Adriaan Daniël Fokker was a prominent Dutch theoretical physicist. He is known in theoretical physics for the Fokker-Planck equation and his work on the theory of relativity. In the years around 1930, however, Fokker also became interested in room acoustics and the tuning of musical instruments. He designed several sound reflectors, which amplify the sound reaching the audience, especially in churches, but his work on musical instrument tuning is what made him more widely known.
Cornelis Zwikker was a Dutch physicist and one of the initiators of the Dutch Sound Foundation. After studying chemistry, mathematics, and physics in Amsterdam, he worked with Philips in Eindhoven until 1929, when he was appointed professor of theoretical and applied physics at the Delft University of Technology. Zwikker was responsible for the acoustic design of many buildings, among them the studios of the Dutch broadcasting organization AVRO.
Jules Antoine Lissajous was a high-school teacher, then held prestigious administrative posts in the education system of various parts of France. He had trained in physics, and defended his dissertation on vibratory phenomena in 1850.
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.
Alexander John Ellis was born Alexander John Sharpe on June 14, 1814, in Hoxton, Middlesex, and died in London on October 28, 1890. He studied mathematics and philology at Trinity College Cambridge, earning his bachelor’s degree in 1837. Ellis later became a phonetician, whose work in vocal and musical pitch, speech, and song also influenced the field of musicology. Among his most important contributions were the annotated translation of Hermann von Helmholtz’s On the Sensations of Tone and his development of the notion of cent for musical intervals.
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