Sound Ideas [Acoustical Consulting at BBN and Acentech]

Deborah Melone and Eric W. Wood

Published in 2005




Section I. Beginnings
Chapter 1/ Too Much Work to Do Alone
Chapter 2/ The Jet Age

Section II. Growing and Branching Out
Chapter 3/ Concert Halls
Chapter 4/ Other BBN Activities
Chapter 5/ Branch Offices--The Logical Expansion of BBN's Consulting Activities

Section III. BBN in the 1950s
Chapter 6/ Aircraft Noise, Vibration Damping, and Underwater Acoustics
Chapter 7/ Architectural Acoustics
Chapter 8/ Versatility and Flexibility

Section IV. Transitions
Chapter 9/ The Late 1950s: Changing Times
Chapter 10/ Gas Turbine Noise, Induced Draft Fans, Mechanical Equipment Noise
Chapter 11/ The 1960s
Chapter 12/ Education Programs

Section V. Continuities
Chapter 13/ Continuing Acoustics Activities
Chapter 14/ Non-acoustics Consulting Services: Industrial Hygiene, Asbestos, and Air Quality
Chapter 15/ The 1970s and Beyond

Section VI. Offshoots
Chapter 16/ Cavanaugh Tocci Associates Inc., Sudbury, Massachusetts
Chapter 17/ Hoover & Keith, Inc. (HKI) Houston, Texas
Chapter 18/ Harris Miller Miller Hanson Inc. (HMMH) Burlington, Massachusetts
Chapter 19/ A.S. Harris, Inc., Manchester, Massachusetts

Section VII. The Formation of Acentech
Chapter 20/ Becoming Employee Owned
Chapter 21/ Acentech Branch Offices
Chapter 22/ Perspectives on Acentech from Some Former BBNers

Appendix A/ Noteworthy Contributions, Events, Milestones, and Accomplishments
Appendix B/ Honors, Awards, and Professional Society Positions
Appendix C/ Early Staff
Appendix D/ Early BBN Reports
Appendix E/ Boy Boy Nancy
Appendix F/ BBN Report
Appendix G/ Teaching, Textbooks, Manuals, and Design Guides
Appendix H/ Offshoots: Spawning of Other Firms
Appendix I/ Brief Organizational History of BBN Consulting Offices
Appendix J/ BBN Activities 1961 and 1980
Appendix K/ Advice on the Art of Consulting
Appendix L/ Some Award-Winning Projects



In writing this book about the early days of Bolt Beranek and Newman Inc. (BBN), its growth and development, and the eventual rise of Acentech Incorporated, I have depended on the recollections of many people, from BBN founder Leo Beranek to some of the most recent employees of Acentech Incorporated. Through my interviews with them, they have helped me to understand the history of a unique American company, a pioneer in the field of acoustical consulting. They have recalled for me the special feeling of the place--its intellectual fervor, its spirit of generosity and sharing of ideas, its lack of hierarchy, and the excitement of its employees about new discoveries in their fields. Because I could not interview everyone, I have considered the people I spoke to as representative of various activites and periods at BBN and Acentech.

I began to think of the book less as a formal history than as a group memoir--a collection of personal reminiscences, with some overlaps, repetitions, and occasional disagreements--of the people who had taken such pleasure in working in the relaxed, nurturing, stimulating environment of BBN. The environment seemd ideally suited for encouraging the growth of a new industry of acoustical consulting, spawning generations of distinguished practitioners and many spin-off companies to carry on the work originally begun at BBN. It is a remarkable story.

I am grateful to everyone I interviewed, and I am especially indebted to Bob Hoover, Laymon Miller, and Eric Ungar, who provided me with extensive written materials of their own to draw from, and to Leo Beranek, who was generous in spending time with me and who directed me to his interview with Janet Abbate (IEEE Oral History Center, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ) for biographical information. Finally, Eric Wood, whose idea this book was, has been endlesslly helpful, encouraging, and supportive to me throughout the project. This book would never have existed without him.

Deborah Melone, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Return to top

Back to List of Publications

© Acoustical Society of America