Acoustical Society of America
Wallace Clement Sabine Award - 1990

Richard V. Waterhouse

Richard V. Waterhouse was born in Kent, England in 1924. He studied physics at Oxford University, where he received the Bachelor of Arts degree in 1945 and Master of Arts in 1949. Shortly, thereafter, he came to live and work in the U.S. and became a citizen.

Richard joined our Sound Section staff at the National Bureau of Standards(NBS) in 1951, when I was chief of the Section. Research in architectural acoustics was then under way on accurate measurements of sound absorption by building materials, and of sound transmission through building structures. Waterhouse entered immediately into this work.

The early research in architectural acoustics had been carried out by W. C. Sabine, in whose honor our Sabine Medal is named. Sabine initiated the concept that a diffuse sound field in a reverberation chamber used for measurement of absorption cross section consists of the flight of sound-energy packets, "bullets", randomized by reflections at the walls. Just before the 1939-1945 war years, it had become evident that this concept was inadequate as a theoretical basis for sound fields in rooms. The wave properties of sound would henceforward be needed for the accurate analysis of rooms and reverberation chambers by means of mathematical physics.

At about the time of Waterhouse's arrival, we had formulated the concept of the cross-correlation coefficient between two points in a reverberant sound field. The coefficient was conceived as the result of an interaction between waves. It was needed as a measure of the wave field's diffuseness, the latter being required for accurate measurement of sound absorption and radiated power in a reverberation chamber. Waterhouse developed the electroacoustical instrument we required for the continuous measurement and display of the coefficient.

He then applied his superior ability to formulate new concepts for the complex wave fields in reverberant rooms and chambers, expressed them in mathematical form, and then deduced results that were applied in the laboratory. His work at NBS contributed substantially to this then-new concept for reverberant sound fields, both theoretically and experimentally. Also while at NBS, he initiated his long series of papers on wave interference patterns in random sound fields. One of these served as the basis for his doctoral dissertation in physics at The Catholic University of America, where he received his Ph.D. degree in 1959.

There was an interim period, after he left NBS in 1959, when he served in administrative positions: first as research director at Cambridge Acoustical Associates, Inc., in Massachusetts, and then as managing director of Airo, Ltd., an acoustical company in London, England.

Upon his return to the U.S. in 1961 as a professor of physics at the American University, Richard once again plunged into research on the question of how to use sound wave fields in enclosures for accurate measurements in architectural acoustics. At that time, some acousticians thought that sound sources which appeared to be random would have an "intrinsic" sound power radiation. Examples then cited were noisy air jets, sound-radiating walls in buildings, air-moving fans, etc. Waterhouse showed quantitatively that this is not generally true, and that the radiated power in a reverberation chamber depends on the source's proximity to the walls, floor, and ceiling.

In the early 1980's, he began to work on how best to compute and display the sound fields scattered by rigid spheres and cylinders, and by constrained elastic plates. Such sound fields are important for the military engineering applications of underwater sound, particularly for the detection and location of submarines. The pictorial displays were both for the scalar fields of sound pressure and for the mathematically more complex vector fields of sound intensity. Richard and his colleague, David Feit, working collaboratively, developed the new concept of streamlines for equal energy. Feit notes that, throughout their collaborative period, "Dick constantly demonstrated his deep knowledge of classical acoustics. His keen wit, sardonic sense of humor, and perceptive observation of the human scene always make him a delight to work and spend time with."

During his long career he shared his knowledge and experience in acoustics, first as a visiting scholar in Acoustics at the University of California (Berkeley) in 1968-1969, and then as a visiting professor of Applied Mechanics in 1969-1970. He was a visiting professor of acoustics at the University of Delft in 1975-1977. In 1980-1981, he returned briefly to Oxford University as a visiting scholar. During most of his career at American University, he worked concurrently as a consultant in acoustics at the David Taylor Naval Ship R&D center.

For the excellence of his many researches in acoustics, Oxford University awarded Waterhouse a Doctor of Science degree in 1983.

Richard has long been a Fellow of our Society, and was an Associate Editor of the Journal from 1984 to 1987. He has also worked on several of the acoustical standards committees.

He retired from American University in 1986, and is now Professor Emeritus there. For his many talents and accomplishments, we are pleased and privileged to present to Dr. Richard Waterhouse the Wallace Clement Sabine Medal, particularly for his fundamental contributions to the understanding of sound fields in rooms.

Richard K. Cook