Discovering Lily Pavey’s Musical Typewriter

16/03/2012 | Hayley

If you visit the Science Museum’s small objects collection in the Stores at Blythe House, you’ll discover a rare and fascinating antiquity; Lily Pavey’s musical typewriter.

Although it might look like an ordianry typewriter, the Musicgraph or Musikriter is truly one of a kind. Invented by Lily Pavey and patented in 1961, this typewriter would emit a musical note on the touch of a key, and as if that wasn’t enough, it would also print the corresponding note in the proper place on the paper.

The Musicgraph was an impressive machine, but Pavey’s innovation and initiative was far more impressive. Where others had tried and failed, Pavey studied music, mathematics and mechanics endlessly in order to master the machine. The engineering was so revolutionary at the time that Pavey was the first inventor to receive National Assistance to complete the project.

After she completed the project in 1963, the Musicgraph was put into production and renamed as the Imperial Pavey Musicgraph. This was developed into another typewriter called the Spherigraph, which could be used to add words to the music as well as ballet choreography notation, complex maths and chemistry symbols.

Image credits: Science Museum – Charlotte Connelly, Assistant Curator of Computing and Communication

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