History Hearing Science

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History of Hearing Science

First, here are references to works written by people who have been active in hearing science (psychoacoustics,anatomy/physiology, physics/acoustics, engineering/signal processing, cognitive psychology, audiology).

A brief historical overview of psychoacoustics recently published by Bill Yost in Acoustics Today [1] It contains a reference to the classical reference to Boring's work that treats hearing at length, along with other modalities, though only up to 1940s. (Boring, E. G. (1942). Sensation and Perception in the History of Experimental Psychology. Appleton-Century-Croft, New York.)

A useful perspective on the history of hearing science, with strengths and shortfalls, can be found in Reiner Plomp's book (Plomp, Reinier. The Intelligent Ear: On the Nature of Sound Perception. Mahwah, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2002.)

F. V. Hunt's Origins of Acoustics (Published in 1992; Originally Published in 1966). "..covers the history of acoustics from the ancient Greeks till the end of the 18th century. "

Robert Beyer "Sounds of Our Times. Two Hundred Years of Acoustics" (published in 1999). "Beyer separated the 20th century development to sub-disciplines, where it could be easier to single out the highlights related only to psychoacoustics, the physiology of the ear, etc."

Diana Deutsch's Psychology and Music (In: M. H. Bornstein (Ed.) Psychology and its Allied Disciplines. Hillsdale: Erlbaum, 1984, 155-194) provides a perspective on the complicated relationship between psychoacoustics and musical theory tracing going back to the Greeks. [2]

Mary Rudner suggested Art Wingfield's "brief overview of the emergence of the field in his article Cognitive aging and hearing acuity: modeling spoken language comprehension published in the Frontiers Research Topic I edited recently on The Role of Working Memory and Executive Function in Communication under Adverse Conditions which is now published as an ebook and available at http://journal.frontiersin.org/researchtopic/2293/the-role-of-working-memory-and-executive-function-in-communication-under-adverse-conditions"

To this I can add, John Neuhoff's introductory chapter in Ecological Pyschoacoustics. [3]



Other detailed historical accounts written by practitioners of hearing science, giving a sense of historical and personal context can be found in


S.S. Stevens' autobiographic chapter Notes for A Life Story. Being recollections assembled in no particular order for a volume History of Psychology in Autobiography, December 1970 [4] (the description of war time studies on the effects of noise exposure and the descriiption of Stevens and Newman clearing up the collection of human brains dating back to William James are quite vivid).

George Miller's biography of Stevens [5] provides both a personal and an historical context.

The ASA collection of Fletcher's papers, edited by Jont Allen (ASA EDITION OF SPEECH AND HEARING IN COMMUNICATION. Harvey Fletcher; Jont B. Allen, Ed. Summary of Harvey Fletcher’s 33 years of acoustics work at Bell Labs. (A new introduction, index, and complete bibliography of Fletcher’s work are important additions to this classic volume. 487 pp, hardcover 1995 originally published 1953)

Davis, Audrey B., and Uta C. Merzbach. Early Auditory Studies: Activities in the Psychology Laboratories of American Universities. Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1975. [6]

Davis, Hallowell. “Psychological and Physiological Acoustics: 1920-1942.” Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 61, no. 2 (1977): 264-66.

In addition, several replies pointed to a vibrant literature that deals with the history of hearing science within broader cultural, musicological, sociological, philosophical perspectives.

Alexandra Hui's "The Psychophysical Ear. Musical Experiments, Experimental Sounds, 1840-1910", published by MIT Press in 2012: [7]

Sound Studies Reader, edited by Jonathan Sterne and published by Routledge in 2012: [8]

"Veit Erimann’s Reason and Resonance: A History of Modern Auralityparticularly as a critical historical account of sound and epistemology." [9]

Lisabeth Fauble wrote “The first chapter of my book, Music Therapy: Understanding the Science of Sound delves directly into the emergence of human understanding of tone, pitch and dynamics beginning in the neanderthal age. This book draws directly on my own graduate research studies and incorporates theories from renowned acoustical scholars and neuroscientists like Steven Mithen, Daniel Levitin, Robert Zatorre and Ani Patel, among others. A lengthy excerpt of the first chapter of the book is available for free review, so you can determine if it's something you could use for your graduate level course.”

"Alistair Isaac is writing interesting papers about the history and philosophy of psychophysics, focusing on colour and timbre: [10] ...His 2013 paper on "Quantifying the subjective" could be useful, even though it focuses on colour. It features some familiar characters (Weber, Helmholtz) and gives some of the reasons to be interested in JNDs.” [11]." I also found this discussion focusing on timbre directly and contrasting a physicalist and ecological account of conceptualizing timbre: [12]

Mara Mills ([13]), David Trippett ([14]) and Alex Rehding ([15]).