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John Karlin

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John Karlin Obituary
John Karlin

AGE: 94 • Little Silver

John Karlin, of Little Silver, New Jersey, died at home on January 28, 2013, at the age of 94. He was born in 1918 in Johannesburg, South Africa and graduated from the University of Capetown with a B.A. in 1938 and an M.A. in 1939. He was awarded the Sir Charles Gray Scholarship for overseas graduate study and earned his Ph.D. at the University of Chicago in 1942 in the Psychology Department. His seminal doctoral dissertation, "A Factorial Study of the Auditory Function" opened up the field of sensory function to the use of multiple factor analysis and led to the factorial studies of all the senses by researchers in universities world-wide. Following graduation he joined the faculty at Harvard University and did research in communications for the U.S. Armed Forces. He helped develop the spondee hearing test, which has become the standard speech hearing test in audiology. After the war he joined Bell Labs in 1945 doing research in psycho-acoustics. From 1949 until his retirement in 1977 he was Head of the Human Factors Engineering Department, which he proposed and formed as the first engineering psychology department at Bell Labs. This was also the first such application of the discipline of human factors analysis in commercial industry. He was elected a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineering, the American Psychological Association and the Human Factors Society. In 1952, in conjunction with Dr. Ruben Conrad of Cambridge University in England and Dr. Jan Schouten of Philips Laboratories and the University of Eindhoven, Holland, he organized the international symposium on human factors in telecommunications for telephone companies and manufacturers worldwide. For most of his Bell Labs career he also served as Chairman of the Committee on Human Factors for the International Telegraph and Telephone Consultative Committee (CCITT) based in Geneva, Switzerland responsible for setting worldwide standards in telephony. He was a lifelong violinist concertizing from an early age as soloist with the Johannesburg and Capetown Symphony orchestras. He founded and played in the Colonial Symphony Orchestra in Madison, New Jersey. He also organized and was first violinist of the Hartshorne String Quartet, which inaugurated the annual fund raising chamber concerts at the historic All Saints Church in Navesink and in which he played for 15 years. He was a member of the board of trustees of the Red Bank Chamber Music Society and the Monmouth Conservatory of Music. John was part of the group that founded the Hartshorne Woods Civic Association and served as its president for many years. In addition to music and his scientific interests, he had a lifelong concern for the future of the planet and human rights.

He was a member of the Seabright Tennis Club and the Sea Bright Beach Club. He was an avid competitive tennis player who ranked #1 at Bell Labs for many years and played on the team at the Morristown Field Club. It was on the tennis courts there that he met his wife of 49 years, Susan. John was devoted to her. She survives him, as do his daughter Bonnie Farber and his stepchildren, Christopher, Stuart and Susan Leigh, and six grandchildren, Alex, Kit, and Nila Leigh, and Gordon, Jim and Ellis Toggweiler, as well as three great-grandchildren, Beatrix, Myrina and Alexandra Brown. He will be greatly missed and remembered with undying love.

Contributions in his memory may be made to the NJ Nature Conservancy, 200 Pottersville Rd, Chester, NJ 07930, and to the Monmouth Conservatory of Music, 50 White St, Red Bank, NJ 07701. There will be no funeral at his request.

Published in Asbury Park Press on Jan. 31, 2013
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