Sir Charles Wheatstone-
Born 1802 Died 1875

Detailed research and experimentation was the common thread in Charles Wheatstone's life work. Wheatstone worked as Musician/ instrument maker in to his early thirties. He then pursued a career as an academic and scientist for the rest of his natural life. His early experiments in acoustics, optics, and electricity won him recognition in the scientific community while his work with the telegraph made his name a household word. 1834 Wheatstone was appointed professor of experimental physics at King's College. In 1836 he became a fellow of the royal Society and in 1868 he was Knighted. The French made Wheatstone a foreign associate of the Paris Academy of Sciences in 1873. These are just a few of Wheatstone's many awards and appointments.

Although Wheatstone did not have any "formal scientific education" it is important that Wheatstone was an aggressive learner out side of the classroom and did the maxim to educate him self-starting early in his childhood. He taught himself to read and write in the French, German, Italian, Latin, and Greek languages. The ever so curious youngster was constantly reading about science experiments and reproducing those inquiries at home with the aid of his brother. Though his father was a shoemaker his family had a long history in the music business in London which dated back to the 1750. The family worked as music publishers and instrument makers.

The acoustic research was driven to open a door of understanding to the properties of a tone, such as timber, in terms of vibration. Wheatstone spent 15 years on his acoustic research. He studied the comprehensive book on sound by the German Physicist Chladni." As an admirer of music… [Remarked that the theory of sound was more neglected then most of the other branches of natural philosophy, which gave rise in me for the desire of supplying this defect."

German Physicist Chladni

Much attention was paid to the investigations of the mechanical transmissions of sound. Visible demonstrations of vibrations and the vibrating air column. Most of his acoustic experiments were conducted with reed based instruments because the family musical instrument business in London produced flutes. After Wheatstones studies of vibrations through solid bodies he creates his most famous instrument enchanted lyre it was activated by a vibrations from a remote piano transmitted long wire. This was not a simple instrument that one would carry along to a performance but a rather large musical installation.
(Also note: Wheatstones flute harmonique 1818)


At the age of 15 he had written two songs. Wheatstone thought that his uncle who was in the music publishing business would not publish the work if he knew it was his, so Charles Wheatstone gave the two songs to a known musician named Omera. Omera presented the songs to Wheatstone’s uncle and they were both excepted and published

Creative imaginative analytical

Wheatstones approach to the construction of musical instruments came from two points of view simultaneously, the first as imaginative creative individual and second as an analytical scientist.

Wheatstones approached the construction of musical instruments as an imaginative creative individual as well as an analytical scientist. Through known for the telegraph Wheatstone would design and construct musical instruments throughout his entire life. His first instrument was the flute harmonique constructed in 1818.
His first experiments on the transmission of sound came from his observation of the distance between strings and sounding boards of different instruments. In one of Wheatstones first acoustic experiments investigating the variation of distances and how those distances would effect sound. He attached a he stretched a string to a steel bow and connected the bow to a soundboard of the piano through a glass rod nearly two meters long. Wheatstone found that the string sounded that same as if it we attached right to the sounding board. He then tried the same experiment with a tuning fork. The experiment would actually become part of a performance piece at the theatre of the Royal Institution.
Wheatstones experiments on the transmission of sound were first set up as public demonstrations are turned into what was to be hailed by critics as an evening of wonderful music that should be seen!
The first demonstration was at his father’s shop in Pall Mall. The Acoucryphone (Greek for "Hearing a hidden sound") or Enchanted Lyre-This was written up in several London publications.
When Wheatstone played this instrument is was not a simple walk on performance but more a musical installation. The Enchanted Lyre was suspended from the ceiling and surrounded, but not touched by a velvet hoop supported on the floor by three rods. The horns of the lyre were like bugles bent down towards the floor and discs on both sides of the body of the instrument were of metallic appearance. The lyre was suspended by a brass wire, which passed through the ceiling and connected with the soundboards of instruments in a room above, where Wheatstone played pieces the harp, piano, and the dulcimer. Wheatstone used the string instruments for his "telemusic" pieces because it was easy for him to transmit sound over those devices as opposed to the flutes in which the only vibration was in a column of air.

