Acoustic Engineer, Inventor, Entrepreneur Amar Bose Dead At 83

The odds that you’ve got something somewhere that has been influenced by the work of Amar Bose are fairly high. Today, it was announced that he had passed away at the age of 83:

Dr. Amar G. Bose, the visionary engineer, inventor and billionaire entrepreneur whose namesake company, the Bose Corporation, became synonymous with high-quality audio systems and speakers for home users, auditoriums and automobiles, died on Friday at his home in Wayland, Mass. He was 83.

His death was confirmed by his son, Dr. Vanu G. Bose.

As founder and chairman of the privately held company, Dr. Bose focused relentlessly on acoustic engineering innovation. His speakers, though expensive, earned a reputation for bringing concert-hall-quality audio into the home.

And by refusing to offer stock to the public, Dr. Bose was able to pursue risky long-term research, such as noise-canceling headphones and an innovative suspension system for cars without the pressures of quarterly earnings announcements.

In a 2004 interview in Popular Science magazine, he said: “I would have been fired a hundred times at a company run by M.B.A.’s. But I never went into business to make money. I went into business so that I could do interesting things that hadn’t been done before.”

A perfectionist and a devotee of classical music, Dr. Bose was disappointed by the inferior sound of a high-priced stereo system he purchased when he was an M.I.T. engineering student in the 1950s. His interest in acoustic engineering piqued, he realized that 80 percent of the sound experienced in a concert hall was indirect, meaning that it bounced off walls and ceilings before reaching the audience.

This realization, using basic concepts of physics, formed the basis of his research. In the early 1960s, Dr. Bose invented a new type of stereo speaker based on psychoacoustics, the study of sound perception. His design incorporated multiple small speakers aimed at the surrounding walls, rather than directly at the listener, to reflect the sound and, in essence, recreate the larger sound heard in concert halls. In 1964, at the urging of his mentor and adviser at M.I.T., Dr. Y. W. Lee, he founded his company to pursue long-term research in acoustics. The Bose Corporation initially pursued military contracts, but Dr. Bose’s vision was to produce a new generation of stereo speakers.

Though his first speakers fell short of expectations, Dr. Bose kept at it. In 1968, he introduced the Bose 901 Direct/Reflecting speaker system, which became best sellers for more than 25 years and firmly entrenched Bose, based in Framingham, Mass., as a leader in a highly competitive audio components marketplace. Unlike conventional loudspeakers, which radiated sound only forward, the 901s used a blend of direct and reflected sound.

Later inventions included the popular Bose Wave radio and the Bose noise-canceling headphones, which were so effective they were adopted by the military and commercial pilots.

A Bose software program enabled acoustic engineers to simulate the sound from any seat in a large venue, even before the site was built. The system was used to create sound systems for such diverse venues as Staples Center in Los Angeles, the Sistine Chapel and the Masjid al-Haram, the grand mosque in Mecca.

In 1982, some of the world’s top automakers, including Mercedes and Porsche, began to install Bose audio systems in their vehicles, and the brand remains a favorite in that market segment.

Dr. Bose’s devotion to research was matched by his passion for teaching. Having earned his bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees in electrical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the 1950s, Dr. Bose returned from a Fulbright scholarship at the National Physical Laboratory in New Delhi and joined the M.I.T. faculty in 1956.

He taught there for more than 45 years, and in 2011, donated a majority of his company’s shares to the school. The gift provides M.I.T. with annual cash dividends. M.I.T. cannot sell the shares and does not participate in the company’s management.

Dr. Bose made a lasting impression in the classroom as well as in his company. His popular course on acoustics was as much about life as about electronics, said Alan V. Oppenheim, an M.I.T. engineering professor and longtime colleague.

As I look across the room I’m siting in right now, one of the first things I see is a Bose SoundDock to which I’ve connected more than one of the iPod’s that I have owned over the years since I received it as a Christmas gift. It continues to deliver excellent sound after all these years. The car I drive has a Bose sound system. My desktop computer has Bose speakers. I’m sure there’s more. Truly one of the great visionaries of our time who has enhanced one of the great gifts of humanity, the sense of hearing, to a fabulous degree.

FILED UNDER: Obituaries, Quick Takes, Science & Technology
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. anjin-san says:

    Once upon a time, Bose was a fine company. It’s been a long time since audiophiles took them seriously.

    At any rate, another one of the great old names has left us. Paul Klipsch, Sidney Harmon, Avery Fisher…

  2. jukeboxgrad says:

    It’s been a long time since audiophiles took them seriously.

    Yes. “No highs, no lows, must be Bose!” Link. But they should get credit for doing some innovative things.

  3. anjin-san says:
  4. anjin-san says:

    Seriously, if you want an iPod dock, don’t screw around.

  5. matt says:

    @anjin-san: Indeed.

    Bose has been coasting on the name for far too long.

  6. DC Loser says:

    I admire what Dr. Bose accomplished in his life. However, Bose products are today overpriced inferior compared to the competition. I can get much better performance at 1/3 of the price in speakers and headphones.