Lothar W. Cremer

Acoustical Society of America

Gold Medal Award


Lothar W. Cremer

LOTHAR CREMER can look back on many scientific accomplishments that have earned him the Gold Medal of the Acoustical Society of America. But it is his dedication to instruction, the passing on of his knowledge, that has earned him more than this honor—our deepest respect.

He has made fundamental contributions to almost every major area of acoustics and acoustical engineering. His work has contributed significantly to the scientific foundations of structure-borne noise, impact noise isolation, sound radiation and sound excitation of structures, building acoustics, the physics of stringed musical instruments, the acoustical design of dissipative mufflers, and to physical acoustics. Lothar Cremer is the author of four books, three translated into English, and over one hundred scientific papers. His untranslated works provide an additional incentive for aspiring young acousticians to gain competence in the German language.

He chose to work on difficult problems that had resisted previous analyses. His unparalleled success in structuring these complex problems is based on his belief in gaining full understanding of the physical processes that govern their behavior before attempting analytical solutions. It is a joy to read his papers and books because he knows how to go straight to the heart of the matter, and how to apply the scientific results to solve important engineering problems.

Lothar Cremer's life has repeatedly taken him back and forth between Munich and Berlin. He was born in Munich on 16 August 1905. His family soon moved to Berlin where he received his primary and secondary school education. In 1923 he began his higher education in mechanical and electrical engineering at the Technical University of Berlin, finishing in 1932 with the conferral of a Doctor of Engineering (Dr.-Ing.). His doctoral thesis was on "Experimental and Theoretical Investigations of Sound Absorption of Porous Materials at Oblique Incidence"; work that caught the immediate attention of his professional colleagues in the U.S. from 1934 to 1944 Lothar Cremer served as senior research fellow (Oberingenieur) at the Institute of Mechanics at the Technical University Berlin. During this time he also worked closely with the Acoustics Group of the Heinrich Hertz Institute in Berlin under the leadership of Erwin Meyer.

During the last two war years (1944–1945) he had to leave Berlin to work for the German Navy at Starnberg near Munich. At the end of the war he decided to stay with his family on a farm in a small village between Augsburg and Munich. His attempts to lend a helping hand at the farm were not much appreciated by the farmer. However, he made a deep impression on the villagers by playing the violin beautifully during Sunday church services; so even under these unusual circumstances musical acoustics earned him a reputation and also food which was very important during those days.

In 1946 he moved to Munich and opened possibly the first acoustical consulting office in post-war Germany. The office eventually expanded to include three student assistants and a secretary.

In 1949 Lothar Cremer started lecturing in acoustics at the University in Munich as an Adjunct Professor. At the beginning, his three student assistants usually constituted his entire audience. But the small audience did not discourage Cremer. He put much time and care into preparing his lectures so that he could present them in a very clear and precise manner. His clarity and precision have become a trademark of his lectures and papers.

Professor Cremer's diligence paid off. Out of the six hardy listeners attending his lectures in Munich from 1949 to 1954, three became university professors (two in acoustics and one in computer science), two became heads of acoustical consulting and hardware manufacturing companies, and the sixth attained a high position in the world's largest producer of sound-absorbing materials.

In 1954 Cremer came to the U.S. and worked for six months at Bolt Beranek and Newman Inc. as a consultant's consultant. In 1954 he was asked to serve as a full professor and director of the Institute of Technical Acoustics at the Technical University of Berlin. At this time the Institute had only a few shabby rooms and a partly bombed-out shack that was supposed to serve as a laboratory. Under his leadership, the Institute received a new building and today it has one of the best-known and best-equipped laboratories in Europe. His students of the Berlin period now occupy high positions in academia, industry, and government service.

In 1973 when Lothar Cremer retired, Manfred Heckl, one of the "hardy" attendants of his Munich lectures, was chosen as his successor. In 1974 Cremer received the Wallace, Clement Sabin Medal of the Acoustical Society of America. He has remained as active as ever, writing books and consulting on the acoustic design of concert halls all over the world. His most recent paper appeared in Acustica (Vol. 65, pp. 53–73, 1988) reporting on a new method to predict sound radiation from bodies of arbitrary shape.

He was invited by the Acoustical Society of America to present a Distinguished Lecture at their meeting in Indianapolis in 1987. His chosen subject was trapezium terrace auditoria. For reasons of health he could not present his lecture himself, but it was read instead by his friend and colleague. E. A. Wetherill. Fortunately, this lecture is now available to wider audience as it has been published in The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America [J. Acoust. Soc. Am. 85, 1213–1225 (1989)].

His friends, colleagues, and former students in Germany, and all over the world, join us in celebrating his achievements and in wishing him many more happy and productive years.

Istvan L. Ver
Theodore J. Schultz