Manfred R. Schroeder


Manfred R. Schroeder
Ahlen, Germany
Death date
Associated organizations
Bell Labs
Fields of study


Manfred Schroeder was born in 1926 in the small town of Ahlen, Germany in the Ruhr coal fields of North Rhine-Westphalia. Nazi persecution was swift and strong in this mining region known for labor unrest, and as witness, young Manfred's original interest in uniforms and parades turned to sharp discomfort with German fascism. But such was not enough to save him from the nation's larger fate: at age 16 he was drafted into the airforce. For the young man, this was a fortuitous turn, for it was in the airforce that the math nerd found application for his obscure interests as he applied himself to the radar technologies that were proving central to the defense against aerial bombing.

After the Allied victory, Manfred received "one pair of long johns and a very nice blanket" and was left adrift, as so often happens to the soldiers of a losing army. At his grandmother's prompting, he then enrolled at the University of Göttingen to study physics. A quick study, Manfred finished his PhD by 1953 and after groping through the fog of post-war distrust between the vanquished and the victor, he secured a position as a researcher at Bell Telephone Laboratories in Murray Hill, NJ.

Once in New Jersey, Manfred Schroeder continued his work on the topic of his doctoral research, acoustics, although at the time this seemed quite peripheral to ATT's communications business. However, as computers and other digital technologies developed, Schroeder's research grew in importance. His early work on Vocoders ("voice coders") eventually gave voice to voiceless computers and other machines. Through this work he eventually developed code excited linear prediction, which is a speech coding algorithm still used today in the MPEG-4 format.

Manfred Schroeder also made significant contributions to the study of concert acoustics. When Philharmonic Hall (now Avery Fisher Hall) opened at Lincoln Center in New York City in 1962, it suffered at the pens of reviewers who were disappointed with echoes ringing in certain seats. Schroeder was hired as a consultant, and using computer-based modelling was able to pinpoint to an unprecedented degree the trajectories and loss of specific tones.

In 1968 Schroeder accepted the position of Universitatsprofessor Physik at the University of Göttingen where he continued to work as a researcher and graduate advisor.

He died on December 28th of 2009.

Further Reading

Manfred Schroeder Oral History

Bell Labs Memoirs: Voices of Innovation