Amar Bose was born in the US to a freedom fighter from Bengal, who moved to America with his family in a bid to escape being imprisoned by the British in 1920.
Bose nurtured a childhood love for electronics. As he didn’t have money to buy new trains, he would buy the discarded ones from scrap and fix them.
During World War II, when his father’s import business was hit, the 13-year-old began a radio repair service. This small business eventually grew to be one of the largest in Philadelphia.
After mastering repair, the teenager was filled with a burning desire to learn how to design radios and other devices himself.
So he pursued electronics engineering at MIT and completed his PhD. In 1956, he went to India to teach on a Fulbright scholarship.
This led to a lifetime of research on acoustics and psychoacoustics, and the formation of Bose Corporation.
In 1966, Bose made his first product — the 2201 speaker — to provide a speaker system that “reflected sound”. But the device failed to take off as no one bought it.
His next big invention was the noise-cancelling earphones, the system which protects astronauts from permanent hearing damage even today.
His wife Ursula recalled how this came to be, “On our way back from Europe, we were given actual headphones on the flight, for the first time.”
She continued, “Amar was very excited and thought that it might sound decent. However, the sound from the aeroplane was much more than what was coming from the headphones.”
“He immediately took out a pad and pen and started writing equations. By the time we reached Boston, he had the concept of noise-cancelling earphones ready,” she exclaimed.
But it took 15 years for Bose to develop the QuietComfort noise-cancelling headphones, which are the company’s trademark now.
He then worked on custom audio systems for cars, the first being the 1983 Cadillac Seville. And then in 2004, he unveiled the suspension system that would enable cars to have smoother rides.
Two years before his death in 2013, Bose donated the majority of the stock of Bose Corporation to MIT; the dividends of which are to be used for education and research.
Bose always wanted to encourage innovation and research. One of his sayings, which permeates the company even today is, “If you think something is impossible, don’t disturb the person who is doing it.”