Brian Shrader's Siteseeing Blog

Scientists Find Earliest Recording of Sound

Posted March 28, 2008

We all thought Thomas Edison was the father of recorded sound with his phonograph in 1887.  But researchers have discovered an earlier recording.

From the Associated Press:

The 10-second clip of a woman singing "Au Clair de la Lune," taken from a so-called phonautogram, was recently discovered by audio historian David Giovannoni. The recording predates Thomas Edison's "Mary had a little lamb" - previously credited as the oldest recorded voice - by 17 years.

The tune was captured using a phonautograph, a device created by Parisian inventor Edouard-Leon Scott de Martinville that created visual recordings of sound waves.

Using a needle that moved in response to sound, the phonautograph etched sound waves into paper coated with soot from an oil lamp.

No one had conceived of audio playback, so the phonautogram's paper records were meant to be deciphered visually.  Scientists at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory converted the squiggles to sound. 

Click here to listen to the 1860 recording of the song.


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WRAL's Brian Shrader blogs about cool video clips and other interesting Web sites. If you have any video you would like to share, please let us know.