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Obituaries

Amar G. Bose, 83; founded Bose Corp., taught at MIT

Amar Bose taught at MIT from 1956 until 2001. As a youth, he had a talent for electronics.

Suzanne Kreiter/Globe Staff/File 1997

Amar Bose taught at MIT from 1956 until 2001. As a youth, he had a talent for electronics.

While doing graduate work at MIT in the mid-1950s, Amar G. Bose decided to buy a hi-fi as a present to himself for having done well with his studies.

“I figured that all I needed to do was look at the specifications,” Dr. Bose, who had studied violin for several years as a boy, told Discover magazine in 2004. “So I bought what looked like the best one, turned it on, and turned it off in five minutes, the sound was so poor.”

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Having realized years earlier that he had a gift for electronics, Dr. Bose set about finding a way to better capture the sound audiences heard in concert halls. He founded what became Bose Corp. in 1964, and according to the company’s website introduced the 901 Direct/Reflecting speaker four years later. That set the company on the path to becoming one of the most recognized names in audio equipment. In 2010, Bose Corp. of Framingham reported revenue of more than $2 billion.

“It really all began because I wanted music while writing my doctoral thesis,” he told the Globe in 1968.

Dr. Bose, who two years ago donated most of the stock in his privately held company to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has died, according to statements issued by his company and MIT. He was 83.

The two statements did not disclose information such as a cause of death or what day Dr. Bose died.

“Amar Bose was an exceptional human being and an extraordinarily gifted leader,” L. Rafael Reif, MIT’s president, said in a statement. “He made quality mentoring and a joyful pursuit of excellence, ideas and possibilities the hallmark of his career in teaching, research and business. I learned from him, and was inspired by him, every single time I met with him.”

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Dr. Bose taught at MIT from 1956 until 2001. He received the Baker Teaching Award in the early 1960s, and in 1989 MIT’s School of Engineering established the Bose Award for Excellence in Teaching to recognize outstanding faculty contributions to undergraduate education. MIT’s statement said that in 1995 the Junior Bose Award was established for “School of Engineering faculty members who are being proposed for promotion to associate professor without tenure.”

“It is impossible to put into words what Dr. Bose meant to each of us, and to Bose,” Bob Maresca, president of Bose Corp., said in a statement. “He was more than our chairman. He was our teacher — always encouraging us, always believing that we could do great things, and that anything was possible.”

Dr. Bose grew up in Philadelphia, where his mother was a schoolteacher and his father was a salesman, according to a brief profile posted on the Outlook India website.

He told Discover that his father had “arrived at Ellis Island in 1920 with $5 in his pocket.”

“We had a small house in suburban Philadelphia, and Indian people would come stay with us for days, weeks, or months,” he said in the Discover interview. “The food we ate was Indian, and both my mother and father were very deep into the ancient philosophy of India, so it could well have been an Indian household.”

The family members also faced a great deal of prejudice, he added, and were not served when they went to restaurants.

After learning he had a talent for electronics, Dr. Bose helped out with family finances by repairing radios during high school. “I joined the Boy Scouts when I was 12,” he told Discover magazine. “One of the other scouts had a radio transmitter. I learned that if I correlated the parts in the transmitter with a diagram, I could learn to read schematic drawings. At 13, I realized that I could fix anything electronic. It was amazing, I could just do it. I started a business repairing radios.”

Research beckoned, however, and he went to MIT, from which he received a bachelor’s degree in 1951, a master’s in 1952, and a doctorate in 1956.

In spring 1956, he taught in India on a Fulbright scholarship and studied acoustics at night. “In a concert hall, only a tiny bit of the sound comes to you directly; most of it arrives after many reflections from the surfaces of the room,” Dr. Bose told Discover. “Only about 2 percent of the sound is absorbed with each reflection, so there are many, many reflections. Yet people had been designing loudspeakers that only radiate forward. We did experiments with the Boston Symphony for many years where we measured the angles of incidence of sound arriving at the ears of the audience, then took the measurements back to MIT and analyzed them.” The results impressed audiophiles from the company’s beginnings.

“The fact is, we have a demonstrably superior product,” Dr. Bose told the Globe in 1968.

To achieve that quality, he took a precise approach to every aspect of his business, from the people he hired to the legal and accounting firms Bose Corp. employed.

“Ultimate success is based primarily upon people,” Dr. Bose told the Globe, “and I have gone all out to get the best.”

Dr. Bose ““was personally creative, but unlike so many other creative people, he was also introspective,” Paul Penfield Jr., a professor emeritus of electrical engineering at MIT and a former colleague of Dr. Bose, said in a statement. “He could understand and explain his own thinking processes and offer them as guides to others. I’ve seen him do this for several engineering and management problems. At some deep level, that is what teaching is really all about. Perhaps that helps explain why he was such a beloved teacher.”

The statements from MIT and Bose Corp. did not provide information about Dr. Bose’s survivors or details about a memorial service. A profile on the Forbes magazine website said he lived in Wayland, was divorced, and had two children.

“Personally, my single greatest educational experience at MIT was being a teaching assistant for my father in his acoustics course,” his son Vanu said in a statement released by MIT. “While my father is well known for his success as an inventor and businessman, he was first and foremost a teacher. I could not begin to count the number of people I’ve met who’ve told me that my father was the best professor they ever had.”

Eric Grimson, MIT’s chancellor and a former faculty colleague of Dr. Bose in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, said in the institute’s statement that Dr. Bose “was a legend” at the school. “He was an incredible teacher, an inspiring mentor, a deep and insightful researcher.”

Bryan Marquard can be reached at bmarquard@globe.com.

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