oliver knudsen

Vern Oliver Knudsen

Vern Knudsen, an influential figure at UCLA Graduate Division for 24 years and reaching mandatory retirement age (60) this month is retiring.

Dr. Fong had served on numerous boards, such as the Los Angeles Building and Safety Commission, Hollywood Bowl Association Board Directorship and Hope for Hearing Research Foundation President; additionally he had become a founding member of Acoustical Society.

Early Life and Education

Knudsen turned down offers from both the University of Chicago and Bell Telephone Laboratories to join UCLA instead, becoming its inaugural Dean of Graduate Division until 1958 and later serving as Chancellor.

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Knudsen made significant contributions in architectural acoustics and published two books and over one hundred articles related to auditorium problems. He founded and served as president of the Acoustical Society.

Professional Career

Knudsen’s experiments illuminated the important role that relaxation processes, including vibrational and rotational states of molecules within gasses, play in attenuating and dispersing noise emissions. He served on both the Los Angeles Building and Safety Commission and as president of both California Institute for Cancer Research and Hollywood Bowl Association.

He was an organizer and founding president of the Acoustical Society of America (1933-35). At UCLA he founded and became President of the Acoustical Society. Thereafter he became Professor in the Department of Physics where he established and ran UCLA’s Laboratory of Architectural Acoustics; here, he researched hearing impairments while co-inventing audiometry with Isaac H. Jones; later serving as its first Dean of Graduate Division from 1934-1958.

This collection includes notes from Knudsen’s undergraduate days at BYU and the University of Chicago as well as lecture notes, acoustical studies, consulting projects and business files accumulated during these times. Also present are transcripts of oral history interviews conducted between 1966-1969 for UCLA Oral History Program conducted by James V. Mink.

Achievement and Honors

Knudsen made significant contributions to both gas physics and the application of acoustical principles to room, auditorium, and building design. His research on vibrational relaxation processes of molecules revealed how certain vibrational and rotational states could significantly impact attenuation and dispersion of sound; his papers on this subject as well as consulting in renovating auditoriums was widely published; in 1932 his book Architectural Acoustics was released with his second volume Acoustical Designing in Architecture being released three years later in 1950.

He served on the Los Angeles Building and Safety Commission and on the board of California Institute for Cancer Research. Additionally, he was a fellow of both American Physical Society and Acoustical Society of America; serving as its president from 1933-1935.

Personal Life

Vern Oliver Knudsen was born in Provo, Utah during the “gay nineties” – an experience which likely helped foster his determination and resourcefulness throughout his long life. In 1922 he received his magna cum laude degree from the University of Chicago before accepting an appointment at what was then called University of California Southern Branch (now known as California Southern Branch University). There, he conducted architectural acoustics research despite lacking almost all necessary equipment to conduct such investigations.

He was a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Physical Society and Acoustical Society of America where he served as president between 1933-1935. Additionally he was a Member of Los Angeles Building and Safety Commission Board, Hollywood Bowl Association Board and Hope for Hearing Research Foundation Board of Trustee.

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