The Houston Chronicle reports that Joseph Nagyvary, a biochemist at Texas A&M University, thinks he has.
A starter violin costs about $200. A finely crafted modern instrument can run as much as $20,000. But even that’s loose change when compared with a violin made three centuries ago by Antonio Stradivari.
His 600 or so surviving violins can cost upward of $3.5 million.
For more than a century, artists, craftsmen and scientists have sought the secret to the prized instruments’ distinct sound. Dozens have claimed to have solved the mystery, but none has been proved right.
Now, a Texas biochemist, Joseph Nagyvary, says he has scientific proof the long-sought secret is chemistry, not craftsmanship. Specifically, he says, Stradivari treated his violins with chemicals to protect them from wood-eating worms common in northern Italy. Unknowingly, Nagyvary says, the master craftsman gave his violins a chemical noise filter that provided a unique, pleasing sound.