The concerts were conducted quite frequently and very well received by the music critics who urged the public to go and hear the wonderful music of the "Unseen performer". Wheatstone addressed the crowed and explained that the Lyre was working based on an application of a general principle for conducting sound, and could also be applied to wind instruments.
The high point of Wheatstones music career came in 1822 when he conducted the sound of a whole orchestra in one of the shops along the Royal Arcade. The cost for the one-hour performance was 5 shillings. Wheatstone demonstrated bot5h music and voice conduction with his "Diaphonicon", a horizontal sound conductor running between rooms. Wheatstone continued his performances until the fall of 1823. He continued to call himself a musical instrument maker even after his academic appointment as a professor at Kings College in London.

Music education

Wheatstone met H.C. Orsted in1923 in London. Orsted was in England conducting research on optics. Although Wheatstone was still working as an instrument maker his first research formal paper "New Experiments on Sound", had just been published. Orsted had read this paper written by the young Wheatstone and was very interested in the experiments, which related to the work of Ernst Florens Friedrich Chladni (1756-1827) a German Physicist.
Wheatstone had reproduced one of Chladni's experiments replacing Chladni's sand with water, which dealt with visualizing sound waves and vibration. H.C. Orsted stated that he him self had reproduced Chladni's experiments but used alcohol and lycopodion powder instead of sand and attained similar results to Whetstones. Orsted was in his mid forties when he met Wheatstone who was only 21 at the time. Orsted encouraged Wheatstone continue his research and to publish the results in the scientific community.

1834 Wheatstone was appointed professor of experimental physics at King's College, London.
Some of his lectures were on acoustics but most of his work at this point dealt with electricity and optics. It is important to note that Wheatstone was painfully shy in public. At home, among friends he was "the life of the party" however lacked the nerve to speak in public. It was not unlike Wheatstone to set up a speaking engagement and cancel at the very last minute due to an awful case of stage fright. As a result of this condition Michael Faraday commentated much of Whetstone's work to the Royal Society through Faradays famous Friday night lectures. On one such occasion Wheatstone was scheduled to speak at the Royal society and of course literally ran out the back door of the conference hall at the last minute. Faraday stepped onto the stage and delivered one of his most famous lectures, which was on the discovery of the Electro magnetic field.

Wheatstone’s early electricity work was the measurement of the velocity of an electrical discharge through a wire. Wheatstone studied the rapid motions by reflection from a rotating mirror. After trying unsuccessfully to draw out the spark produced by an electric discharge, he used the orating mirror technique to observe the intervals between sparks produced by a single discharge across three spark gaps, located side by side and connected to each other by quarter-mile lengths of copper wire. From the displacement of the middle spark relative to the other two, he estimated the velocity of electricity to be over 250,00 miles per second.

Optics kaleidophone and stereoscope


1836 England, William Cooke is introduced to Charles Wheatstone by an old friend Peter Roget (creator of the first thesaurus). Wheatstone is well known in the scientific community of England for the ingenious series of experiments to determine the velocity of electricity.

London England -Cooke and Wheatstone experiment by building a link between Euston and Camden- railway stations at a distance of 1 mile and a quarter

In England Charles Wheatstone and William Cook patent the firs English telegraph. The "five needle telegraph" It is a device with five pointers, which point to letters of the alphabet. Electric telegraph company- the first telegraph line links Liverpool and Manchester which starts the growth of the telegraph network which will shortly span the globe.

1839 -Wheatstone and cook start the first Commercial telegraph system in England

The telegraph network begins to grow at an accelerated rate. It is not long before the telegraph begins to appear in popular culture. 1845- Wheatstones telegraph is used in England to apprehend a criminal traveling on a train. The "Quake Murderer" is seen at the boarding a London bound train at Slough. The authorities send a telegram up the railway line to the Paddington station where the suspect is arrested. 1846- Werner Von Siemens improves Wheatstones telegraph by making it self-acting.
This is accomplished by adding make or break contacts.

Bowers, Brain
Sir Charles Wheatstone1977

Hubbard, Geoffrey
Cooke and Wheatstone and the invention of the electrical telegraph