Remembering Rodney F.W. Coates

He was a professor of acoustical oceanography

15 May 2014
obitCoates Photo: Gillian Coates

The following obituary was submitted by Professor Coates’ wife, Gillian Coates.

IEEE Fellow Rodney F.W. Coates, a professor of acoustical oceanography, died 29 December 2013 at the age of 69. Professor Coates began his academic career in 1968 at the University of London and went on to become a lecturer at the University College of North Wales, where he taught for 14 years. Then, in 1985, he moved to the Systems Engineering Department at the University of East Anglia (UEA), in Norfolk, England. Appointed first as a senior lecturer, he became professor of electronic systems engineering and was named head of the department in 1986.

He left UEA in 1991 when he was appointed professor of acoustical oceanography in the School of Electronic and Electrical Engineering at the University of Birmingham, England. He took early retirement in 1996.

After leaving Birmingham, Rodney returned to Wales and together with his wife, Gillian, founded Seiche—a company that offers courses in underwater acoustics, passive acoustic monitoring, and propagation modeling. He gave courses in many countries including Australia, Germany, Holland, Israel, Singapore, South Africa, and the United Arab Emirates, as well as in the UK. Delegates came from around the world to the annual Seiche courses held first in Imperial College, in London, and then at the National Physical Laboratory, in Teddington, England.

These courses were considered by many to fill a niche in underwater acoustics training, leading to Rodney being named an IEEE Fellow in 2009. The citation stated that it was “for services to the education of underwater acoustics.”

Rodney was an avid angler all his life, as well as an acoustician concerned with noise in the oceans and the effects on marine life. His greatest joy was that his love of the marine world and his technical prowess allowed him to work in underwater acoustics. Primarily, he studied and taught the theory and effects of seismic and shipping noise, but he also worked on acoustic transducer and array design, subsea communications and high-energy acoustics. His expertise regarding noise and its effect on Cetaceans was utilized when he appeared in the Equinox TV documentary “The Whale that Swam to London.”

Rodney was a member of the IEEE Communications; Computer; Geoscience and Remote Sensing; Oceanic Engineering; Signal Processing; and Ultrasonics, Ferroelectrics, and Frequency Control societies.

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