Henry Liston

Henry Liston (1771-1836) was a Scottish minister and inventor. Born June 30, 1771 he was the oldest son of Robert Liston, minister of Aberdour, Fifeshire. He studied for the ministry and in 1793 became minister to the parish of Ecclesmachan, Linlithgowshire, and was clerk of its presbetery and in 1820 he became conjunct clerk of the synod of Lothian and Tweeddale. He married Margaret Ireland October 21, 1793, and was father to the famous surgeon Robert Liston and David Liston, professor of oriental languages at Edinburgh. Liston died suddenly February 24, 1836 at Merchison Hall, Falkirk.

Liston invented a special pipe organ he called the "Euharmonic Organ." It had a tuning with 58 pitches in the space of an octave for performing music in just intonation and was championed by John Farey, Sr., who also directed attention to instruments developed for similar purposes by David Loeschman and William Hawkes. Liston used a series of pedals to change the pitch assigned to the keys of an ordinary keyboard, changing sharps and flats, as well as raising or lowering pitches by a major comma as required by the key of the music being performed. The first instrument was built in Edinburgh and had a separate pipe for each pitch. The second instrument was built by Flight and Robson in London, and used moveable shaders close to the mouth of the pipes in order to lower their pitch temporarily by one or two commas which reduced its cost and size, and with an improved bellows the system it was the subject of a patent granted to Liston and Charles Broughton July 3, 1810. After introducing the instrument in a session at the builder's showrooms in 1811, Liston published his "Essay on Perfect Intonation" (Edinburgh, 1812) describing its tuning, construction and operation along with a treatise on music theory and 40 pages of music .

Liston also patented an improved plow September 23, 1813, claiming a special shape and an inclined wheel, which was locally used. He wrote the article "Music" for the Edinburgh Encyclopedia, and edited 'Horatii Flacei Opera Selecta' (1819) and the sixth book of Caesar for use in schools.


* "Euharmonic Organ" (1830) Edinburgh Encyclopedia. William Blackwood, Edinburgh.
* "Henry Liston" (1893) Dictionary of National Biography. MacMillan & Co., New York.

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