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Henry Eltinge BreedDecember 5, 2007
Brunswick, NY - A native New Yorker, Henry Eltinge Breed was born in Manhattan on 5 December 1915, the son of the actress and activist Ethel Burns and the civil engineer H. Eltinge Breed. He attended the Storm King School in Cornwall, New York and earned his undergraduate degree in physics from Colgate University.
He began his professional life as a photographer, assisting Berenice Abbott in 1937-8 as she worked on her landmark WPA photographic study of New York City entitled "Changing New York", while running his own studio in Manhattan specializing in portraiture.
Raised a Quaker and a pacifist, when World War II broke out he registered as a conscientious objector. But in late 1942, having piloted airplanes since his youth, he enlisted as a flight instructor in the Navy as the prospects of the War worsened, serving in that capacity with distinction through the remainder of the War.
Returning to graduate school thereafter, he earned an M.S in Astrophysics from Harvard and a Ph. D. in Physics from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He specialized in both Optics and Acoustics, on which he wrote, taught, and consulted widely. Though working principally as a Professor of Physics, his research and consulting took him into areas such as developing electro-optical navigation equipment and communications systems for NASA's Apollo lunar missions and for the US Navy. The Navy used these systems to help find and save vessels lost at sea. He also, years later, developed a system of acoustic modeling used to test the designs of concert halls for acoustic quality before they were built. He was one of the acousticians whose views were sought on possible acoustical improvements to Avery Fisher Hall, and in the 1980s he authored a comparative study on the acoustics of a number of major European concert halls. Dr. Breed twice won Fulbright Fellowships to lecture and research in these areas abroad, in both Norway and Peru. Elected a Fellow of the American Optical Society, he was also a member of a large number of other professional societies, on a number of whose boards he served.
A competitive racing sailor who earned numerous prizes, he was depicted by Grandma Moses in her 1955 painting "Sailing". He was also a championship fencer, and he greatly enjoyed skiing, hiking, and gardening.
Henry Breed died at home at the age of 92 on 8 December 2007 after a brief illness. Survivors include two sons: Henry Eltinge Breed III of Manhattan, and Joseph Illick Breed of Tokyo. He was the widower of the marine biologist Helen Illick Breed.
A memorial service for Dr. Breed will be held Friday, January 4 at 4:00 p.m. at the Bush Memorial Hall at Russell Sage College at the corner of First and Congress Street's in Troy. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the Illick Music Fund, attention Mr. Jeffry Comanici, 200 Crouse College, Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY, 13244.