Thomas David Northwood

Acoustical Society of America

Wallace Clement Sabine Medal


Thomas David Northwood

The Wallace Clement Sabine Medal of the Acoustical Society of America is being awarded this year to Thomas D. Northwood for his contributions to architectural acoustics. His activities over a long and distinguished career have covered many areas in this field.

Tom was born in Peterborough, Ontario in 1915 and studied engineering physics at the University of Toronto, receiving his B.Sc. in 1938. After a short period spent doing design work with Northern Electric, he joined the National Research Council of Canada in 1940 as a research physicist working in underwater sound. After the war years, his area of interest was expanded to include architectural acoustics, and in 1948 he was given leave of absence from NRC to do postgraduate studies in seismology. He received his MA in 1950 and his Ph.D. in 1952 from the University of Toronto, both in Physics.

He rejoined the National Research Council to head a new research section concerned with structural dynamics, building acoustics and vibration, noise, and related matters. He held this position in the Division of Building Research until his retirement in 1979.

These activities in building research and acoustical testing developed quite naturally into a strong interest in acoustical standards. He joined the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) around 1951 and has been active on the Committee on Environmental Acoustics for over 30 years, serving as its chairman from 1966 to 1972. Over the years Tom as been active on many task groups and subcommittees charged with writing standards and solving problems in building acoustics. In 1975 he received the ASTM Award of Merit for "outstanding contributions to research and development of standards in building acoustics" and was made a Fellow of the Society.

As chairman of the Canadian Advisory Committee on Acoustics reporting to the Standards Council of Canada he extended his work into international standards, and represented Canada at meetings of the International Organization for Standardization for many years.

He has held membership in the Engineering Institute of Canada, the Association of Professional Engineers of Ontario, and the Seismological Society of America. He is a member of the Institute of Noise Control Engineering and a Fellow of the Acoustical Society of America and of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

In 1962 he invited together a small number of Canadian acousticians to discuss topics of mutual interest and from this gathering, the Canadian Committee on Acoustics was born. The group has since grown considerably, and was recently renamed the Canadian Acoustical Association. Tom was President of the Association from 1979 until 1982.

His most notable research interests over the years have included noise control, architectural acoustics, and the measurement of sound transmission and absorption. His considerable presence in the field of architectural acoustics led to an appointment as associate editor of the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America in 1964, a position he still holds. He has edited a volume in the Benchmark series entitled "Architectural Acoustics" and has published many papers in every area he has worked in.

Tom Northwood has had a long and productive career and made many significant contributions to architectural acoustics. The present award is a fitting acknowledgment of these achievements.

A. C C. Warnock