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Historical Development Of Sonar

Ancient peoples have long used tubes as non-mechanical underwater listening devices to detect and transmit sound in water. In the later nineteeth century, scientists began to explore the physical properties associated with sound transmission in water. In 1882, a Swiss physicist Daviel Colladen attempted to calculate the speed of sound in the known depths of Lake Geneva. Based upon the physics of sound transmission articulated by English physicist Lord Rayleigh, (1842–1914) and the piezoelectric effect discovered by French scientist Pierre Curie (1509–1906), in 1915, French physicist Paul Langevin (1872–1946) invented the first system designed to utilize sound waves and acoustical echoes in an underwater detection device.

In the wake of the Titanic disaster, Langevin and his colleague Constantin Chilowsky, a Russian engineer then living in Switzerland, developed what they termed a "hydrophone" as a mechanism for ships to more readily detect icebergs (the vast majority of any iceberg remains below the ocean surface). Similar systems were put to immediate use as an aid to underwater navigation by submarines.

Improved electronics and technology allowed the production of greatly improved listening and recording devices. Because passive SONAR is essentially nothing more than an elaborate recording and sound amplification device, these systems suffered because they were dependent upon the strength of the sound signal coming from the target. The signals or waves received could be typed (i.e. related to specific targets) for identifying characteristics. Although skilled and experienced operators could provide reasonably accurate estimates of range, bearing, and relative motion of targets, these estimates were far less precise and accurate than results obtained from active systems unless the targets were very close—or were very noisy.

The threat of submarine warfare during World War I made urgent the development of SONAR. and other means of echo detection. The development of the acoustic transducer that converted converting electrical energy to sound waves enabled the rapid advances in SONAR design and technology during the last years of the war. Although active SONAR was developed too late to be widely used during WWI, the push for its development reaped enormous technological dividends. Not all of the advances, however, were restricted to military use. After the war, echosounding devices were placed aboard many large French ocean-liners.

Early into World War II, the British Anti-Submarine Detection and Investigation Committee (its acronym, ASDIC, became a name commonly applied to British SONAR systems) made efforts to outfit every ship in the British fleet with advanced detection devices. The use of ASDIC proved pivotal in the British effort to repel damaging attacks by German submarines.

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Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Adam Smith Biography to Spectroscopic binarySONAR - Historical Development Of Sonar, Sonar And Radar, Sonar Technology