David Theobald Blackstock died at home in Austin, Texas, on April 30, 2021, in the care of family members and hospice. He was born to Leo and Harriet Blackstock on February 13, 1930, in Austin and grew up mostly in the Hyde Park neighborhood with his older brother Mathis. After graduating from Austin High School in 1948, David attended the University of Texas at Austin, where he earned BS and MS degrees in physics and was a member of the Silver Spurs.
From 1954 to 1956, he served in the U.S. Air Force at Wright-Patterson AFB in Fairborn, Ohio. While there, he met Ohio native Marjorie Goodson. They married on June 19, 1955. The following year, David began graduate studies at Harvard University, earning his PhD in applied physics in 1960. While there, he made the first of what eventually became dozens of trips abroad to work with international researchers in his field. Son Silas and daughter Susan were born while Marjorie and David lived in Watertown, Massachusetts.
After the Harvard years, the family moved to Rochester, New York, where David worked at General Dynamics/Electronics before becoming an associate professor in Electrical Engineering at the University of Rochester in 1963. Two more sons, Stephen and Peter, were born during the family’s decade in the Rochester suburb of Penfield, where the family developed many lifelong friendships. David and Marjorie took joy in engaging their children with outdoor activities in upstate New York, including vacations to Oven Point in the Adirondacks, canoeing on the Gennesee River and hiking at Mount Marcy.
In 1969, David returned to Austin for a sabbatical at UT. The temporary move became permanent when David accepted a faculty research scientist position at the UT-affiliated Applied Research Laboratories. He also began adjunct teaching in UT’s Mechanical Engineering Department, helping to expand a small set of acoustics courses in the College of Engineering to the full-fledged program that exists today.
David’s home and work lives intersected in the 1970s when he began exploring Texas rivers on canoe trips that usually included family members and ARL colleagues. Day trips along Central Texas waterways such as the Guadalupe and San Marcos rivers eventually led to weeklong excursions in West Texas for trips down the Pecos River and the Rio Grande. Overseas research trips continued, with Marjorie sometimes accompanying him, including on a 1977 journey to Spain for the International Congress on Acoustics in Madrid. He took many photographs on both his professional and recreational journeys, leading to much-anticipated slideshow nights at home.
Rigorously devoted to exercise and fitness, David began jogging in the 1970s, taking part in Austin’s first few Capitol 10,000 races. He enjoyed playing soccer with colleagues on lunch breaks at ARL, also coaching little league baseball and youth soccer teams on which his sons played. Throughout the 1970s and ’80s, the family frequently attended UT football games at Memorial Stadium, basketball games at Gregory Gym and the Erwin Center, and baseball games at Clark Field and Disch-Falk Field.
In 1987, David became a professor in UT’s Mechanical Engineering Department, taking an office in a campus building that ironically stood almost exactly on the site where one of his childhood homes had been. Empty nesters by then, David and Marjorie moved to the southwest Austin neighborhood of Lost Creek, where they lived for the next 16 years. They welcomed countless gatherings of family and friends to their home overlooking Barton Creek. Also in 1987, David reconnected with the University of Rochester, beginning three decades of summers spent teaching acoustics courses there. He and Marjorie renewed their 1960s Penfield friendships and made many new friends as well.
Professional accomplishments and accolades began to accumulate during these fruitful autumn years. The Acoustical Society of America, for which David served as president in 1982-83, awarded him its silver medal in physical acoustics in 1985, followed by the gold medal in 1993. He was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 1992. From 1990 to 1993 he was chair of the International Commission on Acoustics, which functions as a “united nations” for acoustical societies around the world. ARL honored him with its prestigious Jeffress Award in 1992, and the American Society of Engineering Education gave him its GE Senior Research Award in 1993.
After editing the textbook “Nonlinear Acoustics” (1998, Academic Press) with longtime colleague Mark Hamilton, David authored “Fundamentals of Physical Acoustics” (2000, Wiley-Interscience), which remains a primary teaching text for acoustics classes. David “retired” in 2000, but he continued to teach two of UT’s graduate acoustics courses for many years thereafter, and he continued working part-time at ARL throughout his 80s. The ASA awarded him its Rossing Prize in Acoustics Education in 2007, and in 2015 he received the Per Brüel Gold Medal for Noise Control and Acoustics from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. Despite the international recognition these honors brought, David was most humbled when the ASA student council named its mentoring award after him in 2019. It is now called the Student Council David T. Blackstock Mentor Award.
In 2003, David and Marjorie left Lost Creek and moved back to Northwest Hills, where they had many friends from their years living there in the 1970s-80s. They often hosted bridge games and other social functions for family and friends at the house. David and Marjorie celebrated their 50th anniversary with a family reunion in the Adirondacks in 2005, followed by a similar gathering in Colorado for their 61st anniversary.
In 2016, David was diagnosed with an aggressive form of prostate cancer. He made many trips to M.D. Anderson in Houston to participate in trials for cancer treatments. Having transitioned from jogging to walking in his 70s, he continued to walk several miles nearly every day until he was 90. Marjorie’s death from cancer in December 2019 and the social limitations caused by the coronavirus pandemic in 2020 took a toll on David’s final year. Still, he continued walking with family members and supporting beloved local institutions such as KMFA and the Austin Symphony until his condition sharply deteriorated in January 2021. He entered home hospice in early February, with his children providing constant care and companionship in his final months.
David was preceded in death by mother Harriet Blackstock (1990), father Leo G. Blackstock (1972), stepmother Graham Blackstock (2006) and brother Mathis Blackstock (2012). Survivors include son and daughter-in-law Silas and Brenda, daughter Susan, son and daughter-in-law Stephen and Tamara, son and daughter-in-law Peter and Lisa, six grandchildren, five great-grandchildren, and numerous cousins, nieces and nephews.
A memorial service will be held at 7pm Saturday June 5, 2021 at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, 4801 La Crosse Ave, Austin, TX 78739.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to UT’s recently established David T. Blackstock Endowed Undergraduate Scholarship in Acoustics. Checks may be sent to Cockrell School of Engineering, Attn: Development Office, 301 E. Dean Keeton St., STOP C2104, Austin, TX 78712. For online donations: go to https://give.utexas.edu/?menu1=OGPEN** and choose Cockrell School of Engineering Area of Greatest Need, then the gift amount. Click on “Your Information,” and in the gift comment section, enter: “David T. Blackstock Endowed Undergraduate Scholarship in Acoustics”