Hearing science in mid-eighteenth-century Britain and France

Penelope Gouk, Ingrid Sykes

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Benjamin Martin, the English natural philosopher, and Claude-Nicolas Le Cat, the French surgeon, both published important work on auditory physiology and function in the mid-eighteenth century. Despite their different backgrounds, there was consensus between the two scholars on key principles of hearing research, most notably the importance of the inner ear in relation to auditory perception. Martin's work (1755 [1763?]) drew directly on the surgical work of Le Cat (1741) to demonstrate the importance of the auditory mechanism in listening processes. Le Cat's interest in the ear, however, came in turn from his interest in surgical anatomy. Martin used Le Cat's elegant designs as a tool for the vivid communication of auditory function to a popular, fee-paying audience. The meeting of two very different minds through intellectual agreement and material transfer demonstrates the way in which principles of hearing science were established in the Enlightenment period.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)507-545
Number of pages39
JournalJournal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2011


  • auditory physiology
  • Britain
  • ear
  • eighteenth century
  • France
  • hearing science


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