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    Adolf-Würth-Center for the History of Psychology

    “I’m all ears: Hermann von Helmholtz’s research into hearing”

    Hermann von Helmholtz (1821-1894). Grafik Sophie Daum, AWZ

    In the context of his work for the universities of Bonn and Heidelberg between 1855 and 1871 Hermann von Helmholtz (1821 – 1894) researched various topics in the field of the physiology and psychophysics of hearing. Thus, he studied how combinations frequencies are generated and what the physical and physiological causes of harmony and disharmony are. Furthermore, he addressed the acoustic colour of vowels, musical temperature, the Arabic - Persian scale and above all also the functionality of the auditory ossicle and the basilar membrane of the inner ear. He discovered the amplifying impact of the eardrum’s special form and described the mechanics of the auditory ossicle in detail. With his theory of resonance related to the perception of tone pitches in the inner ear, he presented a mathematical underpinned explanation. This explanation was not replaced before the 20th century, when Georg von Békésy’s travelling wave theory.The computer animation shown here gives an impression of how our sense of hearing works.

    We thank the Universitätsbund Würzburg for the financial support in creating the computer animation.

    Armin Stock

     

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