By Jane Keller Gordon, Contributing Writer
SOUTHBOROUGH – Dr. William R. Short, who lives in Southborough, describes himself as a “Viking nerd” in spite of devoting much of his life to Bose Corporation.
Mentored by the late Dr. Amar G. Bose while earning his B.S., M.S. and Sc.D. in electrical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dr. Short went on to become a Bose Fellow, earning many U.S. and foreign patents.
In 1987, he and Dr. Bose received the Inventor of the Year Award for the Bose Acoustic Wave® music system and Bose Wave® Radio, for which they share the patents. For the past 15 years, Dr. Short has pursued his other passion, full-time.
“Along with others, I am driven to understand how the Vikings fought and how they lived,” Dr. Short said. “Their culture was strange and twisted, and hard for us moderns to accept. Everything revolved around violence, including their code of conduct, code of law, and religious beliefs. But violence only took place under the right circumstances.”
According to Dr. Short, the Vikings’ poetry speaks of “orðstírr,” which he translates to the word “glory.”
“The only thing that survives your death is what people say about you… And the Vikings believed that the date of their death was preordained, so it was okay to take risks,” said Dr. Short.
In the mid-1990s, Dr. Short’s passion for the Vikings was ignited when he began reading their sagas and poems. Situated throughout Scandinavia and Iceland from about 800 to 1100AD, the Vikings passed on engaging stories, engineered ships and tools for warfare, and conducted voyages for trade, exploration and piracy. Dr. Short’s fascination with the age was cemented when he attended a summer program in Iceland.
Fight school/research lab
Soon after that program, Dr. Short joined and then took over Hurstwic, a Rhode Island-based Viking reenactment group. Dr. Short originally ran Hurstwic as a fight school and research laboratory at the Higgin’s Armory in Worcester. When the museum closed, Dr. Short leased space in Millbury, Mass.
With scientific experiments at his core, using Hurstwic as his base, Dr. Short set out to build a core of trained fighters to conduct experiments about Viking warfare.
He established a group of 8 to 10 people who met three times a week to replicate the brutal, aggressive moves of the Viking warriors. They reverse-engineered Viking weapons and even Viking ships. From time to time, Hurstwic held open training sessions for a larger group of trainees.
Dr. Short and his colleagues conducted many data-driven experiments, creating detailed graphs and plots.
“We broke a million shields trying to figure out how they work,” said Dr. Short.
In one case, the group investigated the veracity of a Viking saga in which a powerful archer defended his home with two locks of his wife’s hair after his string broke.
“We tried it, and it worked,” said Dr. Short, with a bit of a twinkle in his eyes.
New comprehensive book
Dr. Short has produced films and training series, lectured, and published several books on the Vikings. He has traveled to Iceland dozens of times.
Now, on Thursday, July 15, 2021, he and Icelandic martial arts instructor and co-author Reynir Óskarson will publish a 512-page book, “Men of Terror: A Comprehensive Analysis of Viking Combat.”
The book started out as a set of descriptions, notes, graphs, tables and plots. During COVID-19, Dr. Short reached out to Óskarson and proposed that they write a comprehensive book on the subject, using scientific methods to understand how the Vikings fought and lived. “We’re very excited about this book,” said Dr. Short.