Young’s sonic wager
Stories from Physics for 11-14 14-16
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”.
R. T. Beyer, Sounds of Our Times: Two Hundred Years of Acoustics, New York, Springer Verlag, 1999, p. 3
G. N. Cantor, Thomas Young’s lectures at the Royal Institution. Notes and records of the Royal Society of London, vol. 25, no. 1, 1970, pp. 87-112.