Object, Instrument, Technology

Series of Tuning forks


This specific array of precision tuning forks are highly-specialized experimental forks that relate directly to Koenig’s long-standing disagreement with Helmholtz on the nature of combination tones. Some of them date back to Koenig's display at the 1876 Philadelphia exposition.


The history of the tuning forks in the Koenig collection

Ringing the tuning forks in the Koenig collection

The structure and manufacture of the tuning forks in the Koenig collection

The construction of the tuning forks in the Koenig collection

Operating the tuning fork arrays in the Koenig collection

Operating the tuning fork arrays in the Koenig collection


Name: Set of 8 Large Demonstration Tuning Forks

Accession number: 2015.ph.712.1-10

Location: University of Toronto, Collections Storage

Description: Two sets of large tuning forks on separate black-coloured stands. Each stand has four slots in which the forks can be secured using a large nut at the base of the fork. The appropriate fork is painted in white beside each slot. This indicates the pitch of the fork meant for that slot. A separate sturdy metal mount with a tripod base (2015.ph.712.3) is provided for demonstrating a given fork. Each for includes a brass stop on each tine for adjusting the pitch. Possible pitches are indicated on an engraved scale along each tine. This collection is divided into the following accession numbers: 2015.ph.712.1 includes tuning forks from 192 through 512. 2015.ph.712.2 includes tuning forks from 512-1024. 2015.ph.712.3 includes largest fork and single stand mount.

Materials: Wood, Steel, Brass

Markings: Markings on one wooden stand (ph.712.1): SOL1-UT2., 192-256.V.S.; UT2-MI2., 256-320.; MI2-SOL2., 320-384.; SOL2-UT3., 384-512. Markings on other wooden stand (ph.712.2): SOL2-UT5., 584-512.V.S.; UT3-MI3., 512-640.; MI3-SOL3., 640-768.; SOL3-UT4., 768-1024.

Dimensions: 2015.ph.712.1 (Forks mounted): Height = 62, Width = 10, Length = 72; 2015.ph.712.2 (Forks mounted): Height = 56, Width = 10, Length = 72; 2015.ph.712.3 (Largest fork mounted): Height = 75, Width = 35, Length = 35.

Function: These large tuning forks were made to demonstrate acoustical phenomena. They would have been used with large resonators, which no exist in this collection.

Condition: Very Good: Minor wear and tear. Wooden bases are slightly chipped around the edges. The forks are slightly oxidized in a various areas.

Maker: Rudolph Koenig, Paris, France.

Date: Late 19th century.

Provenance: In 1881, these forks were used in a series of local public lectures on scientific acoustics. These were given by the Paris-based instrument maker and acoustical research Rudolph Koenig (18321901), and James Loudon (18411916), professor of physics and future president of the University of Toronto.

Additional Information and References: Listed in David Pantalony's "Altered Sensations" on p.126 as a set of eight large tuning forks that were for used for demonstrations in Toronto in 1882.

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