Acoustical Society of America
Gold Medal Award - 1984

Robert T. Beyer

ROBERT THOMAS BEYER was born in Harrisburg, PA, on 27 January 1920. His mother died when he was very young; an uncle and an aunt became his foster parents and brought him up. His education was entirely in New York State; it included the receipt of an A.B. in Mathematics (1942) at Hofstra College. Of at least equal importance to our story, at Hofstra Bob met Ellen Fletcher, a chemistry major. They were married on the romantic date 14 February 1944. Now, 40 years later, the Beyers have four children and two grandchildren.

Bob's doctoral study (1942–1945) was at Cornell University; his thesis topic concerned magnetic amplifiers. In 1947–1950, he published four papers on this topic but, as will be seen, he had already started on a quite different field of research.

Faculty appointments were still rare in 1945. As it happened, however, an instructorship in physics became available at Brown University, and Bob Beyer was the successful applicant. Bruce Lindsay at once persuaded him to join the Department's program in physical acoustics. Even in those hard times, it was possible to provide some simple but adequate instrumentation, a novice graduate student, and a small laboratory of his own. His first publication was in JASA, less than a year after he arrived at Brown, and he never slowed up.

From measurements of acoustic propagation in conventional liquids, he went on to study suspensions, condensed gases, liquid metals and semi-metals, electrolytic solutions, organic molecular crystals, and reflections from rough surfaces. Around 1956 he began to consider aspects of nonlinear propagation and from about 1960 nonlinear acoustics became an increasing though by no means exclusive part of his research. At present his research publications total about 75. Of these, about one quarter are his solo efforts and about ten percent are of tutorial nature. Over 30 graduate students have been his co-authors, some of them appearing several times.

Bob has written three texts: "College Physics", 1957 (with A. O. Williams, Jr.) and two advanced treatises, "Physical Ultrasonics" (with S. V. Letcher, 1969), and "Nonlinear Acoustics" (1976). In 1948 he started almost a parallel career, translating from the German Willers, "Practical Analysis" and in 1955 von Neuman, "Quantum Mechanics." Possibly feeling that German was too easy, he studied Russian. The results were numerous. From 1952 to 1980, he translated four advanced treatises from the Russians and also served as translation editor. In 1956 Bob took on at Brown, as a pilot project, the regular translation of the Soviet "Journal of Experimental and Theoretical Physics." The project was successful and was turned over to a permanent organization. Since then he has served as editor of two other Russian-to-English projects. It should not be overlooked that Bob somehow learned a little Chinese, and in 1966--68 he similarly was editor of the English translation of the "Chinese Journal of Physics (Peking)."

As we have seen, Bob began his academic career at Brown, as Instructor in Physics (1945). The successive steps were Assistant Professor (1947), Associate Professor (1951), Professor (1958). In those days it took a long time—particularly in the upper ranks—to reach full professorships. Bob has taught, with conspicuous success, at all levels from freshman physics through advanced graduate courses (and several times of late he has given a non-specialist course in the physics of music). He is liked and respected by his students and his colleagues. In our Department he has served as Executive Office (1966-68) and Chairman (1968–74).

Academic awards and memberships include: Fellow of American Physical Society. Acoustical Society of America, and IEEE; member of American Association of Physics Teachers, American Association for the Advancement of Science, and Administrative Committee on the Sonics and Ultrasonics Group of IEEE (1964–67). Also Bob has served faithfully in the administrative structure of ASA: he has been an Associate Editor, Member of the Executive Council, Vice-President, President (1968–69), and since 1974, Treasurer.

Bob has also been connected with the American Institute of Physics: Member of Translation Advisory Board (1955-78) and its Chairman (1957–77); Board of Translations Editors (1978—); Board of Governors (1969—); Member of Executive Committee of Board (1974—). Bob is also a Member of the International Commission on Acoustics, 1975—; Chairman, 1978—.

So much more could be said. I would maintain that Bob is indeed a man for all seasons. His professional record shows this, but in addition he has always been devoted to literature, history, and poetry. On balance, I am inclined to recommend him for a special oversized Gold Medal, studded with jewels!

A. O. Williams, Jr.