Who invented the Microphone?

Asked 30-Aug-2018
Updated 22-Aug-2023
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The invention of the microphone is attributed to several inventors and researchers who made significant contributions to the development of this essential audio device. The microphone, as we know it today, emerged as a result of incremental innovations over time.

1. Charles Wheatstone (1827): The early groundwork for the microphone can be traced back to English scientist Charles Wheatstone, who invented the "speaking telegraph." In 1827, he created a device consisting of several thin diaphragms attached to vibrating rods. When a sound wave struck one of these diaphragms, it caused the corresponding rod to vibrate, which could then be used to reproduce sound. While not a practical microphone, Wheatstone's work laid the foundation for future developments.

2. Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville (1857): French inventor Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville is credited with creating an early sound recording device known as the phonautograph in 1857. It could capture sound vibrations on a moving diaphragm and graphically record them on a rotating cylinder. Although not a microphone in the modern sense, it marked a crucial step in the capture and transmission of sound.

3. Johann Philipp Reis (1861): German scientist Johann Philipp Reis created the "Reis Telephone" in 1861, often considered one of the earliest practical microphones. His device used a diaphragm and a coiled wire, similar to modern microphones, to convert sound into electrical signals. It was capable of transmitting sound over a distance.

4. Alexander Graham Bell (1876): Inventor Alexander Graham Bell is renowned for his work on the telephone, but he also made contributions to microphone technology. Bell's "liquid transmitter," patented in 1876, employed a diaphragm and a thin layer of acidulated water to transmit sound as electrical signals. This invention significantly improved the clarity and efficiency of sound transmission in early telephones.

5. Thomas Edison (1877): Thomas Edison's carbon-button microphone, patented in 1877, represented a major advancement in microphone technology. It used carbon granules sandwiched between diaphragms. Sound waves caused variations in pressure on the carbon granules, changing their electrical resistance and producing electrical signals. This design became the basis for the first practical microphones used in telephones.

6. Emile Berliner (1877): Emile Berliner, a German-American inventor, improved upon Edison's design in 1877 by replacing the carbon granules with a carbonized diaphragm. His carbon microphone became widely used in early telephony.

These inventors and their contributions laid the foundation for the development of modern microphones, which encompass various types, including condenser, dynamic, ribbon, and electret microphones. Microphones have since become indispensable in numerous applications, from telecommunications to broadcasting, recording, and public address systems. The evolution of microphone technology continues to this day, with ongoing advancements in sound capture and reproduction.