Object, Instrument, Technology

This is a set of 16 Helmholtz resonators. Made from sections of brass that were spun on a lathe, they are wonderfully light and easy to hold. Helmholtz designed them to demonstrate his theory that all vowel and musical sounds are composed of combinations of simple, pure notes (Helmholtz’s “Theory of Timbre”). He correctly observed that musical sounds, particularly the higher tones, are often perceived as a single mass of sound.

Object, Instrument, Technology

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.

Object, Instrument, Technology

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.

Audio
Scherchen, Herrmann. n.d. “Der Einfluß Des Mikrophons Auf Die Tönende Botschaft - Side B”.
Contributor essay
by
Paolo Brenni

The scientific instruments used for research and teaching in the nineteenth and early twentieth century are beautiful and fascinating artifacts.

Contributor essay
by
Tom Everrett and Gayle Young

The Hugh Le Caine Collection consists of twenty-two electronic music instruments and related artifacts representing Le Caine’s work as a physicist, instrument designer, and composer in Ottawa, Canada.

Person

Karl Rudolph Koenig (also known as Rudolf Koenig or König) studied at the University of Königsberg. In about 1852, he moved to Paris and joined the workshop of famous violin-maker Jean Baptiste Vuillaume. In his leisure time, Koenig attended public lectures and studied mechanics, becoming increasingly interested in acoustics research. After six years of apprenticeship with Vuillaume, Koenig became a master violin-maker, but his own new business was a workshop for acoustic apparatus.

1832
1901
Object, Instrument, Technology

In 1862, the German scientist Herman Helmholtz invented another important acoustic instrument, the double siren. The new instrument combined two Dove Sirens, which were positioned to face each other and coupled on the same shaft. Both sirens were also connected to the same air supply, which made it possible to produce a variety of frequencies, all of which would slide up or down the scale as the air pressure was increased or decreased.

Object, Instrument, Technology

The Fourier analyzer, which was called by Rudolph Koenig an “Analyzer of the timbre of sounds”, is a large device (about 36 inches tall) for simultaneously observing several components of a sound.

Object, Instrument, Technology

In 1868, Henri-Victor Régnault described an apparatus for determining the speed of sound, capable of accurately measuring time intervals to fractions of a second.