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EDITORIAL: An American original

Amar G. Bose changed how we live and work

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Amar Gopal Bose was born 83 years ago in Philadelphia to a Bengali immigrant father and American mother, and he died July 12. He was born dissatisfied, as men with inventive minds are, and spent his life doing something about it.

When he graduated at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology six decades ago he invited his landlords, an Italian family, to listen to a recording of an opera on a new hi-fi record player. The sound was awful; he determined to create something better.

Years of study and experiments followed, and by 1968 Bose had come up with a speaker design to mimic the sound at a concert hall. A $3 billion-a-year business was born. The stereo speakers were ultimately joined by computer-friendly speakers, TV audio systems, and car stereo systems favored by GM, Chevy, Mercedes and Porsche. After suffering through a noisy airplane flight in the 1970s, Bose designed noise-canceling headphones to minimize the drone of jet engines.

Bose was an engineering professor (at MIT) and an entrepreneur. His audio engineering class became one of the school's most popular courses, and when he left MIT in 2011 he gave most of his non-voting shares in the privately held Bose Corp. to the school.

Perhaps most notable is that Bose developed his business without government subsidies, and with a dogged determination to avoid the ups-and-downs of public corporation life. No shareholders or directors could fire him, none could veto his decisions, however unorthodox. At a 2007 press conference at the Bose headquarters in Framingham, Mass., he recounted his disappointment at buying a luxury car that boasted a suspension capable of smoothing out the imperfections of the road. He spent a million dollars developing a better suspension system. It hasn't made it to market yet, but it very well might. The National Inventor's Hall of Fame inducted Amar Bose into its ranks five years ago.

Unlike some of the companies selected for investment by the government — Solyndra comes to mind — Bose did things the old-fashioned way, applying know-how to solve real problems. The passing of Amar Bose signals the coda of his life, but his spirit lives in a multitude of American basements, garages, lofts and laboratories, in the endless pursuit of innovation. Amar Bose joins a creative pantheon, following the likes of Edison, Ford, Sarnoff, Watson and Jobs. We salute them all.

The Washington Times

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