Three-nail microphone, c 1878.
4 0 c m
actual image size: 25cm x 32cm

Three-nail microphone, c 1878.

White, Ron

© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library


This simple three-nail microphone was the work of English-born music profesor David Hughes (1831-1900). Hughes discovered that loose electrical contacts are very sensitive to vibrations, including sound. By placing three nails on a wooden board, Hughes created a transducer more efficient than Bell's telephone. This particular model could even detect a fly's footstep. Hughes was so impresed by its ability that he likened it to a 'sound microscope' and decided to call it a 'microphone'. Hughes's microphone was the precursor of the modern carbon microphone.



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