Invented by John Shore in 1711, the tuning fork was initially used by musicians. After Chladni’s studies of its vibrations, however, it was also extensively employed by acousticians, who praised the purity of its sound. Hermann von Helmholtz, especially, based his experiments with beats, combination tones, and simple tones on tuning forks attached to resonators that enhanced their suitability for experimentation. Tuning forks were also used by acousticians as components of the tonometer, an apparatus invented in 1834 by the silk manufacturer Johann Heinrich Scheibler. Based on a combination of more than fifty tuning forks, covering an octave, the tonometer enabled unprecedented precision in instrument tuning. Tuning forks were more than mere tools: they transformed nineteenth-century acousticians’ ways of thinking about sound.
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