Ernst Chladni

30 Nov 1756
3 Apr 1827
Musician
Offer Flowers
Light a Candle
Pray for the soul
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Ernst Florens Friedrich Chladni ( 30 November 1756 – 3 April 1827) was a German physicist and musician. His most important work, for which he is sometimes labeled the father of acoustics, included research on vibrating plates and the calculation of the speed of sound for different gases.

He also undertook pioneering work in the study of meteorites and so is also regarded by some as the father of meteoritics.

Although Chladni was born in Wittenberg in Saxony, his family originated from Kremnica, then part of the Kingdom of Hungary and today a mining town in central Slovakia. Chladni has therefore been identified as German, Hungarian and Slovak.

Chladni came from an educated family of academics and learned men. Chladni’s great-grandfather, the Lutheran clergyman Georg Chladni (1637–92), had left Kremnica in 1673 during the Counter Reformation. Chladni’s grandfather, Martin Chladni (1669–1725), was also a Lutheran theologian and, in 1710, became professor of theology at the University of Wittenberg.

He was dean of the theology faculty in 1720–1721 and later became the university’s rector. Chaldni’s uncle, Justus Georg Chladni (1701–1765), was a law professor at the university.

Another uncle, Johann Martin Chladni (1710–1759), was a theologian, a historian and a professor at the University of Erlangen and the University of Leipzig. Chladni’s father, Ernst Martin Chladni (1715–1782), was a law professor and rector of the University of Wittenberg.

He had joined the law faculty there in 1746.[citation needed] Chladni’s mother was Johanna Sophia and he was an only child. His father disapproved of his son’s interest in science and insisted that Chladni become a lawyer.

Chladni studied law and philosophy in Wittenberg and Leipzig, obtaining a law degree from the University of Leipzig in 1782. That same year, his father died and he turned to physics in earnest.

Chladni died in 1827 in Breslau, Lower Silesia, then part of the Kingdom of Prussia and today the city of Wrocław in southwestern Poland.

Another uncle, Johann Martin Chladni (1710–1759), was a theologian, a historian and a professor at the University of Erlangen and the University of Leipzig. Chladni’s father, Ernst Martin Chladni (1715–1782), was a law professor and rector of the University of Wittenberg.

He had joined the law faculty there in 1746. Chladni’s mother was Johanna Sophia and he was an only child. His father disapproved of his son’s interest in science and insisted that Chladni become a lawyer.

Chladni studied law and philosophy in Wittenberg and Leipzig, obtaining a law degree from the University of Leipzig in 1782. That same year, his father died and he turned to physics in earnest.

Chladni died in 1827 in Breslau, Lower Silesia, then part of the Kingdom of Prussia and today the city of Wrocław in southwestern Poland.

Since at least 1738, a musical instrument called a Glasspiel or verillon, created by filling beer glasses with varying amounts of water, was popular in Europe.

The beer glasses were struck by wooden mallets shaped like spoons to produce “church and other solemn music”. Benjamin Franklin was sufficiently impressed by a verillon performance on a visit to London in 1757 that he created his own instrument, the armonica, in 1762.

Franklin’s armonica inspired several other instruments, including two created by Chladni. In 1791, Chladni invented the musical instrument called the euphon (not to be confused with the brass instrument euphonium), consisting of glass rods of different pitches.

Chladni’s euphon is the direct ancestor of the modern day musical instrument known as the Cristal Baschet.[13] Chladni also improved on Hooke’s “musical cylinder” to produce another instrument, the clavicylinder, in 1799.

Chladni travelled throughout Europe with his instruments giving demonstrations.

In 1794, Chladni published Über den Ursprung der von Pallas gefundenen und anderer ihr ähnlicher Eisenmassen und über einige damit in Verbindung stehende Naturerscheinungen (“On the Origin of the Iron Masses Found by Pallas and Others Similar to it, and on Some Associated Natural Phenomena”) in which he proposed that meteorites have an extraterrestrial origin.

This was a controversial statement at the time, since meteorites were thought to be of volcanic origin. This book made Chladni one of the founders of modern meteorite research.

Chladni was initially ridiculed for his claims, but his writings sparked a curiosity that eventually led more researchers supporting his theory.

In 1795, a large stony meteorite was observed during its fall to Earth at a cottage near Wold Newton in Yorkshire, England and a piece of it, known as the Wold Cottage meteorite, was given to the British chemist Edward Howard who, along with French mineralogist Jacques de Bournon, carefully analyzed its composition and concluded that an extraterrestrial origin was likely.

In 1803, the physicist and astronomer Jean Baptiste Biot was commissioned by the French Minister of the Interior to investigate a meteor shower over L’Aigle in northern France that had peppered the town with thousands of meteorite fragments.

Unlike Chladni’s book and the scientific publication by Howard and de Bournon, Biot’s lively report became popular and persuaded more people to take Chladni’s insights seriously.

Chladni discovered Chladni’s law, a simple algebraic relation for approximating the modal frequencies of the free oscillations of plates and other bodies.

Chladni estimated sound velocities in different gases by placing those gases in an organ pipe and measuring the characteristics of the sounds that emerged when the pipe was played. This built on work on measuring the speed of sound in air that Pierre Gassendi began in 1635.

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