Georges R. Garinther, a retired Army civilian engineer who studied ordnance noise and once examined the acoustics of the John F. Kennedy assassination, died March 9 of complications from heart disease and Alzheimer's disease at his daughter's Havre de Grace home. He was 79.
An Army publication described Mr. Garinther as "an international authority on the effects of impulse noise on the hearing of soldiers and on the measurement and analysis of impulse and steady-state noise" when he retired in 1996 from the Aberdeen Proving Ground's Human Engineering Lab.
"His job was to save the hearing of soldiers and allow them to communicate better," said a son, Geoff Garinther, a Lutherville resident. "He was a very humble man. He traveled around the world for his work but was matter-of-fact about it."
Born in Montreal, Canada, he was the son of Gabrielle Prezeaux, a nurse, and Robert Garinther, a hotel manager. He grew up in Canada and in Erie, Pa., where he graduated from Cathedral Prep in 1953 and then earned a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from Gannon University.
He then served in the Army and was assigned to Aberdeen Proving Ground. He remained in the military until 1963 and then was in the Reserves. He had dual U.S.-Canadian citizenship and lived in Havre de Grace.
Family members said from the early 1960s until his retirement, he wrote more than 100 studies on noise that appeared in 54 publications, including university textbooks.
His son said Mr. Garinther conceived the standards used worldwide for measuring the noise produced by rifles. He developed the techniques for determining the hearing protection afforded by earplugs against gunfire. He conducted the first experimental assessment of noise-induced hearing loss produced by rifles. He also conducted research to determine the effects of speech intelligibility on the performance of Army tank crews.
"We knew he'd made friends around the world, and worked with Dr. Amar Bose on noise-canceling technology, but much of what we now know about his career came from the Internet after his retirement," said his son, an attorney at Venable in Baltimore. "He designed the sound properties for the Army helmet that has been in use for decades."
Dr. Bose, who died last year, was a Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor who lent his name to a line of consumer electronics and speakers. He visited with Mr. Garinther at Aberdeen several times a year.
"The Army scientists were always comparing notes with their counterparts in the private sector," his son said.
Mr. Garinther represented the United States on the NATO Small Arms Test Control Commission from 1976 to 1980. In 1983, he was appointed by the state of Maryland to the Environmental Noise Advisory Council, and in 1984 by the Army as its representative to the American National Standards Institute.
He received a special award from the French army in September 1990 and later spent a five-month sabbatical in France, working closely with French acoustical experts.
Mr. Garinther also presented papers dealing with acoustics in England, Japan, Spain, Australia, Yugoslavia, Hungary, the Netherlands, Belgium and Canada. Family members said that when he was inducted into the Acoustical Society of America, he was the only member who did not hold a doctorate.
Janet Garinther, a daughter who lives in Havre de Grace, said Mr. Garinther studied the acoustic circumstances surrounding the Kennedy assassination in Dallas.
"During congressional hearings on JFK's assassination, witnesses more than once referred to 'Dr. Garinther's experiments' at Aberdeen Proving Ground re-creating the acoustic circumstances of the shooting," she said.
Mr. Garinther was a past president and member of the Havre de Grace Lions Club. He was also a charter member of the Harford County Oenology Society. He served on the Havre de Grace Arts Commission and on two occasions hosted the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra at a summer park program.
"He remained very involved in that community even after he retired — it was his adopted hometown of 57 years," said another daughter, Ann Garinther, a physical therapist in Florence, S.C.
"What he really enjoyed, though, was spending time with his grandchildren, who kept him laughing even after the Alzheimer's set in," said John Garinther, another son, who lives in Pittsfield, Mass., and is an electrical engineer.
A funeral Mass will he held at 11 a.m. March 22 at St. Patrick's Roman Catholic Church, 615 Congress Ave., Havre de Grace, where he was a member and lector.
In addition to his sons and daughters, survivors include his wife of 56 years, the former Mary Farrell, a homemaker; and eight grandchildren.