History of Acoustics
1874 - Ernest Werner Siemens patents dynamic or moving coil microphone.
1877 – “Theory of Sound” textbook by Lord Rayleigh, the 1904 winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics, is published in the United Kingdom. Lord Rayleigh discovered “Rayleigh Waves”, the sound waves that travel on a solid surface. The acoustic impedence unit quantity “rayl” is named after him.
1877 – Third edition of “On the Sensations of Tone as a Physiological Basis for the Theory of Music” by Herman von Helmholtz (a friend of Ernest Werner Siemens) is published.
The book describes Helmholtz resonators, which are used to amplify specific frequencies based on a volume of trapped air (like blowing over an empty coke bottle). Helmholtz used his resonators to isolate single tones of musical instruments.
1883 – The Indonesian island of Krakatoa experiences a volcanic eruption emitting what is considered to be the loudest sound ever heard in the modern world. It is heard up to 3000 miles (4800 km) away from the eruption.
Over 36,000 people are killed in the resulting tsunami, shock waves are recorded for days afterward, and the world climate was altered for years.
1924 – After approval from the “International Advisory Committee on Long Distance Telephony”, the Bell system renames the Transmission Unit (TU) into the decibel (dB). The decibel was named after the Bel, in honor of the telecommunications pioneer Alexander Graham Bell.
While the decibel unit was originally used to measure the loss in power in telephone cables, it later became widely used in acoustics to describe the level of a sound.
1930 – The “International Electrotechnical Commission” replaces “cycle per second” with “Hertz” as the SI unit of measure for repeated events per second, or frequency, in honor of Heinrich Hertz.
Gustav Ludwig Hertz, the nephew of Heinrich, later became the research laboratory director at Siemens.
1930 - The Perrin Acoustic Array appears on the cover of Popular Mechanics. The array, developed by French Nobel prize winner Jean-Baptiste Perrin, is billed as an "Airplane Finder Which Locates Ships in Flight, and Registers Their Altitude, Speed and Distance from the Apparatus".
The array is the forerunner of today's modern acoustic arrays.
1933 – Fletcher-Munson Curves of equal loudness published in the “Acoustical Society of America” journal. The blue lines, represent the dB level required to have a tone sound equally loud to a listener at any given frequency.
The curves of equal loudness have gone thru several updates. In 1956, Robinson & Dadson updated them using a frontal speaker in an anechoic chamber. In 2003, they were updated again as part of ISO 226:2003.
1936 – American National Standards Institute (ANSI) uses the A-weighting curve based on Fletcher-Munson research in standards for sound level meters.
1936 – Stanley Smith Stevens, professor at Harvard University in the Psycho-Acoustic Laboratory, proposes unit for perceived loudness called Sones.
The word Sone was derived from the Latin word sonus, which means sound.
1961 - The Bark scale, used to describe the logarithmic frequency groupings of human hearing, is proposed by Professor Karl Eberhard Zwicker of the Institute for Electro-Acoustics of TU Munich. The Bark scale was named after Heinrich Barkhausen. Zwicker also developed the DIN 45631 loudness standard.
1961 – Stanley Smith Stevens publishes “Procedure for Calculating Loudness: Mark VI”.
1963 – Only an acoustician! J.C.R Licklider, a psycho-acoustician and department of defense researcher, invents the internet (it was not Al Gore!)…OK, not quite...read on....
In 1963, Licklider secures funding to start building the “Intergalactic Computer Network” or ARPANet for defense department, the fore-runner of the internet.
1972 – Acoustical Society of America publishes “Perceived level of noise by Mark VII and decibels” by Stanley Smith Stevens.
1975 - ISO532 standard established for calculation of Loudness.
ISO532B incorporates Zwicker masking.
1981 - ANSI incorporates B-weighting as well as the A-weighting curve.
B-weighting is a flatter curve than A-weighting.
1981 - The ECMA-74 Standard for "Measurement of Airborne Noise emitted by Information Technology and Telecommunications Equipment" is published.
It includes standards for calculating Tone-to-Noise Ratio and Prominence Ratio.
1990 - Psycho-Acoustics: Facts and Models authored by Eberhard Zwicker and Hugo Fastl published by Springer.
1994 – Actors Jeff Daniels and Jim Carrey introduce the “Most annoying sound in the world” in the movie Dumb and Dumber.
2000 - Directive 2000/14/EC (Outdoor Noise Directive - OND) is adopted by the European Parliament and the Council on July 3, 2000. The directive harmonizes the laws of the Member States on 57 types of outdoor equipment referring to noise emission standards.
The world becomes a much quieter place as equipment manufacturers strive to meet the new noise regulations!
2008 - Fourteen year old Kyle Krichbaum correctly identifies 5 vacuum cleaners “by sound alone” on British TV show "Wanna Bet?", hosted by Ant and Dec...