Acoustical Society of America
Biennial Award - 1980

Peter H. Rogers

Peter H. Rogers was born in New York City on 8 January 1945. He was educated in the public school system of New York, and received his undergraduate education at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He took his graduate study at Brown University in the Physics Department, where so many theoretical acousticians, well known to the Society, have taught and studied.

At Brown University, Peter's dissertation advisor was Prof. A. O. Williams, who remembers him as one of his best students and one with whom discussions "were at least as educational for me as for him." Peter's research at Brown University was in linear and nonlinear radiation theory.

In 1969 Peter completed his Ph.D. work and moved on to a position in the Transducer Branch at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C., working there first under Sam Hanish and later, Jim Trott. Here Peter applied his talents for theoretical acoustics to problems in underwater sound transducers ranging from parabolic reflectors to free flooded magnetostrictive rings to an acoustic slow waveguide antenna.

At one time Peter avoided the use of computers, preferring strictly analytical treatment to numerical ones. Then at NRL Peter attacked the problem of radiation from cylinders of finite length, which simply would not yield to analytical methods. With this he was converted to the routine use of numerical methods and quickly became very proficient at getting answers out of a computer.

In 1975 Peter was selected for promotion and transfer to the Measurements Branch of the Underwater Sound Reference Division of NRL in Orlando, Florida. Many of Peter's professional friends were puzzled by his move. The Orlando laboratory was well known for its work in experimental and applied acoustics and electroacoustics, but not for the type of theoretical research in which Peter had been so successful. What these friends did not know was that Peter had made a very deliberate decision about his career. He wanted first to broaden his experience in acoustics—to encompass experimental research and to get closer to development and measurement problems in underwater acoustics. He also had long-range goals for a management position and wanted supervisory responsibilities. The Orlando position provided both of these.

In Orlando he supervises a group of five acoustical physicists that addresses such problems in theory and methodology as: How can nonlinear sound sources such as explosions and parametric transducers he calibrated or at least characterized? How can one use sound pulses shorter than one wavelength to circumvent multipath interference? How does one calibrate a hydrophone 100 meters long in a laboratory? How does one measure the acoustic signal generated by nuclear particles impinging on water? Peter's personal research remains tilted toward theoretical acoustics—on shock wave theory, using a quantum mechanics approach to characterize nonlinear sound fields and refining the theory of the scattering of sound by sound.

December 1977 turned out to be a milestone month for Peter Rogers. That month his paper "Weak-Shock Solution for Explosive Shock Waves" appeared in the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America. In the same month a series of booming noises were heard, or felt, on the east coast, particularly in the New York–New Jersey area. The President's Science Advisor wanted these noises investigated and the sources identified. The task was assigned to the Naval Research Laboratory. There Alan Berman organized and led a large team effort. All possible sources of these booming noises were to be investigated, including super lightning bolts, exploding methane gas from New York City garbage dumped at sea, and other exotic possibilities. Sonic booms was one of the more conventional theories. NRL had no sonic boom experts, but Peter Rogers came closest with his study of underwater shock waves. Peter was given the assignment of becoming knowledgeable about sonic booms, investigating the evidence, performing any necessary analysis, drawing a conclusion, and writing a report—all in only two months. The pressure on the NRL team from Cabinet levels and the news media for a quick but reliable answer was high. It was a hectic two months. With the help of sonic boom experts like Hubbard and Maglieri at NASA, Peter did identify the noises as sonic booms from military aircraft, and a result of unusual atmospheric conditions. The government and most of the scientific community accepted the Rogers theory. A few skeptics still suspected the Concorde aircraft as the villain, even though no Concorde was near the New York or New Jersey events. They advanced a hypothesis that the Concorde generated shock waves that traveled through the thin thermosphere for thousands of miles, and added that such waves might have derogatory environmental effects. Rogers and an NRL colleague, John Gardner, were sent back to their blackboards and computers to resolve this possibility, again with a deadline of a few months. This called for theoretical research of the first order By July of 1978 they completed their analysis and reported that the thermosphere could not sustain shockwave propagation over long distances. The skeptics were satisfied with their report. In spite of the general acceptance of the Rogers and Gardner theory, Peter feels it should be verified by experiment, and he is currently organizing such an experiment for the Naval Research Laboratory with the cooperation of the Air Force, NASA, FAA, and the Canadian Government.

Although Peter concentrates on the theoretical aspects of acoustics, one finds among some 45 citations for papers, articles, and reports, that he also shares four patents with his colleagues, Lee Van Buren, Joe Zalesak, and Lynn Poche, on transducers and acoustic materials. The breadth of his research is also illustrated by how he identifies with the various technical areas of the Society. He is a member of the Physical Acoustics Technical Committee, but his credentials are equally good for both Engineering and Underwater Acoustics, and his sonic boom research, of course, falls in the area of Noise.

. Everyone who knows Peter Rogers is impressed by his quick thinking, his active curiosity about everything around him, his good humor, and by his quiet and polite, but persuasive and self-confident manner. He is a man of high standards, and has been honored in many ways in school and in his profession. He was elected as a Fellow of the Acoustical Society when only 31 years of age. His work on the booming noises earned him a Superior Civilian Service Award from the Chief of Naval Research.

Peter, his wife, Alice, their three children—Edward, David, and Leanne, and their dog, appropriately named pi, divide their time between Washington and Orlando, as Peter's work requires.

Peter H. Rogers has already had a productive and distinguished career. In the tradition of previous winners of the Biennial Award, we can expect still more contributions to the science and technology of acoustics and to the affairs of the Acoustical Society.