Acoustical Society of America
Wallace Clement Sabine Award - 1964

Erwin Meyer

Professor Dr. Phil. Dr.-Ing. E.H. Erwin Meyer is an eminently fitting recipient of the Wallace Clement Sabine Award. In presenting this Award, the Acoustical Society of America adds one of the most distinguished names in acoustics to its honor rolls.

Beginning with his thesis work, at the University of Breslau, on mechanical forces exerted by acoustic waves on resonating membranes, Professor Meyer has devoted over 40 years of his fruitful life to all aspects of acoustics, experimental and theoretical, applied and fundamental— and he is still as active as ever in this year of his sixty-fifth birthday.

His scientific contributions have ranged from physical acoustics to physiological acoustics and psychoacoustics, from underwater sound to musical acoustics and electroacoustics, and from molecular acoustics to architectural acoustics. In the course of these researches, he has developed numerous new measurement techniques. Salient examples are his use of ultrasonic waves in molecular physics and physical chemistry, his work on cavitation and sonoluminescence, and his experiments on shock waves, sound propagation at extremely low pressures, and sound attenuation and amplification in air streams.

In architectural acoustics, he has contributed many new design concepts for anechoic rooms, reverberation chambers, concert halls, theaters, and opera houses. Outstanding examples of his designs in concert halls are the Beethovenhalle in Bonn and the Festhalle of Farbwerke Hoechst near Frankfurt. The latter, in addition to its "natural" acoustics, features one of the largest existing systems for artificial reverberation. The acoustics of these halls, which achieved high acclaim, are based on the extensive fundamental research related to hearing in rooms conducted by Professor Meyer and his students. Particularly noteworthy are his early researches on the precedence ("Haas") effect, the fundamentals of electroacoustic simulation of concert halls, and his definitions of "clarity" and diffusion.

As cofounder and editor of Akustische Zeitschrift and Acustica, past member of the International Commission on Acoustics, and President of the Third International Congress on Acoustics, Professor Meyer has rendered invaluable service to the acoustical community as a whole, both internally and in enhancing its status among competing sciences, government agencies, and the nonscientific public.

But his scientific interests have not halted at the boundaries of acoustics. They have reached into many other fields of physics, and far beyond into chemistry and electrical engineering. In each of these areas, Professor Meyer's perception and inventiveness have brought outstanding progress.

Microwaves have fascinated Professor Meyer from the very beginning of this new art. He was one of the first to realize the close analogy to acoustic waves. By experimenting with electromagnetic microwave cavities, he and his students at the Drittes Physikalisches Institut succeeded in shedding light on the problems in sound diffusion and normal-mode distribution in concert halls that were not amenable to acoustic measurement techniques. He built the first anechoic and reverberant chambers for both acoustic and electromagnetic waves and has recently added a large "anechoic" water tank for studies of sound waves in water. Notable also are his researches on ferrites and on propagation and absorption of electromagnetic waves. Here, he was able to apply many concepts that had evolved in acoustics. Acousticians from many countries were privileged to learn the results of this mutual fertilization of sound and microwaves from Professor Meyer personally. In two memorable invited papers, he presented these findings during the 25th anniversary celebration of the Acoustical Society of America in New York in 1954 and during the Fourth International Congress on Acoustics in Copenhagen in 1962.

Among the most significant and lasting achievements of Professor Meyer must be counted his eminence as a teacher and educator of several generations of acousticians. His students are now distributed over all continents of the globe. Professor Meyer has traveled to many corners of the world, but his students have always benefitted as much as he did from his many contacts with foreign scientists and laboratories. His lectures at the University of Göttingen are models of lucidity and breadth and reflect the latest scientific discoveries. In a matter of weeks after discovery, his students at Göttingen were able to witness experimental demonstrations of hypersound, parametric amplifiers, moving domain walls in transparent magnets, acoustic traveling-wave amplifiers in piezoelectric semiconductors, and acoustically modulated optical masers. His close relations with former students working in key academic and industrial laboratories are of great value to him in his endeavor to keep his students abreast of developments in the outside world.

It is, therefore, not surprising that he is admired and revered by his students to a degree that is perhaps less and less common at our ever growing academic institutions. On the occasion of his 65th birthday, earlier this year, his students expressed their feelings of gratefulness in a torch-lighted parade in his honor through the streets of Old Göttingen.

But his honors came from other quarters, too. In 1933, he was awarded the Gauss-Weber Medal for his contributions to electrical communications. In 1950, he was elected to the Göttingen Academy of Sciences, and, in 1958, he received the honorary degree of Dr. Ing. from the Technical University of Berlin.

And in this year, 1964, the Acoustical Society of America honors Professor Meyer, and honors itself, by presenting to him, for his outstanding contributions to architectural acoustics, the Wallace Clement Sabine Award.

Manfred R. Schroeder