Bill Lang and the International Institute of Noise Control Engineering

By Robert J. Bernhard
University of Notre Dame


The passing of William (Bill) W. Lang has been cause for reflection and examination of Bill’s many contributions across an array of important fronts. One of those, and the one where I had the most personal interaction with Bill, was with the I-INCE. My personal memories have been significantly supplemented by access to the I-INCE archives, which consist of much of the correspondence and notes of the early days of I-INCE from Bill and the first president of I-INCE, Fritz Ingerslev. It is from these records that I draw much of what I write in this paper. In addition to recording Bill’s contributions to I-INCE, it is also perhaps an interesting record of the phases of formation, launch, and growth of an organization that ultimately has had a significant impact on the developed world. (Perhaps some readers would be interested in taking up the task of digging deeper into the record to synthesize such lessons learned!)

By way of an introduction to my relationship with Bill, I first met and worked with Bill in connection with the INCE-USA Board of Directors starting in the mid-1980s. At the time I was a newly graduated PhD with a tenure-track assistant professor position at Purdue University and was relatively new to the noise control engineering community. I suspect I was elected to the board more to represent the strong noise control engineering program at Purdue than for my own contributions. Bill was almost 30 years my senior and very well established. We had one interesting connection: we were both alumni of Iowa State University. I found Bill an excellent mentor and colleague. Bill brought me on to the I-INCE Board in about 2000, first by nominating me to be the vice president for the Pan-American region and then by proposing my election as the secretary-general. Overall, Bill and I worked together for 30 years.

The Founding of the I-INCE

From the distance of many years, the founding of I-INCE appears to be a confluence of Bill Lang’s global network established through his representation of IBM at international standards meetings and technical conferences, the successful founding of INCE-USA in 1971, and the success of the early INTER-NOISE congresses in 1972, 1973, and 1977.

In his personal correspondence with Rich Peppin, reflecting about his career and the founding of I-INCE, Bill highlights the invitation of Fritz Ingerslev to INTER-NOISE 1972, the first of the congress series. As a result of that visit, Ingerslev invited INCE-USA to hold the second INTER-NOISE in Europe. It was held in Copenhagen in July 1973. The idea of an international organization of societies was formulated there, although there is evidence that Bill had hatched the idea earlier and discussed it with various colleagues prior to the discussions in Copenhagen. I-INCE was founded at a meeting in London on July 28, 1974. The organization was announced at the plenary session of INTER-NOISE 1974 on September 30, 1974. It was registered as a Swiss verein and established formally on October 1, 1974. Early correspondence about I-INCE, before and after the formal establishment of the institute, focused on many issues, but prominently on the establishment of the by-laws and on the interaction of the nascent institute and the International Commission, which had been established in 1951 as an international organization of societies and to which many of the prospective members of I-INCE already belonged.

The first board meeting was held on August 26, 1975, in Sendai, Japan, at the INTER-NOISE 1975 congress. The original board of directors consisted of President F. Ingerslev, Secretary-General E. Rathe, Directors-at-Large W. Lang and J. Mattei, and directors representing the INTER-NOISE series: M. Crocker (1972), J. Pederson (1973), and J. Johnson (1974). The business of the first meeting consisted primarily of discussion of membership growth, finances, changes to the by-laws and congress planning for INTER-NOISE 1976 and 1977.

Growing I-INCE

The early years of I-INCE were devoted to establishing the INTER-NOISE series, formalizing governance, and growing the membership. The archives show the substantial work of Bill and Fritz Ingerslev in contacting their network of acousticians worldwide. In those days, before the internet and email, these contacts were primarily through traditional mail. There is evidence as well of long delays as the acoustical societies deliberated about joining I-INCE. Bill and Fritz also note follow-up conversations and discussions at standards meetings and technical conferences. The I-INCE launched in 1975 with 5 members: INCE-USA, the Danish Acoustical Society, the Acoustical Society of Norway, the Acoustical Society of Japan, and Schweizerische Gesellschaft fur Akustik. These 5 societies were joined in 1976 by 5 additional societies: the Acoustical Society of America, VDI-Kommission Larmminderung, the South African Acoustics Institute, the Australian Acoustical Society, and INCE/Japan. By 1984 the report of the state of affairs of I-INCE reports 23 member societies and 5 sustaining members. It also records contacts made to 18 additional technical societies. Solicitation of membership was carried out largely by Fritz Ingerslev and Bill Lang, with occasional assistance from others.

During this period, quite a bit of attention was paid to governance. There are records of continual improvement of the by-laws, the documentation of the responsibilities of the officers and directors, and guidelines for how to host INTER-NOISE congresses—efforts that continue today but were made very early on by I-INCE founders.

I-INCE also established a newsletter in its early days. The board minutes reflect considerable effort to solicit news from international correspondents and adjustment of the content and audience. In those early years, publication and distribution was also a frequent topic of discussion, as international mailings could be a logistical challenge and quite expensive.

