Harry F. Olson


Harry F. Olson

Harry Ferdinand Olson (December 28, 1901April 1, 1982) was a prominent engineer at RCA Victor.

Harry F. Olson, a pioneer in the field of 20th century acoustical engineering, was born in Mount Pleasant, Iowa to Swedish immigrant parents. Technically inclined from an early age, he built and flew model airplanes, constructed a steam engine and invented a wood-fired boiler that drove a 100-volt DC generator. Olson designed and built an amateur radio transmitter, gaining enough proficiency to be granted an operator's license. Olson went on to earn a bachelor's degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Iowa then continued to earn a Master's degree with a thesis on acoustic wave filters in solids and a doctorate in Physics, working with polarization of resonance radiation in mercury. Immediately after completing his course of study in 1928, Olson moved to New Jersey to work for RCA Laboratories. Olson would remain at RCA for almost four decades.

Olson had a continuing interest in music, acoustics, and sound reproduction, and, by 1934, he was placed in charge of acoustical research at RCA. At RCA, Olson worked on a wide range of projects, which included developing microphones for the broadcasting and motion picture industries, improving loudspeakers, and making significant contributions to magnetic tape recording. Like many engineers of the World War II generation, Olson also made significant contributions to military technology as well, particularly to the fields of underwater sound and anti-submarine warfare. After the war Olson, along with Herbert Belar, developed the first modern electronic synthesizer. Equipped with electron tubes, the Mark II Sound Synthesizer was used to compose music, which was recorded and sold to the public.

A prolific inventor and engineer, Olson won more than 100 patents for the various types of microphones (including the widely used 44- and 77-series), cardioid (directional) microphones, loudspeaker baffles, air-suspension loudspeakers, isobaric loudspeakers, early video recording equipment, audio recording equipment, phonograph pickups, underwater sound equipment, noise reduction, sound technology in motion-pictures, and public-address systems he developed. He also authored 135 articles and ten books including an interdisciplinary text charting the dynamical analogies between electrical, acoustical and mechanical systems. In 1949, Olson was honored by being the first recipient of the Audio Engineering Society's John H. Potts Memorial Award, an award program which was later renamed the Gold Medal. In 1952 Olson served as president of the Acoustical Society of America, which awarded him the Silver Medal in Engineering Acoustics in 1974 and the Gold Medal in 1981. He won the IEEE Benjamin G. Lamme Medal in 1970, was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1959, and was the recipient of many honorary degrees during his lifetime.

Olson retired from RCA in 1967, continuing as a consultant for RCA Laboratories.

Personal life

Olson married Lorene Johnson of Morris, Illinois in 1935. Both his mother and his wife were talented amateur artists — Lorene's paintings were displayed in Olson's RCA office for many years. Olson died at Princeton Medical Center in Princeton, New Jersey on April 1 1982 at the age of 81.

References

External Links

* [http://www.usenclosure.com/OLSEN/OLSEN.htm Olson biography]
* [http://books.nap.edu/html/biomems/holson.pdf National Academy of Sciences. "Harry F. Olson, 1901-1982: A Biographical Memoir by Cyril M. Harris"]


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