In this answer there is an interesting passage:

Also, Aristotle posited that the speed of sound was dependent on frequency. Gassendi had religious/philosophical issues with Aristotle's views, and one reason for the sound experiments was to prove Aristotle incorrect.

followed by an interesting comment:

Aristotle had no concept of sound "frequency", let alone "speed of sound" depending on it. He talks of air "falling upon and striking the air which is next to it", and is too vague to make sense of either the frequency or the speed. Those require concept of a wave, which came much later. And although Roemer was first to measure the speed of light successfully people suggested that light takes time to travel centuries before him. Aristotle mentions Empedocles, Avicenna and Alhazen also held such view.

I recommend going to the original question When was it first realized that sound travels with finite speed? and reading through it, and all of the answers there, as I am trying to do.

I almost asked my question in a comment, but then thought it might be interesting enough for a full answer.

While the modern concept of frequency would not be appropriate, did Aristotle suggest that different kinds of sound might travel at different speeds?

Did Pierre Gassendi later determine that different kinds of sound probably travelled at the same speed?


1 Answer 1


Yes, Aristotle claimed that sound velocity depends on pitch. For instance Aristotle said:"Hence it passes through more slowly, and so becomes lower-pitched". A detailled discussion can be found in the linked source.

EDIT: The link directs to Google books: Greek Musical Writings: Volume 2, Harmonic and Acoustic Theory, Andrew Barker (ed.), Cambridge University Press

The De Audibilibus is preserved only as a quotation in Porphyr's Commentary on Ptolemy's Harmonics. ... Porphyr ascribes it to Aristotle, and its general approach and the theories it propounds are certainly close to his.

Another quote from the text: "pitch depends on the velocity of a sound transmission, a view that Aristotle shares".

  • $\begingroup$ OK the link works fine now, I'm not sure why it wouldn't display properly for me earlier, but no problems now. Thanks! $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Jul 18, 2017 at 6:21

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