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Model of Hermann von Helmholtz’s Theory of Hearing


This instrument consists of a metal frame supported by a wooden base. Within the frame is a vertical pendulum. This consists of a steel rod and a weight. The pendulum swings along one axis, perpendicular to the frame’s orientation. The length of the pendulum can be adjusted by moving the weight along the length of a steel bar and securing it with set screw. The pendulum is suspended within the steel frame from a pivot that runs inside the frame parallel to the top. To the right of the pendulum, suspended from its bearing-mounted pivot, is a row of six small metal weights. These are suspended from strings of regularly increasing length such that they appear in a diagonally descending row. When the pendulum is set in motion, these weights will swing from the pivot in the same orientation as the pendulum.

Accession Number: 2014.psy.154

Alternative Name:

Primary Materials: Wood, Steel, Aluminum

Markings: None

Dimensions (cm): Length= ***, Width= 54, Height= 73


This model is meant to illustrate Hermann von Helmholtz’s (1821-1894) theory of hearing. Helmholtz believed that individual resonators in the inner ear detect individual frequencies of complex sounds.

Condition: This object is in excellent condition.

Associated Instruments:

Manufacturer: Department of Psychology machine shop.

Date of Manufacture: Unknown, after 1963.


This model was created for Professor Douglas Creelman (1933-2014) at some point during his teaching career, likely by the former machine shop at the Department of Chemistry.

Additional Information and References:

Historical Notes: