Wolfgang Neise, renowned for his life-long contributions to advancing the state-of-the-art of the aeroacoustics of turbomachines, died on April 30, 2011 of cancer. He would have celebrated his 70th birthday on September 13, 2011.
As with many Berliners of his generation, Wolfgang’s studies began in a war-torn and divided Berlin. He completed his gymnasium studies in 1961 at the Georg-Herwegh-Schule and went on to complete his Diplom-Ingenieur at the Technische University in Berlin in 1967. His exceptional performance at the TU did not go unnoticed, and he was invited by the famous acoustician, Professor Lothar Cremer, to pursue Ph.D. studies under his supervision. It was at this time that Wolfgang joined the Hermann-Föttinger-Institut für Strömungstechnik, Technische Universität (Berlin) as a research fellow. This fortunate experience of being able to work side-by-side with established researchers at a renowned Institute provided Wolfgang with a stirring introduction to the world of scientific research, an endeavor that he was to pursue and lead in for the rest of his professional career.
Wolfgang completed his Doktor-Ingenieur in 1973 with the dissertation title, “Einfluss der Mikrofonumströmung bei der Messung von Ventilatorgeräuschen im angeschlossenen Kanal” (“Influence of the flow around the microphone in in-duct fan noise measurements”). The in-duct microphone flow tube that grew out of Wolfgang’s research went on to become a commercial project that is still in use today.
It was after joining the Deutsche Forschungs- und Versuchsanstalt für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DFVLR), Institut für Turbulenzforschung, Berlin in 1972 that Wolfgang began his seminal work on the acoustic similarity laws for fans. His continuing work on this subject for the next few decades established him as a leading, world-class researcher on fan performance and fan noise. He became, as his colleagues called him, an expert’s expert. In 1974, Wolfgang had the good fortune of being selected by the DFVLR to pursue research abroad at the UK’s prestigious Institute for Sound and Vibration Research at the University of Southampton. This experience exposed him to an international set of researchers whose friendship and collegiality he would nurture and cherish throughout his career.
In recognition of his leadership skills, Wolfgang was chosen to head the acoustics turbomachinery group within DLR’s Abteilung Turbulenzforschung in 1976. During the next 20 years, Wolfgang and his group of eminent researchers achieved international recognition for providing solid and highly useful insights into the origins of turbomachinery noise and its control. Within this elite circle, such names as Alfons Michalke, Dietrich Bechert, Ulf Michel, and Eberhard Pfizenmeier come to mind. Wolfgang often noted that these were the golden years for researchers to pursue their research passions unencumbered by the concern for funding that has become the norm for most institutions these days.
Wolfgang’s research accomplishments in fan noise and duct acoustics attracted the attention of both US and European industries that needed his expertise, and he continued to consult throughout his career with many of the leading designers in their quest for quieter and more efficient turbomachines. As an expert, Wolfgang also contributed heavily to standards organizations within the ISO and the VDI. He served as convener for the ISO/TC 43 charged with establishing standards for an induct method for measuring the sound power of fans.
In 1996, Wolfgang was appointed Head of DLR-Abteilung Turbulenzforschung (Turbulence Research Division) and held that post until his retirement in 2006. During his tenure, Wolfgang noted that the collapse of the Berlin wall in 1989 changed the culture of the Berlin’s DLR significantly, going from a somewhat inward to a more outward perspective, thus, increasing his responsibilities to promote and maintain his group’s status in competing for funding. In this role, Wolfgang excelled as a consummate strategist and visionary. Berlin’s DLR flourished during his directorship and maintained its world-class research status.
As an institute’s director, Wolfgang understood the need for academic links and fostered them throughout his career. He held professorship appointments at the University of Houston and Penn State University in the United States. For over twenty years, he acted as DLR’s liaison researcher at Penn State’s Center for Acoustics and Vibration. This link involved exchanges of graduate students and professors from time to time and continues today.
On the international circuit, Wolfgang’s expertise was in great demand. He teamed up with his colleague Ulf Michel to offer their short course “Aerodynamic Noise of Turbomachines” at institutions in Europe and North America.
In his own Technische Universität in Berlin, Wolfgang was made an Honorary Professor of Acoustics of Turbomachines in 2002 and immensely enjoyed having the opportunity to prepare the next generation of aeroacoustics researchers. From our personal observations, it was evident that Wolfgang was a superb mentor and was able to generate enthusiasm for the true spirit of scientific inquiry. One legacy that he leaves to this next generation is his unique and extensive fan noise testing laboratory that resides in Berlin’s DLR.
As close colleagues of Wolfgang, it is difficult for us to imagine a world without him since he was such a supportive, long-standing dear friend and colleague. For today’s generation of aeroacoustics scholars, he leaves published papers that encompass a lifetime pursuit of unraveling the mysteries of the aeroacoustics of machines. For his friends and colleagues, he leaves wonderful and vivid memories of a man whose enthusiasm for life was compelling and infectious and set a high standard. He lives on among us who have had the good fortune of having been his friend and colleague.