NMSAT :: Networked Music & SoundArt Timeline

1912 __ Optophone
Edmund Edward Fournier d'Albe (1868-?)
Comment : 1912 the development of the first reading machine with audible output from Fournier d'Albe was designed as an interfaces for blind users and was a next big step in the history of Sonification. The optophone is an instrument invented by Fournier d'Albe, by means of which the letters of ordinary print are caused to produce characteristic musical sounds by being projected optically on to a screen composed of a number of selenium cells connected to an AC electrical source of audio frequency, and to a loud speaker, thereby enabling the blind to read printed matter by ear. "It may be of interest to record some experiments that I have recently been making on the application of a thermionic amplifier to increase the volume of the sounds produced by Dr. Fournier d'Albe's very wonderful optophone so as to render these sounds audible to everyone in a room without the necessity of each listener being furnished with a separate telephone receiver.". (Swinton, A. A. Campbell, "Amplifying the Optophone", Nature, 107, 8-8 03 March 1921, 1921)Edmund Edward Fournier d'Albe 1868-? (no source seems to quote a death date) , Physicist, appointed Assistant-Lecturer in Physics at Birmingham University in 1910 where he did research on the electro-optical properties of selenium - the 'reading optophone' used a vertical arrangement of five light sources and detectors that was scanned across printed characters, each detector corresponded to a note on the musical stave with the amplitude indicating the amount of reflected light. Prior to this he appears to have worked at Dublin University, under G.F. Fitzgerald, where he also had an interest in Irish (edited a dictionary in 1903) and Esperanto, in 1926 he spoke on “Wireless Telegraphy and Television” at the 18th World Congress of Esperanto in 1926 - in 1923 he had been the first to transmit a photograph by wireless (for a pan-Celt the image of of King George V was a strange choice !) . He also published a biography of Sir William Crookes (physicist and researcher in Spiritualism) - The Life of Sir William Crookes, (T Fisher Unwin Ltd, London 1923); among other writings on Spiritualism he also published a book that imputed fraud by Kathleen Goligher one of the the famous mediums of the the period (The Goligher Circle, 1922). He was also a natural philosopher who did early work on self-similarity in nature and solutions to Olber's paradox which are still quoted in the literature. (MANNIN: a Journal of Matters Past and Present relating to Mann Isle of Man. Published by Yn Cheshaght Gailckagh, the Manx Language Society. Editor: Miss Sophia Morrison. Printer: L. G. Meyer, Douglas. May, 1913, to May, 1917)

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