PREPARED FOR NOISE/NEWS INTERNATIONAL, 1997 DECEMBER.
The Southern African Acoustics Institute held its inaugural meeting on 15 October 1975 in Pretoria where 45 scientists, engineers, and others interested in acoustics met. They all felt the need for a body which would establish cohesion between people engaged in the broad subject of acoustics and which would act in a professional manner with authoritative and consultative functions.
By May 1976 when the first general meeting was held, the constitution drawn up by SAAI members themselves was unanimously adopted and council members elected. At this meeting it was announced that SAAI had been invited by the International Institute of Noise Control Engineering to become a member. SAAI gratefully accepted this invitation and has ever since been delivering the I-INCE Journal Noise/News International together with its own Newsletter.
SAAI membership is divided into two main classes, Corporate and Associate members. The constitutional requirements for Corporate membership are academic training and practical experience in a field related to acoustics. Associate membership is available to encourage those with an interest in acoustics, but without formal academic training. Membership is also available to students and sponsors. We have over 100 members in South Africa as well as members in Namibia, Australia, Asia, Europe and North America.
In order to encourage contact between members, technical meetings, symposia, and general meetings are held regularly. The Council invites speakers who are specialists in the fields of acoustics with which the SAAI is involved. These speakers are usually members of the Institute, but South Africa has often been honored by the presence of speakers from abroad.
Committees of the council are involved in serving the community in matters of environmental noise control, traffic noise and legislation on noise. Matters involving noise are seen to take a preeminent place in the activities of SAAI but, true to its original aims, it endeavors to do justice to other aspects of acoustics such as underwater acoustics, musical acoustics, physical acoustics, speech, hearing and instrumentation.
Related topics that interest SAAI members include instrumentation for sound intensity measurement, auditorium acoustics, speech intelligibility in schoolrooms, devices for speech training of deaf children, cochlear mechanics, and damage to hearing by impulsive noise for which the ear’s protection mechanism acts too slowly.
Research by university students at the postgraduate level has been encouraged by SAAI, and the resulting publications may be rewarded by a substantial grant to the university if the paper is of a standard high enough to warrant publication in the official journal of SAAI. Prizes are also offered to students in secondary schools who write essays related to acoustics. Many senior school children display remarkable insight into acoustics, and may develop a lifetime interest in our field.
This article is an edited version of an article on the history of the SAAI by Mr. G. V. Meij in the SAAI Newsletter, number 99, August 1997.- Ed.