Lawrence R. Rabiner

Acoustical Society of America

Biennial Award


Lawrence R. Rabiner

Lawrence Richard Rabiner was born 28 September 1943, in Brooklyn, New York. His secondary schooling was completed at George W. Wingate High School in 1960. His senior-year honors included: the New York State Regents Scholarship, the New York State Science Scholarship, and National Merit Semi-Finalist. A not unnatural progression, therefore, was into the cooperative curriculum of MIT's Electrical Engineering Department (Course VI-A). It was during the last year of his combined Bachelor's/Master's program that I can begin a first-hand account of his accomplishments and growth.

I first came to know Larry in the spring of 1964 when, as an MIT Co-Op, he came to the Acoustics Research Department at Bell Laboratories in quest of a Master's thesis. The problem we settled on was an auditory study of binaural release from masking. In his first sortie into research, Larry at once displayed his remarkable drive, his initiative, and his aptitude for identifying critical factors. His Master's work, later published in the Journal, beautifully quantified the improvement in auditory detectability that ensues when binaural listening permits control of the interaural delays of signal and noise. With its timely, thorough experimentation and its computer modeling of results, Larry's Master's thesis, even now, remains a model for Co-Op students passing our doors.

It was plainly clear that technical inquisitiveness such as Larry's would not be satiated by a Master's degree. And although he had, in a short period, become a valued asset in our research activity, we supported his thirst for knowledge and "cast our bread upon the waters" in returning him to the tender mercies of an MIT doctoral program.

Our sense of loss was mitigated to some extent by arranging summer collaborations in two successive summers (1965 and 1966), where we could sample (and hopefully encourage) the exceptional strides Larry was making towards his Ph.D. in electrical engineering. It was during these summers that he took up the problems of speech synthesis. His graduate program culminated in 1967 with a doctoral thesis on "Speech Synthesis by Rule," under the aegis of Ken Stevens and a thesis committee composed of Ben Gold, Dennis Klatt, and William Henke.

Upon graduation, true to the scripture,* our bread was returned when Larry accepted our offer of a steady diet of communications research at Bell Labs.

In his work at Bell Labs, his productivity has been spectacular. His interest in digital synthesis of speech has not only resulted in sophisticated techniques for computer answerback, but has led him into the realm of digital filter design. His original work on finite-impulse-response filters has opened a completely new field of digital filtration which, when paired with new developments in device technology, completely frees the engineer from the age-old tyranny of coils, condensers, and uncontrolled phase shift.

His technical publications already number 70. He has filed four U.S. patents, and he has coauthored four books, the latest of which, with Ben Gold, is due to appear in 1974.

This immense dedication to science has not been at the expense of the whole man. He has found ample time for charitable work in his temple, for active participation in the affairs of the Acoustical Society of America and in the IEEE, and for consultation on government research problems. This, too, is completely apart from the family life he reserves for his wife, Suzanne, and his daughters Sheri (age 3) and Wendi (age 1), and for his personal enjoyment of piano, reading, and basketball.

Exceptional accomplishment in science requires no more than three simple ingredients: an agile, inquiring mind; boundless enthusiasm and energy; and an environment that supports and fosters intellectual activity. Lawrence Rabiner has all these. He has used them well. My bet is that he will continue to do so.


*". . . for thou shalt find it after many days." —Ecclesiastes 11:1.