Dr. Amar Bose, the academic whose lightening-quick mind, fascination with acoustics, love of classical music and drive to do "interesting things that hadn't been done before," culminatin in his founding of Bose, the privately held company that still bears his name, died this weekend aged 83.
Born in Philadelphia on November 2, 1929 to an Indian father and American mother, he joined MIT in 1956, where he began a research program in physical acoustics and psychoacoustics, a study path that would lead to a number of patents and to his founding of Bose in 1964. And despite huge commercial success with a host of innovative products, Bose saw himself primarily as an academic and gifted the majority of his stock in the business he created to MIT in 2011.
In a statement posted on the company's website this weekend, Bose's president Bob Marseca made it clear that the company will remain privately held and will continue to offer an environment that nurtures innovation.
Bose's decision to keep the company off the stock market allowed him and his workforce to focus 100 percent on long-term R&D projects without interference or questions about commercial viability.
As a result, Bose was able to revolutionize the home speaker so that it replicated the sound of a concert hall, revolutionize headphones so that they actively cancel out background noise and interference and, most recently, using the same technology, developed intelligent automotive suspension that can be simultaneously sporty and luxurious, rather than one or the other.
The company's first breakthrough came when Amar Bose realized that even in an acoustically superior concert hall, most of the music that concertgoers hear is reflected off surfaces -- it doesn't come directly from a speaker. If the same effect could be created in the home, then consumers could listen to music in concert hall quality.
The Bose 901 Direct/Reflecting speaker system launched in 1968. It contained a number of smaller deflecting speaker units and despite coming at a serious premium went on to be a best-seller for 25 years.
The same work led to active noise-cancelling technology that enabled tank drivers and airline and fighter jet pilots to clearly hear radio commands and led to the almost ubiquitous sight of Bose headphones in the business class cabin of commercial airlines and, more recently, over the ears of commuters on busy metropolitan transit networks.
The Bose logo is now similarly synonymous with high-end automobiles -- brands from Mercedes to Porsche and Mazda offer Bose sound systems in their flagship models, while Cadillac has taken the relationship one step further, using Bose speakers to actively cancel out cabin noise, rather than using heavy and therefore less fuel-efficient physical soundproofing.
But most telling of all is the fact that although Bose was chairman of the company he founded right up until the day of his death, he also remained very much a fixture at MIT, teaching the subjects he loved for over 45 years -- even though his company's products had made him a billionaire.