Thomas J. Hofler

Acoustical Society of America

R. Bruce Lindsay Award


Thomas J. Hofler

When one considers the number of skills required for an acoustician to be a competent and original experimentalist in the 1980s (acoustics, hydrodynamics, elasticity, vacuum and pressure systems, thermodynamics and heat transport, analog and digital electronics, transduction, computer data acquisition and instrument control, numerical simulation, mechanical fabrication, etc., etc., etc.), it is difficult to believe that a single individual of any age could possess such a breadth of competence, let alone a person under 35. But Tom Hofler is such an individual.

Tom was born in Mason City, Iowa, in 1955, the youngest of three sons of a successful seed merchant. None of the Hofler boys went into the family business. The eldest son is a sports enthusiast and the middle one a film critic. Tom was apparently influenced by both of them, since he became an avid sportsman (skiing, wind surfing, anything fast!) and also a movie addict; but he is also an outstanding scientist. He received his undergraduate education at Brown University, fulfilling the requirements for a bachelor's degree in both physics and mathematics. In graduate school at the University of California, San Diego, he met Professor John Wheatley; it was this connection that sent him to Los Alamos to do this Ph.D. thesis research.

I have known Tom since 1982, when he was a graduate student working with Greg Swift and John Wheatley at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) on thermoacoustic heat engines. I have been impressed with his intelligence, curiosity, technical skill, scientific boldness, and productivity on an almost daily basis during that entire time. Accordingly, when he completed his Ph.D. in 1986, I invited him to join me and Professor Atchley at the Naval Postgraduate School, as an Office of Naval Technology Postdoctoral Fellow. After 2 ½ years, he was asked by our Department Chairman to join the faculty at the Naval Postgraduate School as a permanent Adjunct Research Professor. His personal research productivity and his ability to advise both our thesis students and fellow faculty members have made him an invaluable assert to our teaching and research efforts.

Tom is best known within the Acoustical Society of America for his pioneering research in the design, development, analysis, and performance measurements of thermoacoustic heat pumps. This is entirely appropriate, since he has been largely responsible for what I believe to be the most interesting development in Physical and Engineering Acoustics in the 1980s, and one of the most important discoveries in the history of heat engines in this century. In honoring him with this award, it is also important to recognize that he has done other significant research in acoustics both prior to and in parallel with his research in thermoacoustic heat transport.

Before his research on thermoacoustics, Tom worked with Albert Migliori at LANL on the use of laser-generated acoustic pulses to measure the electric field inside a solid dielectric. Laser oblation of ordinary "carbon paper" created pulses with rise times of a few tens-of-nanoseconds, which were received and transduced by a thin polymer electret foil. After coming to Monterey, Tom became interested in my fiber-optic sensor work and became an active collaborator in that area This collaboration has produced numerous papers, conference presentations, and patents in fiber-optic transduction. Almost all of his work involves acoustics and thermodynamics, transducer engineering, and/or optics. His papers have appeared in Fiber and Integrated Optics, Reviews of Scientific Instruments, American Journal of Physics, Proceedings of the Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineering (SPIE), Journal of Lightwave Technology, Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (USA), Physical Review Letters, and The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America.

As we enter a new decade and look forward to the new millennium, it is reassuring to know that there is at least one young scientist with the vision, skills, and discipline that Tom Hofler has demonstrated. We are very proud of Tom's accomplishments.