Search engine Google’s "Google Doodle" on Monday depicts a man in a white wig playing a large piano, a comiclike illustration of Bartolomeo Cristofori, an Italian creator of musical instruments and the man generally credited with inventing the piano. While the piano is arguably one of the most popular instruments today, Cristofori wasn’t well known in his time, with many believing that the large, heavy instrument was too difficult to play.
“One of his biggest innovations was creating a hammer mechanism that struck the strings on a keyboard to create sound,” Google explained in a blog post Monday. “The use of a hammer made it possible to produce softer or louder sounds depending upon how light or hard a player pressed on the keys.”
Little is known of Cristofori’s early life, but records show he was born May 4, 1655, in Padua in the Republic of Venice. Some believe he served as an apprentice to violin maker Nicolo Amati, based on a census from 1680 that showed someone of the same name residing in Amati’s home in Cremona, a city in northern Italy.
Why did Google opt to put the little-known Italian inventor on its homepage? “The topic was first suggested by the Google team in Italy. I was also astonished I had never heard of him given that he'd had such a large impact on music,” Google Doodler Leon Hong said Monday. “We're always trying to find topics that are educational, fun and surprising -- Cristofori is an ideal topic. Hopefully after the doodle, people will think of Cristofori every time they see a piano.”
Cristofori died in 1731, and the total number of pianos built by the inventor is unknown. Three have survived, all created during the 1720s. One is located at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, another in the Museo Nazionale degli Strumenti Musicali in Rome and the third is at Leipzig University in Germany.