Harvey Fletcher was a physicist who is known as the father of stereophonic sound. He is credited with the invention of the 2-A audiometer and the early electronic hearing aid and is considered a leading authority in psychoacoustics and acoustical engineering.
Fletcher was born in Provo, Utah, on September 11, 1884. He attended Brigham Young University, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in 1907, and then obtained a PhD from the University of Chicago, graduating summa cum laude in 1911, the first physics student to ever do so. While in Chicago, he studied the charge of an electron with Robert Millikan. After finishing his doctorate, he returned to teach at BYU, where he was head of the physics department until 1916, when he accepted a position with Western Electric Company in New York. In this capacity, he served as director of physical research at Bell Telephone Laboratories. During this time period, he published 51 papers and two books and held more than 40 patents for acoustical devices. His books, Speech and Hearing and Speech and Hearing in Communication, are considered landmark authorities.
In 1949 he became a professor of electrical engineering at Columbia University. He returned again to his alma mater BYU in 1952 to direct research, eventually becoming dean of the College of Physical Engineering Sciences and a professor of physics. In 1974 he become a professor emeritus but he continued to conduct research in acoustics.
He and his wife Lorena had seven children. Following her death in 1967, he married Bessie Fern Chipman Eyring, Lorena’s sister, in 1969. They were married until Fletcher passed away on July 23, 1981.
Fletcher was posthumously honored by BYU as the Founding Dean of the BYU College of Engineering in 2010 and given a Grammy Award in 2016 for his efforts in stereophonic sound.