The role of acoustics and music theory in the scientific work of Robert Hooke

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The work of Robert Hooke (1635-1703) on acoustics and music theory is a larger subject than might seem the case from studies of his career so far available. First, there are his experiments for the Royal Society which can be defined as purely acoustical, which anticipate later experiments performed by men such as J. Sauveur and E. Ghladni. Second, there are passages in many of his writings which by extensive use of musical analogy attempt to account for all physical phenomena of the universe, which operates on the principles of ‘harmony’ and ‘dissonance’. It is in this context that the hitherto unpublished manuscript presented at the end of this paper should be considered. This essay, which combines both the older tradition of the ‘praise of music’ and the newer consideration of the physical nature of musical sound, illustrates a particular aspect of Hooke’s thought which exercised a profound influence on all his studies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)573-605
Number of pages33
JournalAnnals of Science
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 1980


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