I-INCE President

Bill served as president of I-INCE from 1988 to 1999. This period is marked by significant growth and formalization of I-INCE. The membership grew from 27 members in 1988 to 42 members and 3 observers in 1999. The board of directors grew from 9 to 14 over this period with the notable establishment of officer positions for technical initiatives and communications and the beginnings of the offices of the regional vice presidents. The credit balance grew from BEF 620,000 (approximately US$14,000) in 1988 to BEF 2,800,000 in 1999.

Notably, during Bill’s tenure as president, the first I-INCE Rules of Operation were developed and approved. I-INCE Rules Part 1: I-INCE General Assembly and I-INCE Rules Part 2: I-INCE Technical Study Groups were approved in 1998. I-INCE Rules Part 3: I-INCE Congress Selection Committee was approved in 1999. The I-INCE Rules are complementary to the by-laws and have become a major and efficient organizational structure for I-INCE.

During Bill’s presidency, the major activity of I-INCE, the INTER-NOISE congress series, grew substantially and moved from a cycle where the congress was held every second year in the United States to a cycle where the congress rotates on a three-year cycle between the Pan-American region, the Europe-Africa region, and the Asia-Pacific region. The new rotation resulted in increased exposure of I-INCE internationally and greater participation in the meetings.


Following his presidency of I-INCE, Bill served as past president for the period of 2000 to 2003, vice president for global noise policy from 2005 to 2008, and vice president for rules and governance from 2009 to 2015. He served as a distinguished board member in 2016, the year of his passing.

Almost from the beginning of his postpresident tenure, Bill assumed the role of “parliamentarian” of the organization. He was the board resource for governance issues. And particularly as a new generation of officers and directors were elected to the board, Bill served as the primary bridge to the founding of the organization and as organizational memory of policy and purpose. Often, as a result of his awareness that policies needed to be updated or that current practice did not match written policy, Bill volunteered to update and rewrite the I-INCE Rules of Operation and the by-laws. Almost every meeting of the board included a proposed update or new policy. Without Bill’s leadership in this area, it would be hard to imagine how the I-INCE practice and policy would be in its current good state of alignment.

Bill also devoted considerable energy to global noise policy. His history dating back to standards work, his involvement with the development of the US Noise Control Act of 1972, and his role in other international noise control policy deliberations gave him more insight than many other noise control engineering practitioners of the merits of activity on the front of informing and advocating for policy. His awareness was also enhanced by his observation of the impact and role that the US National Academy of Engineering, to which he was elected in 1978, had played on a wide front.

He took on a large role at the I-INCE Board of Directors throughout his tenure, but with a formal designation as vice president of global noise policy over the period from 2004 to 2008, his efforts focused on raising I-INCE’s voice as an advocate, in the policy community, for a quieter world. While he was a willing ambassador for noise control engineering in any venue, the focus of his efforts to affect global noise policy was to engage the national engineering academies. To do so, he and Tor Kihlman engaged the International Council of Academies of Engineering and Technological Sciences, Inc. (CAETS). A comprehensive summary of the effort is included as an attachment of the 2012 minutes of the board of directors. The effort with CAETS started at their convocation in 2007. In 2010, CAETS established a Noise Control Technology Committee (NCTC) for the purpose of providing science-based support for policy makers on technological options for a quieter world. The NCTC is listed, as of this writing, on the CAETS website at, with a summary of activities and symposia.

In a similar effort, Bill was persuaded and contributed to the funding of the Technology for a Quieter America project at the US National Academy of Engineering. The effort led by George Maling, Eric Wood, and others has been a huge undertaking to convene discussions about various noise control challenges. The original 14-member committee produced a report in 2010, which was published by the National Academies Press. It explored four themes: noise control engineering and public concerns, applications of current technologies, research and development initiatives, and intragovernmental and public relations programs. The publication of the report was followed by six workshops in the period from 2012 to 2017. A seventh workshop on noise from unmanned aerial vehicles will be held in 2018. Details and reports from past workshops are available on the INCE-USA website at


I closed my memorial to Bill Lang at INTER-NOISE 2017 in Hong Kong by characterizing Bill as a founder, builder, leader, and sustainer. These were not idle words. Bill’s thinking and energy were central to the idea of I-INCE. If not the founder, he was certainly the principal founder. Bill and Fritz Ingerslev were the champions of I-INCE as it grew from newborn to adolescent. Bill took over as president in 1988 and grew I-INCE into a mature organization with the requisite formality as well as the inclusiveness to expend far beyond the influence of its founders. He spent the last 15 years of his life supplementing the new generation of leaders and filling gaps to do what needed to be done. His contributions were enormous and selfless, enduring and wise.


This paper above all acknowledges the many important contributions of Bill Lang to the founding and building of I-INCE. In addition, the author wishes to acknowledge the historical record of the I-INCE archives, some of which has been uploaded to the I-INCE website, particularly the papers of Bill Lang and Fritz Ingerslev. And the author wishes to thank George Maling for his helpful comments on early drafts of this paper.


American Institute of Physics. 2004. “Oral Histories.” William W. Lang interviewed by Rich Peppin. July 12, 2004.

“I/INCE, First Meeting of the Board.” 1975. Sendai. August 26, 1975. I-INCE Archives.

Ingerslev, Fritz. n.d. Personal correspondence. I-INCE archives.

Lang, William W. n.d. Personal correspondence. I-INCE archive.