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Myles Jackson, “Radio Engineers, Scientists, Musicians, and the Trautonium: Berlin in the 1920s and ’30s”

September 25 @ 2:00 pm - 4:00 pm

Myles Jackson (Professor of the History of Science at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton)

Berlin in the 1920s witnessed the fruitful collaboration of applied physicists, physiologists, engineers, and musicians. The technical expertise of radio engineers, combined with the musical expertise present in the Berlin Hochschule für Musik (Conservatoire) and the financial backing of German electrical companies and the Prussian Ministry of Science, Art, and Popular Education, enabled the production of a new electric musical instrument, the trautonium, which could be used for microtonal pieces and could mimic the timbre of numerous, more traditional instruments.

Myles W. Jackson is Professor of the History of Science at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. He received his Ph.D. in the history and philosophy of science from the University of Cambridge. He is the author of numerous articles on the history, philosophy, and sociology of science and technology, with a particular emphasis on the cultural history of nineteenth-century German physics and 20th and 21st-century molecular biology. He has also authored three books all with MIT Press, The Genealogy of a Gene: Patents, HIV/AIDS, and Race; Harmonious Triads: Physicists, Musicians, and Instrument Makers in Nineteenth-Century Germany; and Spectrum of Belief: Joseph von Fraunhofer and the Craft of Precision Optics, which won the Paul Bunge Prize of the German Chemical Society for the best work on the history of scientific instruments and the Hans Sauer Prize for the best work on the history of inventors and inventions. He has co-edited a collection of essays entitled Music, Sound, and the Laboratory, with the University of Chicago Press, and he is the editor of Perspectives on Science: Gene Patenting with MIT Press. He is a member of the Erfurt Academy of Sciences, the German National Academy of Sciences and a corresponding member of the Académie Internationale d’Histoire des Science. He has served as an expert for the ACLU in their lawsuit against Myriad Genetics on the BRCA 1 and 2 gene patents. He has received the Francis Bacon Prize in the History of Science and Technology from Caltech. He was the Francis Bacon Visiting Professor of History of Science and Technology at Caltech. He also received the Reimar Lüst/Humboldt Prize of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and was named Bosch Public Policy Fellow of the American Academy in Berlin. He was a fellow at the Wissenschaftskolleg (Institute for Advanced Study) in Berlin. He is a research associate of the Max-Planck-Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena, Germany. He is currently working on an undergraduate text exploring the interrelationships between music, science, and technology from the eighteenth century to the present and is finishing up a monograph on the collaboration between musicians, scientists, and engineers during the 19th and 20th centuries.

Event Poster


September 25
2:00 pm - 4:00 pm
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Northrop Frye, NF003