Knudsen, Vern Oliver, 1893-1974

Alternative names
Dates:
Birth 1893-12-27
Death 1974-05-13

Biographical notes:

Physicist.

From the description of Papers, 1922-1974. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 82998070

From the description of Oral history interview with Vern Oliver Knudsen 1964. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 82908057

Vern Oliver Knudsen was born December 27, 1893 in Provo, Utah. As a young adult, Knudsen was taught mathematics and physics by Harvery Fletcher, a renowned American physicist. Following his graduation from Brigham Young University in 1915, Knudsen followed the lead of Professor Fletcher to the Bell Telephone Laboritories where he engaged in some of the early work on oscilators. Vern soon decided to continue his studies at the University of Chicago in 1919. Having gained his PhD in physics in 1922, Knudsen joined the Department of Physics at the University of California, Los Angeles and began his research on architectural acoustics. Having joined forces with an otologist, Knudsen accomplished great things as a team such as 26 audiometers. Knudsen was soon called to help design stages of sound recording in 1929. His work has not gone unnoticed, in 1935 Knudsen was awarded the American Association for the Advancement of Science prize and during World War II he focused his studies towards sound under water. Vern Oliver Knudsen had several works published such as his 1932 "Architectural Acoustics" and his 1950 joint effort with Cyril M. Harris, "Acoustical Designing in Architecture." Knudsen was a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Pyhsical Society and the Acoustical Society of America as well as a member of the Los Angeles Building and Safety Commission. Not only this, but he was also the former President of the California Institute for Cancer Research. He was awarded honorary degrees from Brigham Young University and also from University of California, Los Angeles following his retirement. Vern Oliver Knudsen died of pneumonia on May 13, 1974.

From the guide to the Vern Oliver Knudsen papers, 1927-1974, (L. Tom Perry Special Collections)

BYU student of physics under the direction of Harvey Fletcher. Awarded a PhD in 1922 from the University of Chicago. Went on to teach at UCLA as one of the world's authorities on architectural acoustics. Later became Chancellor of UCLA. Founded the Acoustical Society of America.

From the description of Laboratory notebooks, 1913-1940. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 367546502

Mormon teacher, author, educator, and university administrator.

From the description of Interviews, 1966-1969. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 122630938

From the guide to the Vern Oliver Knudsen interviews, 1966-1969, (L. Tom Perry Special Collections)

Vern Oliver Knudsen was born in Provo, UT, on Dec. 27, 1893; BA, Physics, Brigham Young Univ., 1915; worked at Western Electric, later known as the Bell Telephone Laboratories, 1918; PhD, Physics, Univ. of Chicago, 1922; professor, Dept. of Physics, UCLA; served as first dean of the Graduate Division, UCLA, 1934-58; became Vice Chancellor at UCLA, 1956; Chancellor, UCLA, 1959; researched architectural acoustics and hearing impairments; developed audiometer with Isaac H. Jones; founded Acoustical Society of America, 1928, and served as president, 1933-35; organized and served as first director of what is now the Naval Undersea Research and Development Center in San Diego, CA; acoustical consultant for various projects, including the Hollywood Bowl, the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Schoenberg Hall, the United Nations General Assembly building, and a variety of radio and motion picture studios; published two books, Architectural acoustics and Acoustical design in architecture; died, May 13, 1974.

From the description of Papers, 1922-1974. (University of California, Los Angeles). WorldCat record id: 38095298

Biography

Vern Oliver Knudsen was born in Provo, Utah, on December 27, 1893; BA, Physics, Brigham Young University, 1915; worked at Western Electric, later known as the Bell Telephone Laboratories, 1918; PhD, Physics, University of Chicago, 1922; professor, Department of Physics, UCLA; served as first dean of the Graduate Division, UCLA, 1934-58; became Vice Chancellor at UCLA, 1956; Chancellor, UCLA, 1959; researched architectural acoustics and hearing impairments; developed audiometer with Isaac H. Jones; founded Acoustical Society of America, 1928, and served as president, 1933-35; organized and served as first director of what is now the Naval Undersea Research and Development Center in San Diego, California; acoustical consultant for various projects, including the Hollywood Bowl, the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Schoenberg Hall, the United Nations General Assembly building, and a variety of radio and motion picture studios; published two books, Architectural acoustics and Acoustical design in architecture ; died, May 13, 1974.

Biographical Narrative

Vern Oliver Knudsen was born December 27, 1893 at Provo, Utah, the youngest child of Scandinavian immigrant parents.

At Brigham Young University (1911-1915), he was influenced by Professor Harvey Fletcher to study physics. After graduating with a B.A. in physics, he fulfilled a missionary obligation for the Mormon Church. During World War I, he studied parasitic earth currents in relation to transatlantic telegraph communications and in 1918, he joined Harvey Fletcher at Western Electric, which later became known as the Bell Telephone Laboratories, where he worked on the development of amplifiers and oscillators, increasing his knowledge of the emerging technology of vacuum tubes which Fletcher and his colleagues were using in studies in hearing.

