The Pennsylvania born-entrepreneur showed early interest in inventing and engineering. During World War II, the then 13 year old started a business fixing model trains and home radios to help support his family. He enrolled at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the early ’50s, and held a position as a teacher’s assistant after graduation.
In 2007 Bose landed at No. 241 on Forbes’ 400 list of the world’s richest men, with a net worth of $1.8 billion. Despite dropping off the billionaire registry in 2009, two years later he was back on with a $1.0 billion net worth. The ups and downs were indicative of his career. “I never went into business to make money,” he siad in an interview. “I went into business so that I could do interesting things that hadn’t been done before.”
From the New York Times:
A perfectionist and a devotee of classical music, Dr. Bose was disappointed by the inferior sound of a high-priced stereo system he purchased when he was an M.I.T. engineering student in the 1950s. His interest in acoustic engineering piqued, he realized that 80 percent of the sound experienced in a concert hall was indirect, meaning that it bounced off walls and ceilings before reaching the audience.
This realization, using basic concepts of physics, formed the basis of his research. In the early 1960s, Dr. Bose invented a new type of stereo speaker based on psychoacoustics, the study of sound perception. His design incorporated multiple small speakers aimed at the surrounding walls, rather than directly at the listener, to reflect the sound and, in essence, recreate the larger sound heard in concert halls. In 1964, at the urging of his mentor and adviser at M.I.T., Dr. Y. W. Lee, he founded his company to pursue long-term research in acoustics. The Bose Corporation initially pursued military contracts, but Dr. Bose’s vision was to produce a new generation of stereo speakers.
Though his first speakers fell short of expectations, Dr. Bose kept at it. In 1968, he introduced the Bose 901 Direct/Reflecting speaker system, which became a best seller for more than 25 years and firmly entrenched Bose, based in Framingham, Mass., as a leader in a highly competitive audio components marketplace. Unlike conventional loudspeakers, which radiated sound only forward, the 901s used a blend of direct and reflected sound.
Later inventions included the popular Bose Wave radio and the Bose noise-canceling headphones, which were so effective they were adopted by the military and commercial pilots.
A Bose software program enabled acoustic engineers to simulate the sound from any seat in a large hall, even before the site was built. The system was used to create sound systems for such diverse spaces as Staples Center in Los Angeles, the Sistine Chapel and the Masjid al-Haram, the grand mosque in Mecca.
In 1982, some of the world’s top automakers, including Mercedes and Porsche, began to install Bose audio systems in their vehicles, and the brand remains a favorite in that market segment.
M.I.T. honored Bose as No. 9 on the “MIT150,” a list of top innovators from the university.
Photo: Boston Globe