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Master of sound Amar Bose of US-based Bose audio firm dies at 83

Amar Bose, who changed the experience of listening to music bringing concert hall-like audio into the living room, died on Friday at home in Massachusetts. He was 83. Yashwant Raj reports.Amar Bose: life and career

world Updated: Jul 13, 2013 17:47 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times
Amar Bose,acoustics,Bose Corporation

Amar Gopal Bose, who changed the experience of listening to music by bringing concert hall-quality audio into the living room, died on Friday at home in Massachusetts. He was 83. His death was announced by Bose Corporation.

Bose is survived by his son Vanu, who now heads his own company, Vanu Inc., daughter Maya Bose, his second wife Ursula and a grandchild.

Though Bose's stake in the privately held Bose Corporation made him fabulously wealthy--he was worth $1 billion in 2011, according to Forbes--he told Popular Science magazine in 2004: "I never went into business to make money. I went into business so that I could do interesting things that hadn't been done before."

Later that year, he donated a majority of his shares to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology--where he studied engineering and where he taught for 45 years from 1956--on the condition that it wouldn't sell the shares or participate in the management.

Bose--whose father Noni Gopal Bose was a Bengali freedom fighter who escaped to the US to escape imprisonment in British India and married an American school teacher--was born in Philadelphia on November 2, 1929.

From an early age, he showed an interest in engineering and technology. During the Second World War, Bose, then in his early teens, began repairing radio sets for pocket money and to supplement his family's income.

In the 1950s, as an engineering student at MIT, he bought an expensive stereo system. But disappointed with the sound quality, he began thinking of ways to improve it.

His private research showed that 80% of the sound at concerts and cinema halls reached the listener's ears indirectly, ie., after bouncing off walls, furniture, etc. This was in direct contrast to stereo systems of that time that sent out sound waves directly to the listener.

He devised a system with several small speakers aimed in different directions rather than at the listener so as to allow the sound waves to bounce off walls. His idea was to simulate what he had at concerts. His early efforts weren't very successful but encouraged by his mentor at MIT, Dr YW Lee, he set up Bose Corporation in 1964 to pursue his interest in acoustic engineering.

"I would have been fired a hundred times if this company had been run MBAs," he told Popular Science in the same 2004 interview mentioned earlier. In 1968, he launched the Bose 901 Direct Reflecting speakers, which firmly established Bose Corporation as one of the leaders in the business.

He then went on to develop the Bose noise cancellation headphones, which are now standard equipment for defence forces and airlines around the world and the Bose Wave Radio.

In the early 1908s, premium car brands such as Mercedes Benz and Porsche selected Bose Corporation as their audio equipment supplier. Even today, Bose speakers can be found in many high end cars as original equipment. Bose, a keen badminton player and enthusiastic swimmer, was also interested in Hindu philosophy. His students remember his classes as being as much about the science of sound as about life and philosophy.

"Amar Bose taught me to think. His classes equipped me with problem solving skills," Dr William Brody, chief of Salk Institute in San Diego, who studied under Bose in 1962, told Popular Science.

First Published: Jul 13, 2013 11:02 IST