Knudsen began graduate studies at the University of Chicago as a student of A.A. Michelson in 1915. Knudsen's doctoral research applied the vacuum tube techniques to a study of the sensibility of the ear to small differences of intensity and frequency. Robert A. Millikan, Chairman of the Physics Department at Chicago, introduced him to Dr. George E. Schambaugh, a foremost otologist. Knudsen and Schambaugh together investigated the sensitivity of pathological ears to small differences in loudness and pitch, and ten cases of diplacusis, the condition in which the same tone is heard at a different pitch in each ear. This led to later investigations of normal and impaired hearing with Drs. Isaac H. Jones and Norman A. Watson.

Receiving the Ph.D. in Physics magna cum laude in 1922, Knudsen turned down offers from the University of Chicago and the Bell Telephone Laboratories, to accept the position of Instructor at UCLA, or rather the University of California Southern Branch, as the campus near central Los Angeles was then known. Here began Knudsen's close professional and personal lifelong relationship with Leo P. Delsasso, at that time a sophomore student who served as assistant to the department chairman. Knudsen confronted the lack of research space and equipment, and conducted studies of architectural acoustics and of hearing impairments. He and Dr. Jones developed the audiometer to assist in their research. Acoustics became a major emphasis of the UCLA Physics Department, and a reverberation chamber was to be one of the department's major facilities when the university moved to the Westwood campus in 1929. The work done here resulted in major experimental and theoretical research programs throughout the world.

Knudsen was consulted on the acoustics of hundreds of structures, eventually to include major radio and motion picture studios, the Hollywood Bowl, the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, and Schoenberg Hall, as an indication of his local contribution, but also on a wider scope, to include the United Nations General Assembly Building in New York. His two textbooks on architectural acoustics have become standard references on the subject.

In 1928 Knudsen joined with Professor F.R. Watson (father of Norman A. Watson), Wallace W. Waterfall (a former student of Professor Watson) and Dr. Harvey Fletcher (of the Bell Telephone Laboratories) in founding the Acoustical Society of America. Knudsen served as president of the Society (1933-1935) and was honored by it in many ways.

When UCLA began offering advanced degrees, Knudsen was a prime mover and first Dean (1934-1958) of the Graduate Division. The offering of graduate degrees by public universities was an innovative idea at that time. Students who did doctoral research under Knudsen included Norman Watson, Edwin Fricke, Richard Bolt, Robert Leonard, Richard Frick, and Isadore Rud-nick. Other students who came under Knudsen's influence were W.A. Munson, Robert Watson, Cyril Harris, John Munier, Ludwig Sepmeyer, Waldo Lyon, Walter Rosenblith, Harper North, Paul Veneklasen, and Dah You Maa.

During World War II, Knudsen, on leave of absence from academic and research duties, helped to organize and served as first director, of what is now the Naval Undersea Research and Development Center at San Diego. With the aid of Leo Delsasso and excellent scientists and staff recruited in a minimum of time, much early research on the propagation of sonar signals was accomplished.

Knudsen became Vice Chancellor of UCLA in 1956 and Chancellor in 1959, a position which he held one year before reaching the mandatory age of retirement. “Retirement” for Knudsen meant a renewal of his research and consulting activities, finally reversing the increasing administrative demands which he had regretted since first becoming dean. Also renewed were his concerns with many causes such as environmental quality and, above all, his campaign against noise pollution.

In addition to the Acoustical Society, Knudsen participated in the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Physical Society, the Los Angeles Building and Safety Commission, the California Institute for Cancer Research, the Board of Directors of the Hollywood Bowl Association, and the Hope for Hearing Foundation. He received great satisfaction in seeing the new physics building at UCLA named in his honor. Dr. Knudsen died May 13, 1974, at the age of eighty. He was survived by his widow, three children, and two grandchildren.

From the guide to the Vern Oliver Knudsen papers, 1922-1974, (University of California, Los Angeles. Library. Department of Special Collections.)

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Subjects:

  • Underwater acoustics
  • Colleges and Universities
  • Business
  • Acoustics
  • Sound
  • Correspondence
  • Vacuum-tube circuits
  • Material Types
  • Psychoacoustics
  • World War, 1939-1945--Science
  • Physicists--Archival resources
  • Physics--Industrial applications
  • Hearing
  • Architecture
  • Audio amplifiers--Research
  • Acoustaical engineering
  • Acoustic surface waves
  • Education
  • Hearing disorders
  • Hearing aids--Designs and plans
  • Physicists--Political activity
  • Mormon church--Missions--History--Sources
  • Electronics
  • Anti-submarine warfare
  • Physics--Study and teaching
  • Acoustical engineering
  • Hydrodynamics
  • Speech perception
  • Missionaries--Appointment, call and election
  • Architectural acoustics
  • Mormon church
  • Music--Acoustics and physics
  • Mormons--Interview
  • Mormons--California--Los Angeles--Interviews
  • Physics
  • Noise pollution
  • Radio stations--Designs and plans
  • Marine biology
  • Absorption of sound

Occupations:

  • Physicists--United States--Archival resources
  • Physicists
  • Physicists--Political activity

Places:

  • California--Los Angeles (as recorded)
  • Chicago (Ill.) (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • Illinois--Chicago (as recorded)