Elected in 1979
“For contributions to computer generation and
analysis of meaningful sounds.”
BY C. GORDON BELL
MAX VERNON MATHEWS, often called the father of computer music, died on April 21, 2011, at the age of 84. At the time of his death he was serving as professor (research) emeritus at Stanford University’s Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics.
Max was born in Columbus, Nebraska, on November 13, 1926. He attended high school in Peru, Nebraska, where his father taught physics and his mother taught biology at the state teachers college there. Peru High School was the training school for the college. This was during World War II (1943–1944). One day when Max was a senior in high school, he simply went off to Omaha (strictly on his own volition) and enlisted in the U.S. Navy—a fortunate move because he was able to have some influence on the service to which he was assigned, and after taking the Eddy Aptitude Test, he was selected for radar school. Radar, however, was so secret, that Max was designated a “radio technician.” After basic training he was sent to Treasure Island, San Francisco, where he met Marjorie (Marj), who became his wife.
After returning from the war, Max applied to the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). On graduating with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Caltech in 1950, he went to MIT to earn a doctorate in 1954.