Obituary for Jiri Tichy, 1927–2019

By Gary W. Elko, mh acoustics LLC,;
Sabih Hayek, Penn State University,; and
Mendel Kleiner, Chalmers University,

Jiri Tichy was born in 1927 in the former Republic of Czechoslovakia (present-day Czech Republic) and passed away on March 27, 2019, in Prague. He studied electrical engineering and physics, received a doctorate in technical sciences (DSc) from the Czech Technical University in Prague in 1952, and was awarded the diploma habil in 1965. He continued to work at the Czech Technical University first as an assistant and then as associate professor in the Department of Physics.

Jiri was acquainted with two well-known American acousticians: Lawrence Batchelder and Leo Beranek, who helped him to immigrate to the United States in 1968 during the Prague Spring. Jiri started at Penn State University as an associate professor of architectural acoustics and the graduate program in acoustics, an intercollege graduate program created in 1965 at Penn State. After promotion to full professor in 1972, Jiri moved full time to the graduate program in acoustics, where he served as chairman until his retirement in 1995. Under Jiri’s tenure, the program quadrupled in size and the number of courses doubled. During those years, graduate enrollment also increased from 30 to over 100 graduate students. He established a continuing education program for industry and a certificate program in acoustics. He also mentored 28 MS and PhD students. The graduate program in acoustics has awarded several hundred PhD and MS degrees in a wide range of acoustics topics.

Jiri’s principal academic interests were architectural acoustics, noise control, the acoustic intensity technique, active noise control, and virtual reality. He taught courses in architectural and building acoustics, theoretical acoustics, active noise control, and the intensity technique at Penn State, at the Czech Technical University in Prague, and to various industrial groups.

Jiri was well known throughout the world as a leading researcher and educator in acoustics. He published over 80 papers in journals and conference proceedings, a majority coauthored with his students; coauthored seven books; and presented many invited and contributed papers and keynote lectures at professional meetings around the world. His most recent book, titled Acoustics of Small Rooms, coauthored with Mendel Kleiner and published in 2017, comprehensively covers his unwavering devotion to understanding the influence of room acoustics on sound propagation and perception. The book contains a comprehensive view of room acoustics from the basic theory of room modes to room treatment, sound field playback, measurement, and the psychoacoustics of the perception of spatial audio in rooms.

Jiri loved music and was determined to create the best audio playback from his extensive record collection of classical music. He spent many evenings with friends, colleagues, and students assessing the playback quality of various loudspeakers and hi-fi components that paraded through his living room. He took great joy in hearing his prized B&W 801 loudspeakers almost always come out on top.

In 1999, Jiri organized the first joint international meeting of the Acoustical Society of America with the European Acoustical Association, held in Berlin, Germany. This was the largest meeting on acoustics that took place in the previous century. In addition he organized or coorganized seven national or international meetings on active control of sound and symposia on sound intensity technique for industry.

Jiri’s involvement with professional societies was quite intensive. His home society was the Acoustical Society of America, which he joined in 1960. He served or chaired many of its professional committees such as medals and awards, architectural acoustics, noise, publication policy, and others. He was elected fellow to the society in 1970 and was the president of the society from 1994 to 1995. For his contributions to acoustics and its education, Jiri was awarded the gold medal by the society, the most distinguished award given by the Acoustical Society of America.

Jiri also played a prominent role in the Audio Engineering Society and was elected the fellow of the Audio Engineering Society in 1984. He was also active in the Institute of Noise Control Engineering, (1986–87), where he served as president, among other functions. The Czech Acoustical Society elected him an honorary member of the society. Also, he was a member of the Acoustical Society of Japan and the New York Academy of Sciences.

Jiri was an excellent professor and mentor to his many students. Although his lectures typically ended with chalkboards full of equations, he taught by focusing on the underlying physics of a problem and explained what the equations represented from a physically intuitive perspective. He was always interested in making sure that students were learning and thinking beyond the equations. Jiri also was diligent in helping students in their careers, both before and after graduation.

Jiri and his wife Dagmar, who passed away in 2003, were married in Prague in 1955. Their daughter, Dagmar, and her husband, Howard Stein, have three boys: Andrew, Sean, and Cory. They all work in various areas of medicine, except for Sean, who is a lawyer. In 2005, Jiri married Iva Apfelbeckova-Tichy, a former patent lawyer and longtime family friend from the Czech Republic. They split their time living in the Czech Republic and the United States. He will be greatly missed by all his students, colleagues, friends, and family.