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Hardcover | $24.95 Trade | £30.95 | ISBN: 9780262026291 | 248 pp. | 6 x 9 in | 24 b&w photos, 3 b&w illus.| January 2008
 
Paperback | $14.95 Trade | £30.95 | ISBN: 9780262513999 | 248 pp. | 6 x 9 in | 24 b&w photos, 3 b&w illus.| February 2010
 

Essential Info

Riding the Waves

A Life in Sound, Science, and Industry

Overview

Leo Beranek, an Iowa farm boy who became a Renaissance man—scientist, inventor, entrepreneur, musician, television executive, philanthropist, and author—has lived life in constant motion. His seventy-year career, through the most tumultuous and transformative years of the last century, has always been propelled by the sheer exhilaration of trying something new. In Riding the Waves, Leo Beranek tells his story.

Beranek's life changed direction on a summer day in 1935 when he stopped to help a motorist with a flat tire. The driver just happened to be a former Harvard professor of engineering, who guided the young Beranek toward a full scholarship at Harvard's graduate school of engineering. Beranek went on to be one of the world's leading experts on acoustics. He became Director of Harvard's Electro-Acoustic Laboratory, where he invented the Hush-A-Phone—a telephone accessory that began the chain of regulatory challenges and lawsuits that led ultimately to the breakup of the Bell Telephone monopoly in the 1980s. Beranek moved to MIT to be a professor and Technical Director of its Acoustics Laboratory, then left academia to manage the acoustical consulting firm Bolt Beranek and Newman. Known for his work in noise control and concert acoustics, Beranek devised the world’s largest muffler to quiet jet noise and served as acoustical consultant for concert halls around the world (including the Tanglewood Music Shed, the storied summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra). As president of BBN, he assembled the software group that invented both the ARPANET, the forerunner of the Internet, and e-mail.

In the 1970s, Beranek risked his life savings to secure the license to operate a television station; he turned Channel 5 in Boston into one of the country's best, then sold it to Metromedia in 1982 for the highest price ever paid up to that time for a broadcast station. "One central lesson I've learned is the value of risk-taking and of moving on when risks turn into busts or odds look better elsewhere," Beranek writes. Riding the Waves is a testament to the boldness, diligence, and intelligence behind Beranek's lifetime of extraordinary achievement.

About the Author

Leo Beranek is a pioneer in acoustical research, known for his work in noise control and the acoustics of concert halls, and the author of twelve books on these topics. The many awards he has received include the Presidential National Medal of Science, presented in 2003.

Reviews

"Beranek's account of his truly remarkable life is a superbly written and concise autobiography that tells a great story.", Philip Nelson, Times Higher Education Supplement

"A fascinating glimpse into a time unique in American industrial history.... It is the spirit of Leo Beranek that shines throughout this book — a spirit of confidence, open-mindedness, and intellectual adventure.", Roger Zimmerman, IEEE Spectrum

"It must be said that anyone who is interested in the history of America and its 'waves,' whether acoustical or broadcast, will find in this book a wealth of detail and anecdotes worth reading and will meet an author who is as unpresuming and honest as can possibly be expected.", Stefaan Van Ryssen, Leonardo

Endorsements

"This fascinating account of real life stories describes in interesting detail and engaging prose how this remarkable Renaissance man drove so many important developments of our age. As scientist, academician, innovator, entrepreneur, businessman, and philanthropist, Dr. Beranek and his scope of achievementfrom humble origins in rural America to positions of power and influence at Harvard and MIT and with governments around the world, culminating in the award of the National Medal of Science in 2003serves as an inspiration for all people who are committed to change the world and leave it a better place."
Ray Stata, Chairman, Analog Devices

"Leo Beranek is a hero among American technologists of his generation, and teaches us in this book that the pursuit of lofty goals, such as an aesthetically and acoustically superb concert hall requires perseverance, risk, and learning from failures. An amazing book."
Charles M. Vest, President, National Academy of Engineering, and President Emeritus, MIT

"Leo Beranek's memoir is a remarkable feat, not least in being a book that has a second one hiding within it. On one level, the author presents in a calm voice the successive stages of a life, from simple beginnings to exemplary leadership in a startling variety of highly responsible rolesacademic, inventor, industrialist, acoustical designer, philanthropist, and head of major institutionseach performed to the very pinnacle of achievement. But while reading this often gripping account, one becomes gradually aware of the underlying thematic current of the book: How one may realize the fabled American Dream as demonstrable fact."
Gerald Holton, Mallinckrodt Research Professor of Physics, and Research Professor of History of Science, Harvard University

"Leo Beranek's memoir engagingly describes a life that exemplifies the best possibilities of twentieth-century America. The story progresses from a one-room schoolhouse to the birthplace of the internet, charting a career that spans science, technology, business, and art. Through peacetime and war, Beranek has played a significant and often foundational role in the academic and corporate fields of acoustics, electronics, and communications. His personal account of that role will be of interest to all students of American history and technology."
Emily Thompson, Professor of History, Princeton University