Did You Hear?
Emeritus Professor Publishes 67th Book on Auditory Research—and Aims for 100
How many books does it take to cover the science of hearing? In 1990, Arthur Popper, a research professor emeritus of biology, thought that eight would do the job.
Twenty-eight years later, Popper has co-edited 67 volumes of the Springer Handbook of Auditory Research with retired Loyola University psychology Professor Richard Fay. Springer Publishing Co. released the latest book, “Rodent Bioacoustics,” last month.
“Right now, we might be looking at a hundred books in the series,” Popper said.
He and Fay can’t be experts on every nook and cranny of hearing, so they recruit scientists—including some from UMD—to help edit some books in the series. Subjects range from the evolution of hearing to music perception to age-related hearing loss.
“A lot of scientists focus only on their own work,” Popper said. “The books allow me to be conversant, and they’ve allowed me to get to know a good portion of the people in the field.”
Popper, who joined UMD in 1987, has studied hearing for his entire research career, focusing in his lab on hearing in aquatic organisms. He published over 250 papers and received more than 50 research grants before he retired in 2014.
Beyond performing his own research, Popper co-founded the Center for Comparative and Evolutionary Biology of Hearing at UMD with psychology Professor Emeritus Robert Dooling. He also co-founded Terrapin Teachers, a program that aims to increase the number of highly qualified secondary science and mathematics teachers.
Popper remains active in auditory research, focusing on the impact of man-made noise on marine life. He conducts U.S. Navy-funded research on how underwater explosions affect ocean fishes. Popper also coordinates The Effects of Noise on Aquatic Life conferences; consults on acoustic research projects; and serves as editor of the magazine Acoustics Today.
Although Popper and Fay have no immediate plans to retire from co-editing the Springer series, the two have chosen their successors, including Popper’s former student, Allison Coffin Ph.D. ’05, an associate professor of neuroscience at Washington State University Vancouver.
The volumes—many of which have been purchased or downloaded tens of thousands of times—are likely to have a broader and more lasting impact on science than most research papers, Popper said.
“Scientific papers don’t have a long shelf life, and only a small group of people are interested in my particular field of research,” Popper said. “But even today, my SHAR book from 1992 is being cited and downloaded. I’d say the series is my legacy as a scientist.”