Rudolph Koenig (1832-1901), the leading acoustic instrument maker of his era, attended school in the Prussian city of Konigsberg and apprenticed with a French violin maker before opening his own shop in Paris in the late 1850s. Many Americans learned of his work through his extensive display at the Centennial Exhibition held in Philadelphia in 1876.

A tonometer is a set of tuning forks suitable for determining the pitch of other sounds. Johann Scheibler, a German silk manufacturer and acoustic researcher, suggested the form in 1834. His most advanced design consisted of 56 forks covering the range of a single octave. Koenig’s great tonometer, which he showed at the Centennial, had 670 tuning forks ranging in pitch from 16 to 4,096 hertz. In the early 1880s, this tonometer was purchased for use at the U.S. Military Academy.

The catalog number 322452 refers to a set of tuning forks donated to the museum in 1963 by the Department of Physics of the University of Wisconsin. These tuning forks are a part of the Koenig Tonometer exhibited at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition of 1876. Dr. Bernard Finn, a Smithsonian curator, discovered the forks during a visit to the University of Wisconsin in December 1962, but could find no record of how they came to the University.

At the museum, the forks were reunited with other parts of the Koenig Tonometer—other tuning forks as well as the rack-- which West Point had transferred to the Smithsonian in 1958. The image on this record depicts the forks from University of Wisconsin united with the rack and tuning forks from West Point.

Location: Currently not on view

Place Made: France: Île-de-France, Paris

See more items in: Medicine and Science: Physical Sciences


Exhibition Location:

Data Source: National Museum of American History

Id Number: PH.322452Catalog Number: 322452Accession Number: 248007

Object Name: Tuning Fork Set, Tonometer

Measurements: overall; tonometer: 38 1/2 in x 50 1/4 in x 24 1/2 in; 97.79 cm x 127.635 cm x 62.23 cm


Record Id: nmah_1184192

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