When the Washington Post phoned Mats Tinnsten, he was truly surprised. – I never would have guessed that our research on the Stradivarius violin would have such an impact!
“Scientists at Mid Sweden University dispel the mystery surrounding Stradivarius violins” was the headline of a press release on 6 July 2005. It was to become one of the most widely circulated research findings in the history of Mid Sweden University.
Besides Swedish media, it was picked up by the Washington Post, the New York Times, the USA Today, the Independent and a large number of other international newspapers and scientific journals. “Swedes Go High-Tech to Crack Stradivari Code” was the headline in the Washington Post.
– It was actually reported on the local radio in South Africa, as well. Peter has a relative who works for Sida (the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency) and all of a sudden, he heard them talking about our research on the radio, Mats tells us with a laugh.
It was Mid Sweden University’s current Pro-Vice-Chancellor Mats Tinnsten and Professor Peter Carlsson who had decided that they would attempt to create a violin with the same acoustic qualities as a genuine Stradivarius. It was to be done through advanced mathematical optimization methods. To make an exact replica of a Stradivarius violin does not work, since wood is a living material with great natural variations. But the results of Mats and Peter’s research indicated that such difficulties could be overcome with modern technology and powerful computers. A revolutionary result!
But why were they even researching this subject? The history is long, but worth telling:
When Mats was studying for his degree of Master of Science in Engineering, his degree project (1984) was about a certain numerical method for calculating the strength and vibrations of wood. Working with an ordinary wooden plank felt boring, so Mats decided to build a model of the belly of a geniune Stradivarius and based his calculations on that. Besides, the belly of the Stradivarius looked better than the wooden plank on the front page of his degree project.
In 1990, Mats was employed by Mid Sweden University, at the same time as Peter Carlsson. Both of them decided to study for a doctoral degree. Mats’s doctoral thesis was on how vibrating structures generate sound and how to minimize noise, and Peter’s doctoral thesis was on wood.