Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville is the first person to record sound. Made in 1859 and 1860, the three recordings are the sound of a tuning fork and two of de Martinville singing. The recordings, as you might imagine, are very scratchy and odd sounding, but they were made decades before Edison invented his recorded audio. The recording was made by a machine scratching squiggles into soot-blackened paper or glass. It was meant as a lab instrument in order to study acoustics, and wasn’t meant to be able to be played back. That is why Edison is credited with the invention of recorded audio, and why scientists have only recently (2008) figured out how to play it back without ruining the recordings.
Here’s the link to hear the recordings. It’s in French, but you can see where to press the play button.
(via Boing Boing)