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Stradivari’s Secret

December 18, 2006

Stradivari may have unknowingly relied on chemistry to make his violins sound great.


The secret of a Stradivarius. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

[Sound of a violin playing]

It’s said that Stradivari and the other Italian masters made the finest violins ever. Now violin maker and biochemist Joseph Nagyvary of Texas A&M may have discovered how. His team analyzed wood from two of these violins and found that it was treated with harsh chemical preservatives that may have purified the sound. He guesses the masters were unaware of this side-effect, which explains why the chemical recipe didn’t get passed down.

So I assume that this paper will convince many other violin makers to search for their own cocktail and brine. And no matter what they use they will get very interesting results.

He says he could recreate the exact makeup of the original cocktail if only he could get more wood samples to analyze. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.