Chinese musical instruments



From the Little, Brown Book of Anecdotes (ed. Clifton Fadiman):

Whewell, William (1794-1866), British scientist. He was Master of Trinity College, Cambridge, from 1841 and won a considerable philosophical reputation with his History of the Inductive Sciences (1837).

Whewell, well read in many subjects, could speak with authority on any topic of conversation that arose in the Trinity Senior Common Room, to the infuriation of some of his colleagues. Gathering up a number of reference books, including an old encyclopedia, they selected the obscure subject of Chinese musical instruments and studied it assiduously for several days. During the after-dinner conversation the next Sunday, they introduced the topic. Those who knew nothing of the conspiracy were astonished at the unexpected erudition of their colleagues; even Whewell remained silent for a while. Then, turning to one of the conspirators, he remarked, “I gather you have been reading the encyclopedia article on Chinese musical instruments I wrote some years back.”