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Photo of Gerhard Finkenbeiner GERHARD FINKENBEINER

Gerhard Finkenbeiner graduated at the Wertheim Glasfachschule as master of the craft in glassblowing in 1956. He studied electronics at Arts et Metier in Paris for two years shortly thereafter. His other hobbies include music and he studied Harmonielehre and piano in Germany and later took organ lesson at Cesar Frank school in Paris. In Paris he saw a glass harmonica for the first time. He was also impressed by the performance of Bruno Hoffmann who played the Glass Harpe in the absence of the playable glass harmonicas, which were not available then.

Owning a glass company, he then decided to build the glass harmonica again, using an improved quality of glass (quartz) not available 200 years ago. He participated in the production of a 30-minute glass harmonica television documentary, which won an ACE (Award for Cable Excellence) as the best nationwide program about music in the Cable Television Industry for local programming, and he has been seen in major television programs since 1977. Among them are: To Tell the Truth, NBC national news, CBS national news, Ripley's Believe It or Not, Discovery Channel with David Harman, Scientific American Frontiers with Alan Alda, and many other national and local shows.

He designed several electronic devices and obtained patents for a photoelectronic organ (infrared), a night vision apparatus (infrared), and electronic quartz bells used in churches today. His achievements have earned him numerous awards from NASA and others for excellence in the field of scientific glassblowing. Among them are a quartz vacuum gauge for temperatures up to 800 degrees C.; a thin quartz window which increased UV and IR transmission significantly; and a very stable tone generator made of pure quartz, which received the Award of Merit at the First International Inventors and New Products Exhibition in the New York Coliseum in 1965.

Today, his company produces glass and quartz items for MIT, University of Rhode Island, and Harvard University, to mention only a few. His quartz fabrication division, producing items for the semiconductor industry and others is managed by Thomas and Diane Hession. His Music Department specializes in the production of the glass harmonica and is managed by Timothy Nickerson.

See Gerhard's answers to Ask the Scientists questions.


Scientific American Frontiers
Fall 1990 to Spring 2000
Sponsored by GTE Corporation,
now a part of Verizon Communications Inc.