Boehm (1794-1881), a Bavarian Court musician and
industrial innovator designed completely new types of
flute in 1832 and 1847. Developments of the second design
by French makers, later copied by Americans and Japanese,
formed the basis of the modern flute.
Until 1831 Boehm built and performed on eight-keyed
flutes. But on a visit to London he met others interested
in devising new acoustical models for the flute that
used mechanical means to alter its fingering. He quickly
devised the model shown below, which used interlinked
rod-axles to transmit the motion of fingers to remote
tone holes. This allowed him to break out of the acoustical
framework imposed by the flute's traditional design.
On returning to his workshop in Munich, he built another
conical-bored wooden flute, shown below. This ring-key
or 'conical Boehm' flute began to attract notice when
a few prominent players in Paris (1838) and London (1840)
took it up, but it was also criticised because, with
its new and unfamiliar construction, it sounded to some
people more like a trumpet than a flute.
In 1847 Boehm devised a second model, that replaced
the flute's conical bore with a cylindrical one, and
its wooden tube with one of metal. The metal cylinder
flute was immediately licensed for manufacture, in altered
forms, in Paris and London, though some flutists, particularly
in Germany, thought its tone even less flute-like than
that of the ring-key flute. Partly for this reason,
until the early 20th century the cylindrical Boehm flute
was made in wood more often than in metal.
Another page describes modified Boehm flutes, and
other late 19th-century types.
Chapter 9, 'The Boehm flute', of Ardal Powell's The
Flute (Yale University Press, 2002) contains
more information on this topic.