Light, Sound and Waves

Young’s sonic wager

Stories from Physics for 11-14 14-16 IOP RESOURCES

Despite his many scientific successes, British polymath Thomas Young was not successful in all his endeavours. The Parlour Book of Emmanuel College, Cambridge contains a record of a wager set in 1799:

“Young will produce a pamphlet or paper on sound more satisfactory than anything that has already appeared, before he takes his Bachelor’s degree.”

Whilst Young indeed published a paper on sound and light in 1800, he was judged to have lost the bet. However, Young’s biographer argues it is “doubtful whether a competent tribunal would now uphold the decision on appeal”.


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