In the course of its evolution, phonetics has utilized both internal and external sources of inspiration. In examining different historical epochs, we discover a multitude of influences which have shaped this discipline, situated at the intersection of linguistics, physics and biology. Scholars of ancient India worked out a surprisingly accurate articulatory classification of Sanskrit sounds, centuries before the same level of progress was achieved in Europe. Their motivation was mainly the need to codify the spoken form of Sanskrit, which was declaimed aloud during religious ceremonies. In ancient Greece, phonetics was viewed through a prism of poetics, metrics and rhetoric, with sounds described by virtue of their perceptual or even aesthetic qualities. Wolfgang von Kempelen, an 18th century polyhistor and charlatan, is considered (and correctly so) to be the pioneer of speech synthesis: he constructed a speaking machine not only in order to triumph over nature, but also to verify his hypotheses concerning the production and acoustic nature of speech sounds. Later, the 19th century saw the introduction of the historical-comparative paradigm, which gave birth to a large number of diachronic observations, throwing light upon phonetic processes of various kinds. The Prague Linguistic School, designated by the epithet 'functional', introduced a novel view of phonetic phenomena, based on constraints of both the language system and its use in the speech community.