Perforated Disk Siren
From the Smithsonian, Museum of Natural History.
Woodwind instruments are some of the oldest used instruments, and several flutes have been discovered which date between 35,000 and 43,000 years ago. Despite their use throughout human history, the mathematics of acoustic resonance, the guiding physical principle of sound generation by pushing air through cylinders and holes, was not fully understood until the work of Herman Helmholtz in the 1850s and 1860s. Helmholtz’s disk siren is a tool that demonstrates the principles of resonance, and how air can be used to generate sounds. Coupled with Helmholtz’s work on the mathematical theory of sound waves, later electric and electronic instruments would use similar acoustic principles to generate sound by means of an electromagnet.