This timeline gives key dates relating to the key developments in underwater acoustics.

1490 - First reports

Leonardo da Vinci writes the first reports of listening to sound under water. “If you cause your ship to stop and place the head of a long tube in the water and place the outer extremity to your ear, you will hear ships at a great distance from you.”

1687 - Sound and mathematics

Sir Isaac Newton first describes sound in mathematical terms.

1829 - Underwater measurements

Physicist Jean-Daniel Colladon and mathematician Jacques Charles François Sturm make the first measurements of the speed of sound under water.

1850 - Helmholtz resonator

German physician and physicist Hermann von Helmholtz designs the first Helmholtz resonator.

1857 - Hertz born

The birth of German physicist Heinrich Rudolf Hertz – a founder of the field of electromagnetic theory and namesake for the hertz unit.

1912 - Submarines

Technology for listening for submarines under water is developed and deployed for the first time.

1919 - First scientific paper

The first scientific paper on underwater acoustics is published.

1923 - Bel

The transmission unit (TU) is renamed the ‘bel’ in honour of the founder of Bell Laboratories, Alexander Graham Bell.

1946 - Physics of sound

The book Physics of Sound in the Sea is published as a summary of advances in the field during World War II.

1946 - Oscilloscope

Americans Howard Vollum and Jack Murdock develop the triggered oscilloscope – the forerunner to the modern oscilloscope.

1958 - Underwater recording station

The New Zealand Navy places a permanent underwater recording station on Great Barrier Island in the Hauraki Gulf.

1960 - Hertz becomes standard unit

The General Conference on Weights and Measures adopts the hertz as the standard unit for measuring the frequency of sound, replacing cycles per second (CPS).

1962 - Evening chorus

New Zealand scientists identify the ‘evening chorus’ and propose kina as the source of the increase in underwater reef sound at dusk.

2008 - Kina and noise

Researchers from the Leigh Marine Laboratory conclusively show the role of kina in the production of reef noise.

2010 - Crab larvae and noise

Researchers from the Leigh Marine Laboratory publish their studies on the settlement and metamorphosis of crab larvae in response to reef noise.


    Published 10 May 2011, Updated 12 May 2014