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Music and the Making of Modern Science$
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Peter Pesic

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780262027274

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: May 2017

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262027274.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM MIT PRESS SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.mitpress.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright The MIT Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in MITSO for personal use.date: 05 July 2022

Electric Sounds

Electric Sounds

(p.181) 12 Electric Sounds
Music and the Making of Modern Science

Peter Pesic

The MIT Press

Those who followed Leonhard Euler’s wave theory of light often re-engaged its relation to sound. The study of electricity and magnetism resonated with ongoing initiatives in light and sound, reflecting also wider philosophical ideas about the unity of nature epitomized by Naturphilosophie. This chapter examines the intertwined study of electricity and acoustics by Georg Christoph Lichtenberg, Johann Ritter, and Ernst Chladni. The search to unify the forces of nature often relied on analogies with sound, which in turn looked to electricity for new tools. Félix Savart studied the vibration patterns of violins; after reviewing this work, Jean-Baptiste Biot joined Savart in working on electromagnetism. In the aftermath of Thomas Young’s work, waves became a newly attractive explanatory approach to the problems of electricity. Building directly on Chladni’s sound figures, Hans Christian Ørsted discovered the synthesis of “electromagnetism” that brought a new unity to these two formerly separate forces, realizing the unitive hopes of Naturphilosophie. Ørsted’s discovery involved realizing the dynamic, transverse action of electromagnetism, qualities he had previously studied in vibrating plates. Throughout the book where various sound examples are referenced, please see http://mitpress.mit.edu/musicandmodernscience (please note that the sound examples should be viewed in Chrome or Safari Web browsers).

Keywords:   History of electricity and magnetism, Georg Christoph Lichtenberg, Naturphilosophie, Vibrating bodies, Johann Ritter, Ernst Chladni, Félix Savart, Jean-Baptiste Biot, Hans Christian Ørsted, Electromagnetism

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