wanted to go away from New England at that point. That was before routine air travel.

Everbach:

Okay. So, you set up at Kalamazoo College in the Physics Department?

Wright:

Yeah.

Everbach:

And, you were there how long?

Wright:

Thirty-seven years.

Everbach:

So, what year did you leave?

Wright:

1999.

Everbach:

And, you were a professor, I guess?

Wright:

Yes.

Everbach:

Your title was professor of physics?

Wright:

After a couple promotions. To be honest, one other factor in my decision was that most university physics departments were not particularly interested in acoustics or acousticians at that time. At a small college the distinction is really between the experimentalist and the theoretician, in terms of working with students. I had the advantage, which was not always recognized, of being able to do projects that didn’t cost much, and to which undergraduates could rapidly contribute. When you were working with high-energy particle physics, or nuclear physics, it was a little more difficult.

Everbach:

Now, there’s a section on publications, papers, and books. Would you like to make any comments about that, about your research papers? Or did you write a book or edit a book, or anything on books?

Wright:

I haven’t written any books. I have in the ballpark of thirty publications, and a few more talks with abstracts published in JASA.

Everbach:

And, JASA’s the only place you published? You didn’t publish in — you mentioned an IEEE presentation.

Wright:

I did publish in the American Journal of Physics as well. I spent one sabbatical at the University of Michigan with an analytical chemist, where I used photo-acoustic spectroscopy. The results of that work were published in a book on a workshop held in Fort Collins, Colorado in 1980, I believe, and in an article accepted by Applied Optics. I was a co-author. But most of the articles, including the ones I coauthored with people in Colorado, San Diego and Monterey, were published in JASA.

Everbach:

Now, I’d like to move on to the personal side. You mentioned the trip to Kalamazoo, and your professional reasons, but I’d like to know marital connections. At what point did you marry, and who did you marry, and what kids did you have, and all that stuff?

Wright:

I met my wife, Mary Urbanowicz, at a square dance at Harvard during her senior year at Tufts University. We were married in the fall of 1959, after she began graduate study at Harvard. A daughter, Cathy, was born in 1961. We were expecting another child the following year, and it became clear that our graduate student housing was not going to be adequate. It was a question of finding rental housing outside Cambridge and commuting in, or just getting out all together without completion of the two-year postdoc.

Everbach:

So, it was a two-year postdoc? It wasn’t…

Wright:

Yeah. But we decided to leave after one year, Mary with a Masters degree.

Everbach:

Oh. And so, she went with you to Kalamazoo?

Wright:

Yeah.

Everbach:

Okay. So, you ended up with two children?

Wright:

Four.

Everbach:

Four? Okay. Eventually four?

Wright:

Four. Yeah.

Everbach:

Okay.

Wright:

Two babies when we went out there in our Volkswagen Beetle.

Everbach:

Well, is there anything about them that you’d like to mention?

Wright:

They’re all independent, responsible adults. Our older daughter graduated from Kalamazoo College with strength in computer science and economics, has worked for a variety of companies on both coasts, and now is a vice president of NPD (National Polling Data) on Long Island, New York. She and her husband own a house outside Tucson, Arizona.

Everbach:

She lives in Tucson, Arizona?

Wright:

That’s their formal residence, but she spends most of her time working in New York.

Everbach:

Oh.

Wright:

Her husband had been divorced and had three children. She has no children of her own.

Everbach:

Okay.

Wright:

The next one, son Peter, received BS and MS degrees at RPI (Rensselaer), and his Doctorate in EE at Stanford. He lives with his wife and two daughters in Sunnyvale, California and works in Silicon Valley. Our second daughter, Laura, is a professional violinist. She attended Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin for two years and then the Cleveland Institute of Music.

Everbach:

You didn’t mention any musical connection yourself?

Wright:

No.

Everbach:

With you or your wife.

Wright:

Mary had played the piano.

Everbach:

And therefore, your daughter’s violin interest came out of just general interest.

Wright:

We encouraged musical interests, and the older two took piano lessons. As soon as we said they could stop, they quit. She was interested and competent in the violin, and she’s now a professional violinist and teacher, in New Haven, Connecticut.

Everbach:

Okay. Did she have kids?

Wright:

Yeah. We have a three-year-old grandson.

Everbach:

Okay.

Wright:

And then the fourth child and second son was born in 1970, while we were on sabbatical in Monterey, California. He attended Harvey Mudd College, in Claremont, worked for Microsoft for a dozen years, and is now on his own in Seattle. He just got married, expecting their first child.

Everbach:

Okay. The last section here is your own personal interests now, hobbies, favorite books, movies, songs, sports teams, artists, future plans. So, that should cover anything you care to say about your current and future plans and interests.

