AHP readers may be interested in a new open-access piece in Annals of Science: “Purkyne’s Opistophone: the hearing ‘Deaf’, auditory attention and organic subjectivity in Prague psychophysical experiments, ca 1850s,” by Anna Kvicalova. Abstract:
The paper examines the little-known experiments in audition performed by the prominent experimental physiologist Jan Purkyne in Prague in the 1850s. Purkyne’s original research on spatial hearing and auditory attention is studied against the backdrop of the nineteenth century research on binaural audition and the nascent field of psychophysics. The article revolves around an acoustic research instrument of Purkyne’s own making, the opistophone, in which hearing became both an object of investigation and an instrument of scientific inquiry. It argues that Purkyne’s understanding of auditory attention, which combined acoustic stimulation, physiological conditions, and sensory training, preceded a similar approach to hearing in psychophysical debates in the second half of the nineteenth century. Purkyne was the first scholar to experimentally investigate intracranial sounds, which he studied in his experiments with the inmates of the Prague Institute of Deaf-Mutes. This research on intracranial hearing was part of Purkyne’s study of so-called organic subjectivity, in which subjective hearing experience was interpreted as the result of the interaction between individual perception and objective acoustic phenomena.