Biography of Jean Mattei for His 100th Birthday

By Jean Tourret

Jean Mattei during INTER-NOISE ’88 in Avignon

Jean Mattei was born on September 21, 1920, in Felletin (a small town in the center of France, close to Aubusson, famous for its tapestries) in a family from the Mediterranean island of Corsica (the native land of Napoleon Bonaparte). His father, a civil servant, and his mother, a teacher, soon moved to Paris, which they then had to leave after the German invasion in 1939.

In 1941, Jean returned to Paris to study at Sorbonne University. He specialized in fluid mechanics in the laboratory of Joseph Pérès at École Normale Supérieure, under the authority of Professor Yves Rocard, a well-known physicist who is considered the father of the French atomic bomb. There, Jean joined the French Résistance and became a Captain of the FFI (Forces Françaises de l’Intérieur) in charge of the Versailles-Rambouillet sector. Late August in 1944, his group opened the way to the French capital for the Allied Forces (and more specifically to the French Second Armored Division, under the command of General Leclerc), leading to the Liberation of Paris. Jean then enrolled in the 10th French Division of General Billotte, integrated in the Patton Army, spent Christmas 1944 in Belgium, and during the following winter, took part in the Alsace Campaign. From 1945 to 1946, in the context of the occupation of Germany by the Allies, he participated in the French Commission of Control in Berlin, where he had the opportunity to recruit German scientists. There, he met Muriel, a journalist and a member of the British Commission who became his dear wife.

At the demand of Yves Rocard, Jean was directed to the Ministry of War in the telecommunications domain, which led him to join the TELECOM School of Engineering, from which he graduated in 1949. In 1952, he joined ONERA (the French Aeronautical Center) in the Acoustics Division led by Pierre Liénard, where he studied ballistic waves. In 1957, he was hired by EDF (Electricité de France). He soon became Head of the Acoustics Division and later Head of the Acoustics and Vibration Department (the Acoustic Division being under the responsibility of Paul François and later of Jacques Delcambre and the Vibration Division under André Jaudet). There, he developed strong competences in the domains of machinery acoustics and environmental noise as well as new tools for vibroacoustic studies such as sound intensity.

Jean Mattei and Bill Lang in Avignon

He was named Scientific Advisor of EDF in 1982. While at EDF and throughout his career, Jean was involved in major French and international activities linked with noise control engineering. For 20 years, he chaired the Acoustics Commission of AFNOR, the French Standardization Body (with a production of over 100 standards in the domain), and he was also involved in ISO TC 43 “Acoustics” activities, where he established strong personal links with several members (including Bill Lang and Gerhardt Hübner.). At the end of the sixties, Jean became the president of GALF (the Association of French Speaking Acousticians, which later became SFA, the French Acoustical Society). There he developed GAIE, the Industrial and Environmental Acoustics Group, which would become a member of I-INCE.

In 1969, Jean became a member of the ICA (International Commission of Acoustics, the seventh commission of IUPAP). He served as the Chairman from 1972 to 1975 and in 1983 organized the 11th ICA Congress in Paris as General Secretary.

In 1975, Jean was the executive president of the FASE Colloquium on Machinery and Environmental Noise, the first European Congress of Acoustics organized in Paris by the Federation of European Acoustical Societies.

In this same period, he was named a corresponding member of INCE-USA. From 1975 to 1988, Jean was director-at-large of I-INCE, and in 1988, he chaired the INTER-NOISE Congress, held in Avignon, France, where he was proud to welcome in the famous Palais des Papes over 800 delegates from 45 countries. Jean continued to serve the noise control engineering community by participating in the board of I-INCE, also encouraging the foundation of INCE/Europe and the organization of international meetings.

Jean had and still has a passion: sailing. He used to own (successively!), not less than five boats that he sailed through the Mediterranean Sea and Atlantic Ocean. In the last decade, he boarded several sailing cruises all over the globe, such as from the Red Sea to Indian Ocean, Valparaiso to Singapore, Greenland to Alaska.

Jean has always been a strong-willed person, setting high standards for himself as well as for others, with a deep sense of friendship and loyalty. He has brought to the French and international noise control community a vivid impulse to increase its development and worldwide recognition.

Jean Mattei was awarded the French Medal of Resistance and named Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur.