Peter Westervelt

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Peter Westervelt (December 16, 1919 – January 24, 2015) was an American physicist, noted for his work in nonlinear acoustics, and Professor Emeritus of Physics at Brown University.[1][2]


He received his BS in Physics from MIT in 1947, and his PhD in Physics from MIT in 1951, at which time he joined the Physics Department at Brown University.[3]


Westervelt began his career in 1940-41 at the MIT Radiation Laboratory and the Harvard Underwater Sound Laboratory, where he worked with such luminaries as Frederick Vinton Hunt,[4] Leo Beranek (National Medal of Science winner) and Phillip Morse[5] during WW-II.

During his long and distinguished career, he held responsible assignments with the National Academy of Sciences, and the National Research Council, and was elected Fellow of the American Physical Society, the Acoustical Society of America, and the American Astronomical Society. He served as Assistant Attache for Research, U.S. Navy, at the American Embassy in London, U.K., and as a Consultant to Bolt, Beranek, and Newman (now BBN Technologies). Westervelt also performed research at the University of Texas at Austin, where he developed new techniques, having widespread application, for the study of sound-by-sound scattering and the laser-excited thermoacoustics. Westervelt was awarded the Lord Rayleigh Medal[6] in 1985, by the British Institute for Acoustics. He became Professor Emeritus at the Brown University Physics Department in 1989.


He is especially renowned for his application of the theory of Sir Michael James Lighthill, for his important contributions to the understanding of nonlinear scattering of sound by sound, and for his discoveries of the parametric array[7] and the laser-excited thermoacoustic array.[8] His lifetime of physics research spans other aspects of acoustics as well, include the contributions to the understanding of acoustic radiation pressure,[9] which has applications to Acoustic levitation and other devices which exploit macrosonic phenomena and acoustic streaming, as well as to several other fields of Physics (with example references shown here), including General Relativity,[10][11] (primarily in the area of gravitational waves[12]), including Gravitational phenomena analogous to the parametric array,[13] Cosmology,[14][15] low temperature physics[16] the Physics of Sound in Liquid Helium, and High Energy Particle Physics (primarily in the area of cosmic ray particle detectors.[17]


Professor Emeritus Peter Westervelt received the Silver Medal in Physical Acoustics from the Acoustical Society of America for his discovery and explanation of the Parametric Array in November 2008.


  1. ^ Debus, Allen G. (1968). World Who's who in Science: A Biographical Dictionary of Notable. Marquis-Who's Who. p. 1783. 
  2. ^ "Peter Westervelt Obituary". The Providence Journal. 5 February 2015. Retrieved 22 March 2015. 
  3. ^ "From Martha Mitchell’s Encyclopedia Brunoniana:". 
  4. ^ F. V. Hunt memorial session III [sound recording] : physical acoustics, underwater sound and signal processing ; 1973 April 12. 
  5. ^ "In at the Beginnings". 
  6. ^ "?". 
  7. ^ "Professor Peter Westervelt and the parametric array (A)". 
  8. ^ "Experimental investigation of the laser-excited thermoacoustic array in water". Bibcode:1975uta..rept.....C. 
  9. ^ [1]
  11. ^ "Light propagation in a time dependent gravitational field". Bibcode:1971regr.conf..323W. 
  12. ^ "Response of a mechanical oscillator to a gravitational wave". Bibcode:1975ASAJ...57R..30W. doi:10.1121/1.1995166. 
  13. ^ "Gravitational wave analog to the parametric acoustic array". 
  14. ^ Turner, Michael S. (1978). "Gravitational radiation from supernova neutrino bursts". Nature. 274 (5671): 565–566. Bibcode:1978Natur.274..565T. doi:10.1038/274565a0. 
  15. ^ Press, William H.; Vishniac, Ethan T. (1979). "Production of new cosmological perturbations during the radiation-dominated era". Nature. 279 (5709): 137–139. Bibcode:1979Natur.279..137P. doi:10.1038/279137a0. 
  16. ^ Snyder, H.; Westervelt, P. (1965). "Removal of Mode Degeneracy in a Rotating Second-Sound Resonator". Physical Review Letters. 15: 748–750. Bibcode:1965PhRvL..15..748S. doi:10.1103/PhysRevLett.15.748. 
  17. ^ "Nonlinear sound generation by high energy particles". Bibcode:1978nli..rept.....W.