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PROVO — One of Utah's foremost scientists will be awarded a Grammy this year — almost 35 years after his death. Dr. Harvey Fletcher will be honored for his groundbreaking research and inventions related to stereophonic sound.
Born in Provo in 1884, Fletcher graduated from Brigham Young University in 1907 and went on to earn a doctorate in physics at the University of Chicago. He later directed important teams at Bell Laboratories and Columbia University working on projects that included the first hearing aids and the first audiometer. Among his many scientific contributions, his projects contributed to the creation of the Bell telephone network, the largest in the world.
His work with the spatial effects of sound produced dramatic moments. After one of his first demonstrations of "three-dimensional" sound on Jan. 24, 1934, the New York Times reported that the audience was "mystified" and "often terrified."
"Had it not been for the knowledge they were witnessing a practical scientific demonstration," the report continued, the audience "might have believed they were attending a spiritualist seance. Some women in the audience, admitting a feeling of 'spookiness' left the auditorium in fright. "Airplanes flew from the stage and circled over the heads of the audience with so much realism that all present craned their necks in fright."
Dr. Fletcher returned to Provo later in his life and served as the founding dean of the BYU College of Engineering, which is now the Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering and Technology. An engineering building on campus carries his name. He died in Provo in 1981 at age 97.
Fletcher will be awarded a Technical Grammy Award along with turntable manufacturer EMT. The award is presented to individuals and companies who have made contributions of outstanding technical significance to the recording field.
Other recipients of Special Merit Awards this year include Lifetime Achievement Award recipients Ruth Brown, Celia Cruz, Earth, Wind & Fire, Herbie Hancock, Jefferson Airplane, Linda Ronstadt, and Run-D.M.C.; Trustees Award honorees are John Cage, Fred Foster and Chris Strachwitz.
The 2016 Grammy Awards ceremony will be held on Monday, February 15, 2016 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California.