Acoustical Society of America
Gold Medal Award - 2004

Chester M. McKinney

CHESTER MCKINNEY was born January 29, 1920, in the small town of Cooper, Texas, about 80 miles northeast of Dallas. He lived there until he left to attend college at East Texas State Teacher's College in 1937, where his childhood interest in radio led him to major in physics. He earned his BS degree in 1941, and returned to Cooper to teach high school science courses. In 1942, he enlisted in the United States Army Air Force, and because of his physics background and interest in radio, he was trained as a radar officer, attending military schools at Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He served in India, China, and Tinian, leaving the service at the end of the war with the rank of Captain.

After World War II, he returned to Texas and entered graduate school at the University of Texas at Austin in the Physics Department. He also accepted a graduate student position at a new university laboratory that had been established at UT called the Defense Research Laboratory (DRL). DRL would later become the current Applied Research Laboratories (ARL:UT). This lab was founded by Paul Boner, a UT Physics professor who had been Associate Director at the Harvard Underwater Sound Laboratory (HUSL) during the war. Chester was the first graduate student hired by DRL. Although DRL was founded by an acoustician, and staffed by a number of researchers who had been at HUSL, it did not initially have an acoustics program, focusing instead on electromagnetics, radar, and aeronautics, which matched well with Chester's experience and interests. Chester worked under Bob Watson during his MA program, and under Claude Horton for his PhD. He was the first graduate student under both of these distinguished professors. His graduate research was in electromagnetics. His master's thesis (1947) described a reciprocity method of antenna calibration, and his dissertation (1950) was on dielectric waveguides and radiators. After completing his graduate work, he accepted a faculty position at Texas Technological College, where he continued his research in electromagnetics until 1953, when he decided to return to DRL.

Chester's mentor throughout the early years of his career at DRL was Richard Lane, a prominent member of the Acoustical Society who had also been on the research staff at HUSL, and who is credited with initiating DRL's acoustics programs in 1949. Chester's career focus had been primarily on electromagnetics, however, his initial assignments on returning to DRL were to begin work on developing a program in mine countermeasures sonar, and to become an active member of the Acoustical Society of America (ASA). He was quite successful on both counts. The high frequency acoustics program he founded 50 years ago and led through its early years continues to be among the nation's leading sonar technology programs. He joined the ASA in 1953, was elected a Fellow 1958, and his contributions are now being recognized with the Society's highest award. He has published 14 papers in the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America (JASA), and presented 15 papers at ASA meetings. If Richard were with us today, he would be pleased.

Chester's technical contributions in acoustics are in areas relating to high frequency, high resolution sonars used to find and classify mines, and to accomplish a variety of other tasks from bottom mapping to swimmer detection. In the early days of mine countermeasures sonar work at DRL. Chester began to focus on the problem of classification to reduce the number of target-like returns to a manageable quantity.

His strong background in classical physics led him toward physical clues that could be measured through the use of high spatial resolution. He justified the use of very high resolution, and demonstrated its feasibility through the development of research tools for experimentation. He also led efforts to develop a physical understanding of target scattering as a basis for classification. In 1954, he invented a second sweep mixing technique which made it possible to use continuous transmission frequency modulated (CTFM) sonar for high resolution classification as well as target detection. Chester also recognized the importance of the ocean acoustic environment on high resolution sonar. One of his best known experimental efforts is the collection of ocean bottom backscattering data which he published with C.D. Anderson in 1964. These data are still relevant and used extensively by those involved in high resolution sonar design. Chester's work was often in the category of pioneering research that led to important work by others. For example, the body of work in naval mine-related structural acoustics had its genesis in a JASA paper he published in 1961 with Garland Barnard. "Scattering of Acoustic Energy by Solid and Air Filled Cylinders in Water," subsequently included in Bruce Lindsay's Benchmark Papers in Acoustics series.

For many years, Chester was regarded by the U.S. Navy's R&D establishment as the voice of the mine countermeasures community through his service on senior advisory groups such as the Naval Studies Board of the National Academy of Sciences/National Research Council. Because of these activities and his sonar development work at ARL:UT, it is safe to say that Chester's leadership played a significant role in establishing the basis for the Navy's current capability in mine countermeasures.

Chester's long service to the ASA is noteworthy for a number of contributions that influenced its development and continue to be included in its operation today. He was a charter member of the Underwater Acoustics Technical Committee when it was formed in 1956, and is listed as its first chairman. He undertook the organization of special sessions, and developed a master list of organizations in the U.S. and Canada involved in underwater acoustics, notifying each organization of upcoming special sessions to encourage attendance and to generate a following. These activities helped to cement the role of the ASA in underwater acoustics, and encouraged many working in the field to feel that the ASA was the professional home for their activities. Subsequently, during his tenure as Vice President (198485) and President (198788), he established three committees that continue today: Archives, Tutorials, and Public Relations. He also served on the Executive Council (197477), the Medals and Awards Committee (197983), the Long Range Planning Committee (199194), and on the Nominating Committee (1984, 1988, and 1995). In 1989 he proposed that a census of acousticians be undertaken, chaired the resulting ad hoc committee, helped collect and organize the data, and published the results in JASA. Chester was involved in organizing all six of the Austin ASA meetings, and served as local chairman for the fall 1975 meeting. At that meeting he proposed and implemented four changes to the meeting format that continue to be used today. Those were the use of poster sessions, the paper copying service, the plenary sessions for presentations and awards, and the Tuesday and Thursday evening socials.

These aspects of Chester's career would be noteworthy under any circumstances; however, they are even more impressive because most were accomplished during a period when Chester was also leading ARL:UT through its formative years. The foundation that Chester created at ARL:UT through wise administrative policies and far-sighted operating philosophy have served the lab well. They continue to make it a vibrant organization at which a large number of acousticians began their careers. In recognition of his leadership, one of the buildings at ARL:UT is officially designed as the McKinney Wing. His career achievements have also been recognized with various other awards, including the U.S. Navy Distinguished Public Service Award, and an Honorary Fellowship of the Institute of Acoustics (UK).

There are a variety of facets in Chester's career that we have not covered here; however, we should not fail to mention his marriage of 56 years to Linda, their two daughters, and five grandchildren. Linda attends most ASA meetings and, as an active participant in the accompanying persons program, she is one of Chester's finest contributions to the Society.

Chester has provided sagacious and insightful leadership in every endeavor to which he has committed throughout his career. It is difficult to say whether his most significant accomplishments were as an administrator or as a researcher, but it is clear that his contributions in both realms have set a high standard for others to follow. Chester's beneficial influence on the Acoustical Society, on the Navy's high resolution sonar programs, and on ARL has endured over several decades, and shows little sign of fading. All three are much the better for his having altered his career path back in 1953.

Clark S. Penrod
Thomas G. Muir
Ralph R. Goodman
David T. Blackstock