Rudolph Koenig, (1832- 1901)

Rudolph Koenig was born and educated in Koenigsberg, East Prussia (currently Kaliningrad, Russia).  In 1851 Koenig moved to Paris to apprentice under Vuillaume, the celebrated violin maker. Inspired by the new research of Herman von Helmholtz and the growing "science of musical sounds," Koenig started his own scientific instrument business in 1858. He quickly gained an international reputation for the quality, precision and beauty of his acoustical instruments. In 1862 and in 1876, Koenig won Gold Medals at the London and the Philadelphia exhibitions, respectively.

Koenig lived in his working studio surrounded by tuning forks, organ pipes, resonators and other apparatus placed in every available space. He insisted on making and testing every piece of apparatus. Physicists and psychologists often visited his studio to witness one of Koenig's famed  acoustical demonstrations, or as he called them, musical "séances". E. G. Boring grandly stated that "Koenig built Helmholtz’s ideas into apparatus, and Helmholtz built at least one piece of Koenig’s apparatus (the vowel synthesizer) into a theory." (Boring, 1942, p. 32).

Koenig was a close friend of James Loudon, a physicist at Toronto. Loudon purchased a large collection of Koenig instruments in 1878 to build the first laboratory of physics in Canada. Many of these instruments survive today and are currently displayed in the UTMuSI database (see "physics" collection or search for "Koenig").



Boring, E. G. (1942). Sensation and Perception in the History of Experimental Psychology. New York: Appleton - Century.

Brenni, Paolo (1995). The Triumph of Experimental Acoustics: Albert Marloye (1795-1874) and Rudolph Koenig (1832-1901). Bulletin of the Scientific Instrument Society, no. 44.

Koenig, R. (1882). Quelques Expériences d’Acoustique. Paris.

Miller, D. C. (1935). An Anecdotal History of the Sciecne of Sound: To the Beginning of the 20th Centruy. New York: MacMillan.

Shankland, Robert S. (1972) Karl Rudolph Koenig, Dictionary of Scientific Biography. New York: Scribner’s.


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