Early Studies in Sound
The study of acoustics began with the Greek philosopher Pythagorus (6th Century B.C.), whose experiments on the properties of vibrating strings were so popular that they led to a tuning system that bears his name (the Sonometer). Aristotle (4th century BC) assumed (correctly) that a sound wave resonates in air through motion of the air; a philosphy-based hypothesis more than one of experimental physics. Vitruvius (1st century BC), determined the correct mechanism for the movement of sound waves, and he contributed substantially to the acoustic design of theatres, because he was an architect. Boethius (6th century AD), the Roman philosopher, documented several ideas relating science to music, including a suggestion that the human perception of pitch is related to the physical property of frequency.
Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) is said to have started to modern studies of acoustics. He elevated the study of vibrations and the correlation between pitch and frequency of the sound source to scientific standards. His interest in sound was inspired in part by his father, who was a mathematician, musician, and composer. Following Galileo's foundation work, progress in acoustics came relatively quickly. The French mathematician Marin Mersenne studied the vibration of stretched strings; the results of these studies were summarized in the three Mersenne's laws. Mersenne's Harmonicorum Libri (1636) provided the basis for modern musical acoustics. Later in the century Robert Hooke, the English physicist, first produced a sound wave of known frequency, using a rotating cog wheel as a measuring device. Further developed in the 19th century by the French physicist Félix Savart, and now commonly called Savart's disk, this device is often used today for demonstrations during physics lectures. In the late 17th and early 18th centuries, detailed studies of the relationship between frequency and pitch and of waves in stretched strings were carried out by the French physicist Joseph Sauveur, who provided a legacy of acoustic terms used to this day and first suggested the name acoustics for the study of sound.