Acoustical Society of America
Gold Medal Award - 1990

Eugen J. Skudrzyk

Eugen (Gene) Skudrzyk was born in Smaim, Moravia (currently part of Czechoslovakia) on 12 May 1913. He majored in electrical engineering at the Imperial College of Science and Technology, London, and completed his undergraduate studies in 1934. From 1934–1938 he did graduate work at The University of Berlin, where he majored in physics and mathematics. He was awarded a Ph.D. in 1939 for his studies on "The National Frequencies of Rooms with Irregular Walls and Diffuse Sound Reflection" under the supervision of Professor Erwin Meyer. During and after his graduate work, Gene worked as a research assistant to Professor Meyer at the Heinrich Hertz Institute for Research on Electrical and Mechanical Vibrations, Berlin.

His teaching career began at the Technical University of Vienna in 1947, when he was appointed as assistant and later as lecturer in acoustics. He was promoted to professor in 1950, filling a chair in low-frequency communications. During the next 5 years, he was in charge of the Institute for Low-Frequency Technique at the Technical University of Vienna.

In 1955, The Pennsylvania State University was able to lure Professor Skudrzyk from his native Austria to joint its faculty in the Applied Research Laboratory and the Department of Physics. During the next 23 years, he was a persistent researcher, a selfless colleague, and a patient teacher and guide to many graduate students.

Gene was truly unique among contemporary acoustic researchers. In this era of specialization, he contributed to most branches of modern acoustics: sound scattering and radiation, room acoustics, hydroacoustics, flow noise, structural vibration, musical acoustics, transducer design, audiology, and concert hall designs. His research ranged from the mathematical foundations of acoustics to engineering applications, from theory to experiments and design.

His early research in Vienna involved audiology, architectural acoustics, and musical acoustics. He studied the influence of wall impedance on hearing in rooms, the quality of distance hearing in rooms, speech recognition, the secrets of Stradivarius violins, and the influence of transients on the quality of music and sound transmission. He was also active in the design of concert halls. A lecture theatre designed by him aroused attention and led to his being entrusted with the acoustical design of four Viennese "town halls" that are among the largest in Europe (the largest in 300 x 360 x 60 ft). He developed and designed wall absorbers for these halls. The acoustical characteristics of these halls were judged outstanding; one of the leading conductors in Europe stated that he had never played Mozart in better acoustical surroundings that those in largest of the halls.

Other areas of his early research concentrated on ultrasound—its generation, i.e., design of ultrasonic transducers, its medical and biological effects, and its use in testing of materials, flaw detection, and ultrasonic wind. He also studied internal friction and dissipation in solids, liquids, and gases. He worked for many years on the design and testing of underwater sound absorbers as part of a team headed by Professor Meyer. The result of 2 decades of fundamental research in theoretical and experimental acoustics were documented in his first book, Die Grundlagen der Akustik (1954).

In the United States, his worked shifted to hydroacoustics, underwater sound propagation, structural vibration, and sound radiation. In the area of hydroacoustics, he performed measurements on the flow noise of buoyant bodies, the sound radiated from turbulent boundary layers over smooth and rough surfaces, and the importance of transducer size and shape on the measurement of flow noise and turbulent boundary layer pressure fluctuations. This work was documented in many papers and reports and was also published as a tutorial paper in JASA under the title "The Physics of Flow Noise" (1969). In the area of underwater sound propagation, he worked on sound absorption in water, acoustic propagation in bubbly water, formation and growth of bubbles in water, the effect of thermal microstructure, and the resulting scattering of sound. In the area of structural vibrations, he developed theorems on multiresonant structures and the vibrational response of these structures to external forcing fields. After a decade of persistent effort, this work led to a general theorem describing the response of complex structures to forced excitation, which he called "the mean value theorem for complex vibrators"; it was the subject of another tutorial paper in JASA (1979). His work on sound radiation from vibrating structures was pursued theoretically and through numerous experiments on structures such as plates of varying shapes and spherical and cylindrical shells.

His research on structural vibration and the radiation of sound from such structures led to his second book in acoustics, Vibration and Sound Radiation of Simple and Complex Vibratory Systems (1966).

Gene was the advisor and mentor to many graduate students who did their master's or doctoral thesis research under his guidance. His dedication to teaching led to the voluminous and encyclopedic book Foundations of Acoustics, Vol. I—Basic Mathematics and Acoustics (1971). He was a valuable advisor to the numerous doctoral students on whose committees he served..

Although acoustics occupied the major part of his professional life, he pursued photography as a scientific endeavor as well as a hobby. He has probably written the only book on the scientific basis of photography, Photography for the Serious Amateur. He conducted scientific experiments on various aspects of photography and wrote yet another book documenting the results of his research.

In retirement, he devoted much of his time to the study of radiated flow noise. He succeeded in deriving an exact solution for the fairfield radiated noise power spectrum by reworking Lighthill's equation.

Dr. Skudrzyk passed away on 2 February 1990, only a week after learning that he had been chosen as the Gold Medal awardee.

Sabih I. Hayek