The inventor of the Kaleidophone, Charles Wheatstone (1802-1875), called it a "Philosophical Toy." It produces optical figures in space that may be enjoyed in their own right, or that may be the source of considerable analysis. Wheatstone published an account of the device in 1827. Its name derives from Kaleidoscope, the optical device which had recently been devised by the Scottish physicist David Brewster.

   There are different versions of the Kaleidophone, but in all cases a slender rod, fixed at one end, is set into transverse vibrations. A small, polished bead fixed to the end of the rod reflects light from a light source, enabling the motion to be followed by the eye. If the wire is circular or square, the bead describes one-to-one Lissajous figures; if it has an oval or rectangular cross-section, it will describe more complicated Lissajous figures. A different form of Kaleidophone is described in another page .

   Koenig sold two versions of the Kaleidophone, both described in his 1889 catalogue. The version with twelve rods (at the Garland Collection of Classic Physics Apparatus at Vanderbilt University, and purchased c. 1875 from Koenig) was 100 francs ($20.00), and the one with six rods (at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut) was 60 francs ($12.00).


  The Kaleidophone at the left is essentially identical to the Koenig model above but it is clearly marked with the name of Max Kohl of Chemnitz, Germany.

   It was bought by Hobart and William Smith Colleges from Kohl in the late 1920s. The contemporary Kohl catalogue noted that "when struck, the differently shaped rodes give directly the corresponding Lissajous curves. The figures shine out large on the ceiling under incident light."

It seems clear that after Koenig's death in 1901, other firms continued to produce some of his apparatus.

REFERENCE: Thomas B. Greenslade, Jr., "Nineteenth Century Textbook Illustrations LI: The Kaleidophone", Phys. Teach., 30, 38-39 (1992)

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