First International Workshop on the History of Speech Communication Research (HSCR 2015)

Dresden, Germany
September 4-5, 2015

The Prague Historical Collection of Tuning Forks: A Surviving Replica of the Koenig Tonometre

Pavel Šturm

Institute of Phonetics, Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic

Despite the copious advances in acoustic techniques and devices for measuring and displaying acoustic parameters, a steady component of a phonetician’s scientific method remains to be – to this very day – our hearing. This paper therefore focuses on a historical device shared between acoustics and auditory phonetic analysis: Rudolph Koenig’s Grand Tonometre, consisting of more than a hundred tuning forks, which occupies an exceptional position among the vast array of instruments manufactured by Koenig. One copy of the original apparatus survived the Second World War untouched, and is now stationed at the Institute of Phonetics in Prague. The paper describes in detail the Prague collection of tuning forks, with photographs illustrating the device, and provides a commentary on the use of tuning forks in phonetic research of that time. In addition, the intricate history of the Prague tonometre is discussed, pertaining to the efforts of Josef Chlumský, the founder of the Czech phonetics institute, to obtain the device from the French colleagues.

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Šturm, Pavel (2015): "The Prague historical collection of tuning forks: a surviving replica of the Koenig tonometre", In HSCR-2015, 95-105.