Leo Beranek ’36
Acoustics designer and internet pioneer Leo Beranek ’36, Westwood, Massachusetts, died Oct. 10, 2016, at age 102. In its obituary, the New York Times called him “a sought-after acoustics genius.”
Beranek grew up in Solon, Iowa, and majored in physics and mathematics at Cornell College. He operated a radio repair business and wired buildings — including Cornell’s Merner Hall — to pay for his Cornell education. A chance encounter helping a man with a flat tire near campus led Beranek to apply to Harvard University for graduate school. Beranek taught acoustic engineering at Harvard and M.I.T. for more than 30 years, wrote an acoustics textbook still in use, and conducted noise control research that led to standards that are used internationally today for public buildings and airports.
Bolt, Beranek & Newman, the company he helped found, designed the acoustics for the United Nations and for concert halls at Lincoln Center and Tanglewood. They also built the direct precursor to the internet under contract to the Defense Department.
He is survived by his wife, Gabriella Sohn, sons James Beranek ’70 and Thomas Beranek Haynes, two stepsons, and a granddaughter.