Alexander Graham Bell – The Telephone Inventor

Alexander Graham Bell Biography

Alexander Graham Bell (March 3, 1847 – August 2, 1922) was a scientist, inventor, and founder of the Bell telephone company. In addition to his work in telecommunications technology, he also was responsible for important advances in aviation and hydrofoil technology.

Bell was born in Edinburgh, Scotland. He came of a family associated with the teaching of elocution: his grandfather in London, his uncle in Dublin, and his father, Mr. Alexander Melville Bell, in Edinburgh, were all professed elocutionists.

The latter has published a variety of works on the subject, several of which are well known, especially his treatise on Visible Speech, which appeared in Edinburgh in 1868. In this he explains his ingenious method of instructing deaf mutes, by means of their eyesight, how to articulate words, and also how to read what other persons are saying by the motions of their lips. Graham Bell, his distinguished son, was educated at the Royal High School of Edinburgh, from which he graduated at the age of thirteen. At the age of sixteen he secured a position as a pupil-teacher of elocution and music in Weston House Academy, at Elgin in Morayshire. The next year he spent at the University of Edinburgh. From 1866 to 1867 he was an instructor at Somersetshire College at Bath, England. While still in Scotland he is said to have turned his attention to the science of acoustics, with a view to ameliorate the deafness of his mother.

In 1870 he moved with his family to Canada where they settled at Brantford, Ontario. Before he left Scotland, Alexander Graham Bell had turned his attention to telephony, and in Canada he continued an interest in communication machines. He designed a piano which could transmit its music to a distance by means of electricity. In 1873 he accompanied his father to Montreal, Quebec, where he was employed in teaching the system of visible speech. The elder Bell was invited to introduce the system into a large day-school for mutes at Boston, but he declined the post in favour of his son, who soon became famous in the United States for his success in this important work. Alexander Graham Bell published more than one treatise on the subject at Washington, and it is mainly through his efforts that thousands of deaf mutes in America are now able to speak almost, if not quite, as well as persons who are able to hear.

At Boston he continued his researches in the same field, and endeavoured to produce a telephone which would not only send musical notes, but articulate speech. With financing from his American father-in-law, on March 7, 1876, the U.S. Patent Office granted him Patent Number 174,465 covering “the method of, and apparatus for, transmitting vocal or other sounds telegraphically . . . by causing electrical undulations, similar in form to the vibrations of the air accompanying the said vocal or other sound.”, the telephone. (It should be noted that the question of who invented the telephone continues to be debated. It is clear that several people were researching similar devices. However, supporters of Bell claim that his was the first fully working design. After obtaining the patent for the telephone, Bell continued his experiments in communication, which culminated in the invention of the photophone-transmission of sound on a beam of light — a precursor of today’s optical fiber systems. He also worked in medical research and invented techniques for teaching speech to the deaf. The range of Bell’s inventive genius is represented only in part by the 18 patents granted in his name alone and the 12 he shared with his collaborators. These included 14 for the telephone and telegraph, four for the photophone, one for the phonograph, five for aerial vehicles, four for hydroairplanes, and two for a selenium cell. In 1888 he was one of the founding members of the National Geographic Society and became its second president. He was the recipient of many honors. The French Government conferred on him the decoration of the Légion d’honneur (Legion of Honor), the Académie française bestowed on him the Volta Prize of 50,000 Francs, the Royal Society of Arts in London awarded him the Albert medal in 1902, and the University of Würzburg, Bavaria, granted him the Degree of Ph.D.

Bell married Mabel Hubbard on July 11, 1877. He died in Baddeck, Nova Scotia in 1922.

In 2004, Alexander Graham Bell was nominated as one of the top 10 “Greatest Canadians” by viewers of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

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