Elected in 1982
“For pioneering development of acoustic theory of speech production and innovative leadership in communications technology and in development of prosthetic devices.”
BY JAMES L. FLANAGAN, HANS G. FORSBERG AND WILLIAM W. LANG
GUNNAR FANT, a pioneer in research on human speech, died on June 6, 2009. Gunnar was internationally respected for his contributions to an understanding of how the sounds of speech are shaped by the human vocal tract and for his fundamental contributions to the fields of speech communication and human language analysis. His work during the latter half of the 20th century set research patterns and techniques for a generation of students and researchers of speech science.
Gunnar was born in Nyköping, Sweden, on October 8, 1919. His studies and degrees, indeed almost all of his technical career, were spent at the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) in Stockholm. He received his master’s degree in electrical engineering in 1945, with a thesis on how the understanding of speech depends on interference and telephonic limitations in its transmission. For a short time he was employed in the telephone research laboratory of the Ericsson Group, where he carried out acoustical analyses of the sounds of Swedish speech and worked on problems related to the transfer of speech through telephone cables.
In 1949, at the invitation of Leo Beranek, whom he met on Leo’s visit to the Ericsson laboratory, Gunnar came to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard as a