Beranek invention to be inducted into tech hall of fame

An echo-free test chamber invented by acoustician Leo Beranek ’36 will be inducted into the TECnology Hall of Fame at the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) convention in January.

Leo Beranke’s anechoic audio test chamber.
Leo Beranke’s anechoic audio test chamber.

Beranek’s anechoic audio test chamber is among eight “hugely significant audio inventions” to be inducted during the NAMM convention. NAMM represents the global music, sound, and event technology products industry. The full list of inductees, each representing a significant milestone:

  • Anechoic audio test chamber (Leo Beranek, 1943)
  • Beyerdynamic M160 ribbon microphone (1957)
  • Bell Labs’ electret microphone patent (1964)
  • Robert Moog’s Modular Moog Synthesizer (1964)
  • iZ Technology’s RADAR 24-track disk recorder (1991)
  • Meyer Sound Labs Source Independent Measurement (SIM) system (1991)
  • Millennia Media HV-3 microphone preamplifier (1992)
  • JBL Professional VerTec line array live sound system (2000)

“Each of these innovations has made a major contribution to how sound is created and reproduced—even years after their debut,” said TECnology Hall of Fame Director George Petersen. “In fact, all of these technologies are still in use every day.”

In its 2016 obituary, the New York Times called Beranek “a sought-after acoustics genius.”

Leo Beranek ’36
Leo Beranek ’36

Beranek grew up in Iowa and majored in physics and mathematics at Cornell College. 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 that’s still in use, and conducted noise control research that led to today’s international standards for public buildings and airports.

During World War II he was approached by the U.S. Air Force to figure out why pilots of long-range bombers were getting so exhausted in the air, and why communication was so difficult in the cockpit. He solved both problems at Harvard’s Electro-Acoustic Laboratory.

For his efforts in World War II, Beranek won the Presidential Certificate of Merit, and for his lifetime of achievements, he won a National Medal of Science.

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 with the Defense Department.