Wright:

Well, I’ve had a lot of hobbies that haven’t gone very far. I like to garden. We’ve raised vegetables and fruit since I was a boy.

Everbach:

Yeah. You said you sold it on a cart.

Wright:

In 1993 I inherited my parents’ cottage in Ogunquit, Maine, and they had a garden there. So I keep the garden. I do Sudoku puzzles in the newspaper. Jumbles, that sort of thing. My wife likes bridge and so I play, but I’m not an expert at bridge. I play tennis. I try to get in a couple games a week, when the weather allows it. Tennis has been my major physical activity, since I’ve had to give up hiking and camping. We’ve been living in Sun City, Georgetown, Texas for ten years, since I retired. I enjoy the opportunity to go in to the Applied Research Labs in Austin and work with the younger people there. I’m happy to go home at night to the peace and quiet of Sun City.

Everbach:

Ah.

Wright:

We try to travel, and have done a fair amount, but my wife’s health isn’t good. So, that’s clearly limiting what we can try to do.

Everbach:

Did she come with you to ASA meetings all those years, or not?

Wright:

No. Not until after the last child was away at college. She taught part-time and worked for local social services groups for several years, but came down with MS, and just couldn’t keep it up. So, she started traveling with me, primarily in the ‘90s.

Everbach:

Okay. Is there anything else that you would like to say on any topic? Last words? Anything that I didn’t ask you that I should have? Or, anything about, anything on record for the archives of your contributions, how you feel your role is, or contributions in acoustics?

Wright:

Well, I certainly support what many people have voiced, about the friendliness of the Society. When I compare it with Physical Society and IEEE meetings I’ve attended, it’s small enough so you feel you’re known. You’re not just swallowed up in the crowd. It’s been a second home, in many ways. It’s given me reason to travel to many cities around the country. I’ve enjoyed working with Elaine Moran and with Bob Beyer, who I interacted with often when he was treasurer. For a teacher at a small undergraduate college, ASA has provided motivation to continue to do research and to expand into new professional areas, and to publish and present research talks. Overall, it’s provided great opportunities. From now on, it’s clear, my wife’s health and my health will be the big factors in whether we make it to meetings.

Everbach:

It seems from my point of view that David Blackstock was a major and ongoing figure through your career. Not that you were always together but you did mention that you roomed often. And also, I think you — correct me if I’m wrong but you’re — you wound up at ARL partly through Blackstock?

Wright:

Yeah. Let me comment on that.

Everbach:

The post-Kalamazoo to ARL transition.

Wright:

Back in the early 1960’s I was invited by ONR to submit a proposal to do physical acoustics research at Kalamazoo College. The subsequent contract let me transfer apparatus from Harvard to Kalamazoo, and it supported student research that used my ultrasonic transducers and impulses from sparks. Some of these folks went on to graduate work with David at the University of Rochester. During the late 1960s Congressional actions made it difficult for ONR to continue to give research support to small colleges. It was suggested by Bill Cramer, the ONR contract monitor, that since I had published jointly with David, I should consider being added as a consultant to his research contract with the University of Texas, where he had moved in 1970. As part of that affiliation I spent a week or two in Austin almost every year until my retirement, staying sometimes with David’s family and sometimes in a motel.

Everbach:

Starting when?

Wright:

In 1972. I’d spend my time in the lab, asking questions of the graduate students, reading drafts, and generally supporting them. As an experimentalist, I had a different perspective than did David. The first graduate student that I interacted with was Mike Pestorius, who had completed a Navy career and was executive director of ARL by the late nineties. Mark Hamilton came from Penn State to complete his doctoral thesis. I knew the place and many on the ARL staff and enjoyed the Austin area. So, it was a logical place for me to spend my final two Kalamazoo College sabbaticals.

Everbach:

Was David around in Hunt’s lab when you were there?

Wright:

Yes, he and I started at the same time.

Everbach:

Right.

Wright:

But he came in with a masters in physics from the University of Texas, and research experience —

Everbach:

Right.

Wright:

— at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. So, he was rather advanced. Since he worked officially for Bill Raney, and since he was a theoretician, our contact was rather limited at Harvard.

Everbach:

Any other close connections? You mentioned Beyer. You mentioned Blackstock. Any other sort of long-term collegiate relationships that you had over the years with other people I don’t know of?

Wright:

One person with whom I’ve roomed, gone mountain climbing, and visited is John Burgess of the University of Hawaii.

Everbach:

Yeah. Okay. Well, that’s it for me. I think…

Wright:

Thank you.

Everbach:

I think we’ll sign off. It’s been about an hour. And, we’ll transcribe this and put it in the archives. Thank you, very much.