The Smithsonian's National Museum of American History houses literally millions of objects which preserve and illustrate our nation's rich history. Among the many stories that these objects tell are the ways that Americans have learned about science. This site is designed to help students and teachers explore a unique and beautiful collection of instruments used to teach Acoustics - the science of sound. These historic instruments were designed to be engaging and to challenge students to think in new ways about the physical world.
Koenig’s flame analyser was, next to the sound synthesizer, one of the clearest expressions of Hermann von Helmholtz’s theory that complex sounds were made up of a spectrum of elemental or pure tones. The adjustable resonators covering a range of 65 notes from sol1 to mi5 (96–1,280 Hz), could each be rendered visible with a connection to a manometric flame capsule. The resonators were connected to a gas-filled capsule with a rubber tube. If activated, the distinctive pattern would appear in the rotating mirror.
The double siren was one of Koenig’s more popular instruments. It consisted of two “polyphonic” or “multivoiced” sirens with more than one series of holes, and was an invention of the German physicist and former teacher of Hermann von Helmholtz, Heinrich Wilhelm Dove (1803–1879). It produced several pure tones simultaneously, in musical chords, and under greater pressure. It was ideal for demonstrating interference effects (when sound waves combined to amplify or diminish each other) and combination tones. [Pantalony 2009, 184-185]