The two got together to produce their first product, an FM tuner, and since then the company has expanded through a series of acquisitions in both the consumer and professional markets. In 2006-2007 it had sales in excess of $3.5bn.
Other milestones along the way include the world's first stereo receiver, the Festival TA230 of 1958, and over the years the Harman group has become home to some of the best-known names in audio.
Among its brands are Becker, Harman Kardon, Infinity, JBL, Lexicon, Mark Levinson and Revel, while pro brands include AKG, Allen & Heath, Soundcraft, Studer and Turbosound. It also has a huge business supplying line-fit audio systems for car manufacturers.
Dr Harman, who was also undersecretary of the US Department of Commerce during the Carter adminstration of the late 1970s, will step down as chairman on July 1, and retire from the company's board at the company's annual shareholders' meeting in December.
He will be succeeded by Dinesh Paliwal, who has been president, CEO and vice chairman since joining the company last summer.