Marin Mersenne, often referred to as the father of modern acoustics, lived in Paris for most of his life but was in contact with scholars from all over Europe. Born in 1604, he attended the Jesuit College in La Flèche, one of France’s most prestigious schools for the cultural, political, and ecclesiastical elite. He then studied theology at the Sorbonne and the Collège Royal. In 1611, he abandoned his studies to enter the mendicant Order of Minims. He took up residence at the order’s monastery on the Place Royale, Paris, in 1619.
Invented by John Shore in 1711, the tuning fork was initially used by musicians. After Chladni’s studies of its vibrations, however, it was also extensively employed by acousticians, who praised the purity of its sound. Hermann von Helmholtz, especially, based his experiments with beats, combination tones, and simple tones on tuning forks attached to resonators that enhanced their suitability for experimentation.
After coming to Paris in 1851, Rudolph Koenig trained with the violin maker Vuillaume until 1858, when he launched his own instrument-making business at Place Lycée Louis-le-Grand. Koenig’s workshop participated in Paris’s flourishing activities in scientific research and instrument-making from the 1830s to the 1880s. More specifically, it contributed to the development of acoustics as an independent field of research.
The silk manufacturer Johann Heinrich Scheibler invented a method to tune keyboards with unprecedented accuracy, applying principles that he had developed in his textile factory. His technique involved a set of tuning forks called a tonometer, a chronometer, and the counting of beats. It aimed to deskill tuning so that anyone could achieve precise tuning regardless of their musical ear. He explained his invention in Der physikalische und musikalische Tonmesser of 1834.
Today the Phonogramm-Archiv (“phonogram archive”) encompasses around 150,000 sound recordings; it also holds textual and photographic documents and some historical recording and playback devices. Initiated in 1900 by psychologists Carl Stumpf and Erich Moritz von Hornbostel, the Phonogramm-Archiv started as a private collection, based at Stumpf’s Institute of Psychology at the University of Berlin.