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.
Chladni was a physicist whose work focused on experimental acoustics. He invented the “Chladni figure” and various instruments. Until his death, he continued to travel and present his inventions and findings to a wide audience.
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.
Colladon was an important physicist working in Switzerland and France. His experiments on the compression of air and liquids, the speed of sound in acoustic signals, and atmospheric electricity brought him academic success and made him a sought-after consulting engineer for gas factories and tunnel construction.
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.
Hermann Ludwig Ferdinand Helmholtz, later von Helmholtz, was born in Potsdam in 1821, the son of Caroline Penne and high school principal August Ferdinand Julius Helmholtz. He became interested in natural science at a young age, but followed his father’s wishes and studied medicine at the Berlin military academy. He graduated in 1842.
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.