Robert Bruce Lindsay
Acoustical Society of America
Gold Medal Award
Robert Bruce Lindsay
Our Society honors itself when it awards the Gold Medal to Robert Bruce Lindsay, research physicist, teacher, author, editor, and counselor. It is a pleasure for me to tell you about the accomplishments of this man who has been my friend for many years. But, because these accomplishments have been so many, it is difficult to know just where to begin. Let us start perhaps by looking at what it is that enables him to be so effective in his work. And, it is this—not only has he a gift for being able to recognize a project that needs to be undertaken, but he also has the capacity, the energy, and the persistence necessary to carry it through. It is especially fortunate for us that he has applied these of his talents toward the furthering of our objectives; the increase and diffusion of the knowledge of acoustics.
We can now have a closer look into Dean Lindsay's life works. His long series of researches in physical acoustics began just at about the time when our Society was founded, more than thirty years ago. Every recent student of acoustics can admit to having been influenced by his works on acoustical filters and on the propagation of sound through gases and liquids—and it was, as a matter of fact, through his research papers and books on acoustics that I first became acquainted with Bruce Lindsay.
He has applied himself just as actively in teaching and diffusing the lore of acoustics. He has been with Brown University over thirty years, first as associate professor of theoretical physics, then as Hazard professor and chairman of the Physics Department, and now as Dean of the Graduate School. His many years of teaching have been, for me, epitomized in his 1948 invited lecture before The American Physical Society on the "Physics of Rarefied Gases." I had the good fortune to hear this lucid and elegantly simple account and to be able to learn from it how sound is propagated through gases at very low pressures.
But it is as counselor and editor that one meets Bruce Lindsay again and again. I like to think that his more than ten years of such service to our Society began when several of us urged him to run for Vice-President in 1951. He was elected, and subsequently was elected to serve as President in 1956. In 1957, he was elected Editor-in-Chief and here began his service to the Society's journals, which has continued to the present day. He is effective in developing the policies of our new journal, Sound which presents to laymen and to the scientific community at large the results of recent researches in acoustics. And I, as an associate editor, see yet another Bruce Lindsay—my energetic and wise chief.
In 1954, our Society was faced with what seemed then to be a period of crisis. We had reached the point where we had grown beyond the stage at which everyone felt that he was still able to keep abreast of the acoustical researches being carried out in other laboratories. In retrospect, it hardly appears to have been much of a crisis after all—but only because we had the foresight to designate Bruce Lindsay to serve as the chairman of the committee to resolve our problem. He listened calmly to the excited suggestions that insisted on immediate action, and he sifted workable ideas from the many impractical suggestions made. His committee finally compiled the system of technical committees that function so well today. It was his wise counsel that led directly to the plan to make it possible for people who work in the several areas of acoustics to confer on their mutual problems under the auspices of our Society. Again, I saw Bruce Lindsay, this time when I succeeded him as chairman of the committee, and he had set a very high standard for me to follow.
The foregoing story of his contributions to our Society is by no means the whole story of his career. He has served also on countless committees to advise on scientific matters and particularly to the Federal Government, and here I see Bruce Lindsay repeatedly, on a series of committees advising the National Bureau of Standards. Several years ago, a difficult question came up that concerned the work on acoustical testing that was to be done at the Bureau. Our director sought the advice of a committee, headed by Bruce Lindsay, of course, to resolve the question. After the smoke of the acrimonious discussion had cleared away, he quietly proposed the rationale for a solution that we were most happy to accept. In more recent years, we have established a series of committees advisory to the Bureau on the functions of its technical divisions, and Bruce Lindsay continues to this day to serve actively on them.
We all hear about recurring crises in technical needs of the U.S. Department of Defense. About eight years ago, in one case that could not be brought to public notice, they wisely called in Bruce Lindsay as leader of the study group. It was intended that this group recommend what research and development should be undertaken to meet the military need. As a member of the group, I was privileged once again to feel the impact of his vigorous leadership, which was mainly responsible for the formulation of a broad plan of research and testing. In the present-day technical literature, I often note research results that have followed and were inspired by Dr. Lindsay's dedication to the best interests of our nation. This is only another instance of the many times that he has freely given his valued technical advice to those who needed it.
During all these years of busy activity, he yet found time to write textbooks and treatises on the principles of mechanics and acoustics. This all began apparently because, as a student under Niels Bohr in Copenhagen, he had mastered Danish and he was casting about for some way to put his knowledge to use: he came up with a translation from Danish into English of "The Atom and the Bohr Theory of Its Structure," by Kramers and Holst. This must have been just about the first time that he had worked with a committee, because I note that the translation was done with the collaboration of his wife, Rachel T. Lindsay. His first book on acoustics, written in collaboration with Professor G. W. Stewart, was one of my guidebooks when I entered the field of acoustics. Since then, a steady flow of books and chapters in handbooks and encyclopedias has issued from under his pen, the most recent being Mechanical Radiation published in 1960. But he has another book now in press, and yet another in preparation on the philosophy and methodology of physics.
Few men have given so generously of their advice and wisdom as the man, Robert Bruce Lindsay, who is honored today with our Gold Medal. We who have been so fortunate as to work with him are thoroughly convinced that we shall long benefit from his wise counsel. We all wish him many more years of the successful accomplishment that has enriched acoustics and graced our Society.
Richard K. Cook
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