September 12, 2000—The American Academy of Arts and Sciences has awarded its first Scholar-Patriot Distinguished Service award to Dr. Leo L. Beranek, a pioneer of modern acoustics and an early contributor to the development of today's Internet. Dr. Beranek received the award in honor of his contributions to science, his role in founding Bolt, Beranek and Newman (BBN) and other engineering and media companies, and his service on behalf of the community and the nation.
Academy President James O. Freedman said, "Leo Beranek's wide-ranging work in science and engineering has helped shape our world, from the beginnings of the Internet to the architecture of concerts halls and opera houses." He added, "Dr. Beranek is a practical visionary who represents all that this Academy stands for—a scientist and businessman who achieved great distinction in his profession and a concerned citizen who has served countless educational and cultural institutions." Academy Chief Executive Officer Leslie Berlowitz explained, "The Scholar-Patriot Award honors individuals who embody the Academy's 220-year-old commitment to promoting the arts and sciences in the service of the community and the nation."
Dr. Beranek received his doctorate in science from Harvard in 1940 and then went on to form Harvard's first World War II research laboratory to study electroacoustics. In 1948, he received the Presidential Certificate of Merit for his war-research contributions, notably advances in shoring up the nation's radar defenses. That same year, he cofounded BBN, an acoustics engineering firm. Under his presidency, BBN shifted its emphasis from acoustics to computer science and built the ARPANET, the predecessor to the Internet.
A founder and former president of WCVB-TV-Channel 5, Boston, Dr. Beranek has also long been active in civic organizations, serving as Chairman of the board of trustees of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, member of the Harvard Board of Overseers, and president of the World Affairs Council of Boston. From 1989 to 1994, he was president of the American Academy.
The award was presented during a September 12th ceremony at the House of the Academy in Cambridge. The occasion also marked the dedication of the Leo L. Beranek Library at the Academy, to honor Dr. Beranek's longtime support of the institution.