Saturday, July 13, 2013

RIP - insatiable curiosity...,

mit | Amar Bose ’51, SM ’52, ScD ’56, a former member of the MIT faculty and the founder of Bose Corporation, has died. He was 83.

Dr. Bose received his bachelor’s degree, master’s degree and doctorate from MIT, all in electrical engineering. He was asked to join the faculty in 1956, and he accepted with the intention of teaching for no more than two years. He continued as a member of the MIT faculty until 2001.

During his long tenure at MIT, Dr. Bose made his mark both in research and in teaching. In 1956, he started a research program in physical acoustics and psychoacoustics: This led to his development of many patents in acoustics, electronics, nonlinear systems and communication theory.

Throughout his career, he was cited for excellent teaching. In a 1969 letter to the faculty, then-dean of the School of Engineering R. L. Bisplinghoff wrote, “Dr. Bose is known and respected as one of M.I.T.’s great teachers and for his imaginative and forceful research in the areas of acoustics, loudspeaker design, two-state amplifier-modulators, and nonlinear systems.”

Paul Penfield Jr., professor emeritus of electrical engineering, was a colleague of Dr. Bose, and he recalls what made Dr. Bose different. “Amar was personally creative,” he said, “but unlike so many other creative people, he was also introspective. He could understand and explain his own thinking processes and offer them as guides to others. I’ve seen him do this for several engineering and management problems. At some deep level, that is what teaching is really all about.  Perhaps that helps explain why he was such a beloved teacher.”


former student said...

Although he and I didn't always agree,* Amar Bose was by far the best professor I ever had. Everything that he did in the classroom was about helping his students learn and understand acoustics. Exams were "open book, open notes, the only thing you can't do is bring a friend," and he was never there when they were given. The exams were untimed, always beginning at 7 pm on a Thursday, and were proctored by one of his TAs, with an admonition to the students "Please don't keep him there past midnight."

When he couldn't find an adequate textbook to use for the class, he tracked down his acoustics professor (Leo Beranick, conveniently emeritus down the road at Bolt, Beranick and Newman aka BBN) and received permission to have his personal copy of Acoustics (since republished) copied for all of his students to use in class.

* I once told him (in class) that I didn't think that the Bose 901s sounded so good in "typical" (i.e. non-ideal) environments and why I believed that to be the case. Unfortunately, that cost me a letter grade in the class...

CNu said...

lol, are you saying that he was "peevish" wrt your review of the 901's, or, that your ba-hey-rasta-headslap critique disclosed the limits of your command of the subject?

former student said...

LOL right back atcha, rasta-bro. Definitely peevish; my critique was with regards to the 901's awesome "can't find them with your eyes closed" sound (with which I agreed) in their ideal configuration versus how "muddy" they sounded in a room where the user didn't have the option for optimum placement of speakers and listening position wrt to that ideal. Other students with similar experiences backed me up during the discussion but, as the instigator of the less-than-adoring review, I was clearly targeted. As evidenced by the fact that I received a surprisingly low grade on the final exam (which, to this day, I am certain I aced; I really did grok that material, both in theory and in practice), after which he was unable to provide neither explanation nor the graded exam itself, giving only the explanation "I don't focus on the past, only the future" when asked for same. I decided this was not a battle worth fighting at the time—I couldn't see how it would turn out well for me in the long run being the kid who had forced the dean to confront the honored and beloved instructor just so that I could graduate with a slightly higher GPA.

OTOH, I still benefit from Bose spending the better part of a week teaching us all of the "tricks of the trade" that sellers of audio equipment use to lure customers into spending more than planned on "upgrades." The looks you get on salesmen's faces when you peer behind their carefully crafted display to point out the faults in their demo setups are, as you often write,

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