Acoustical Society of America
Gold Medal Award - 1996

Ira Dyer

The1996 Gold Medalist is Professor Ira Dyer of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The award of the Gold Medal to Ira recognizes a distinguished career in acoustics spanning close to five decades. He has had a major influence on all aspects of the Acoustical Society of America. His research has had a profound impact upon aeroacoustics, structural acoustics, and underwater acoustics; he has been a mentor for many students who are now prominent acousticians in their own right, and a leader in education for acoustics; finally, he has served the Society as President, Vice-President, and Executive Council member. He has served on numerous committees, blue ribbon panels, and advisory boards for both the Society and many government agencies.

Ira was born in Brooklyn, New York on 15 June 1925. After serving in the Army Air Corps he went to MIT and obtained his S.B. (1949), S.M. (1951), and Ph.D. (1954) all in physics. His thesis was "Sound Scattering by a Cylindrical Vortex" under the direction of Philip Morse. In 1949 he married Betty, who has also been active in the Society affairs. They have two children, Sam and Deborah, and three grandchildren who Ira is now training to be accomplished sailors on his yacht, Coriolis.

After his graduate studies Ira joined Bolt Beranek and Newman Inc. (BB&N) where he led a division which contributed to virtually all aspects of sound and vibration in complex structures involving ships, submarines, aircraft, and spacecraft, resulting in many publications in The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America (JASA). Leo Beranek asserts that he was one of the three most important persons responsible for the growth and contributions of BB&N. This early work was recognized by receipt of the Society's Biennial Award in 1960.

In 1971 Ira accepted the positions of Head of the Department of Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering and the Director of Sea Grant. He soon led the Department into new areas in ocean engineering which emphasized learning about the ocean environment. The character of the Department was changed profoundly and its new name and status as Department of Ocean Engineering is now known worldwide. At the same time, under Ira's leadership as Director of the MIT Sea Grant Program, which was created to stimulate research and the wise use of the oceans, MIT's Program became a model, often emulated. It was awarded the status of one of the first Sea Grant Colleges in a very short time.

While skillfully managing these important administrative duties, he also developed a graduate subject in ocean acoustics. It has been taught every year since and continues to be one of the most popular subjects in the Department. He also nurtured several other new subjects on ocean acoustics especially in conjunction with the MITóWoods Hole Joint Program. Those of us who have been fortunate enough to have Ira as an instructor know that he is a consummate lecturer with a clarify that makes it all but impossible not to learn in his class. This talent was noted long ago by Richard Bolt at the Biennial Award ceremony in his remarks on Ira's exceptional Ph.D. thesis defense.

Ira has also conducted an active research program while at MIT. Initially, it concerned the statistics of ambient noise especially as related to distant shipping, leading to fundamental new insight on the nature of acoustic fluctuations in the ocean. In 1975 Ira launched a program, which continues even now, on Arctic acoustics. CANBARX, the first experiment, concerned transoceanic reverberation in the Canada Basin. In nine major field experiments since, we have studied reverberation, propagation, and ambient noise in the Arctic, leading to hundreds of publications. In the course of this research work Ira became the expert on ambient noise mechanics. Whereas others gathered and summarized data, he explored the fundamental mechanisms of the noise generation and its coupling to the ocean.

In the last few years he has led MIT's efforts in structural acoustics. He was the organizer of a workshop at the Woods Hole which set the agenda for the Office of Naval Research's (ONR) program. He and his students are now making seminal contributions on the backscattering and radiating by complex objects as well as new methods for their control.

Ira has received many awards and honors in his long and distinguished career. He is a Fellow of both the Acoustical Society of America and the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers and a member of the National Academy of Engineering. It is richly deserved that he add to his honors the Gold Medal of our Society. There are few who have achieved such excellence as a scholar, educator, and leader.

Arthur B. Baggeroer
Peter Mikhalevsky