1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/König, Karl Rudolph

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KÖNIG, KARL RUDOLPH (1832–1901), German physicist, was born at Königsberg (Prussia) on the 26th of November 1832, and studied at the university of his native town, taking the degree of Ph.D. About 1852 he went to Paris, and became apprentice to the famous violin-maker, J. B. Vuillaume, and some six years later he started business on his own account. He called himself a “maker of musical instruments,” but the instruments for which his name is best known are tuning-forks, which speedily gained a high reputation among physicists for their accuracy and general excellence. From this business König derived his livelihood for the rest of his life. He was, however, very far from being a mere tradesman, and even as a manufacturer he regarded the quality of the articles that left his workshop as a matter of greater solicitude than the profits they yielded. Acoustical research was his real interest, and to that he devoted all the time and money he could spare from his business. An exhibit which he sent to the London Exhibition of 1862 gained a gold medal, and at the Philadelphia Exposition at 1876 great admiration was expressed for a tonometric apparatus of his manufacture. This consisted of about 670 tuning-forks, of as many different pitches, extending over four octaves, and it afforded a perfect means for testing, by enumeration of the beats, the number of vibrations producing any given note and for accurately tuning any musical instrument. An attempt was made to secure this apparatus for the university of Pennsylvania, and König was induced to leave it behind him in America on the assurance that it would be purchased; but, ultimately, the money not being forthcoming, the arrangement fell through, to his great disappointment and pecuniary loss. Some of the forks he disposed of to the university of Toronto and the remainder he used as a nucleus for the construction of a still more elaborate tonometer. While the range of the old apparatus was only between 128 and 4096 vibrations a second, the lowest fork of the new one made only 16 vibrations a second, while the highest gave a sound too shrill to be perceptible by the human ear. König will also be remembered as the inventor and constructor of many other beautiful pieces of apparatus for the investigation of acoustical problems, among which may be mentioned his wave-sirens, the first of which was shown at Philadelphia in 1876. His original work dealt, among other things, with Wheatstone’s sound-figures, the characteristic notes of the different vowels, manometric flames, &c.; but perhaps the most important of his researches are those devoted to the phenomena produced by the interference of two tones, in which he controverted the views of H. von Helmholtz as to the existence of summation and difference tones. He died in Paris on the 2nd of October 1901.