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Physicist explores mysteries of the violin

The runners in Monday's Boston Marathon may be fit as a fiddle, but what makes a fiddle fit?

Physicist and violin maker William Frederick "Jack" Fry will reveal his most recent advances in unraveling the acoustical mysteries of the world's finest violins in a lecture titled "Structural Acoustics of the World's Great Violins" on Marathon Monday--April 19 at 5 p.m. in Killian Hall.

Audience members will be encouraged to react to "blindfold tests" (live demonstrations of various instruments by professional players and MIT student performers) and participate in a discussion at the end. Institute Professor John Harbison will introduce Fry and lead the discussion.

Fry is professor emeritus of physics at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, where he established the Experimental High-Energy Physics Program in 1952. Fry was also instrumental in establishing the high-energy physics programs at Padova and Milan universities in Italy.

Fry's work on violin acoustics began in 1985. He has applied principles of acoustics and physics to the complex problems of string instrument construction. His work has been featured on PBS Nova ("The Great Violin Mystery") and he has presented 250 public lectures on his violin research, often in collaboration with violinist Rose Mary Harbison.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on April 14, 2004.

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