Bell, Alexander Graham
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Bell, Alexander Graham

Alexander Graham Bell

Born: March 3, 1847
Edinburgh, Scotland

Died: August 2, 1922
Baddeck, Nova Scotia
Inventor and educator

Because of family tradition and upbringing, Alexander Graham Bell was, perhaps, destined to create one of the world's most commonly used inventions today: the telephone. He came from two generations of men who were students of speech and language and a hard-of-hearing mother who was a musician. These influences led him to dedicate his life to science and sound as well as to the education of the deaf.

"It is possible to connect every man's house, office or factory with a central station, so as to give him direct communication with his neighbors."

Teacher of the Deaf

Alexander Graham Bell was born on March 3, 1847, in Edinburgh, Scotland. He was the middle of three sons born to Alexander Melville Bell and Eliza Grace Symonds. Alexander Melville's father, Alexander Bell, had been an actor and later became a speech teacher. Alexander Melville followed in his footsteps and worked for many years as a teacher of elocution, which is the art of speaking correctly and effectively. He also studied the way a person uses his larynx, mouth, tongue, and lips to form sounds. After years of teaching and study, Bell invented Visible Speech, a set of symbols based on the position and action of the throat, tongue, and lips while making sounds. This technique would later be used in the education of the deaf.

Eliza Grace, the daughter of a surgeon in the Royal Navy, was an accomplished pianist despite the fact that she was hearing impaired. She was able to hear some sounds with the use of a speaking tube. She was Alexander Graham's first and most important teacher.

In 1865, the Bell family moved to London where Alexander Melville continued the work begun by his father who had recently died. In London, Alexander Graham became his father's assistant and studied anatomy and physiology at University College. He also began experimenting with the transmission of sounds using his family's piano and tuning forks. But his discoveries would soon be placed on hold. By 1870, both of his brothers had died of tuberculosis, and his father persuaded his family to move to Brantford, Ontario, Canada, where he considered the climate to be better for their health.

Alexander Melville had become well known for his work with Visible Speech, and when he was invited to introduce this technique to Sarah Fuller's School for the Deaf in Boston, he instead sent his partner and son, Alexander Graham. From then on, Alexander Graham Bell dedicated his life to teaching the deaf and developing new instruments for their use. He visited various schools for the deaf in the Boston area, and in 1873, he became professor of vocal physiology and the mechanics of speech. He presented lectures at Boston University and the University of Oxford.

When he was a teenager, Alexander Graham Bell and his older brother made a "speaking machine" that mechanically produced vocal sounds. A local butcher had given them a larynx from a lamb, and the boys made a model of the lamb's vocal organs. They attached levers that moved the organs. When they blew into a tube, it moved the levers which, in turn, made the organs produce sounds like human cries.

Bell also began to take private deaf students. From 1873 until 1876, Bell had the sole responsibility of educating the five-year-old, deaf son of Thomas Sanders in Haverhill, Massachusetts. Sanders would later become treasurer of the Bell Telephone Company. At the same time, Bell met another influential man, Gardiner G. Hubbard, who also had a deaf child and was dedicated to her education. Hubbard later became trustee of the Bell Telephone Company. On July 11, 1877, Bell, a slender, dark-haired young man, married Hubbard's eighteen-year-old daughter, Mabel, who had been deaf since early childhood.

A Man of Inventions

Thomas Sanders and Gardiner Hubbard were so impressed with Bell, they encouraged him to pursue his ideas and continue with his experiments. And they gave him the money to do it. At that time, Bell worked mostly on three kinds of equipment: a phonoautograph, a device that would help a deaf person see a sound; a multiple telegraph, a device that could transmit two or more messages over wire at the same time; and an electric speaking telegraph, or telephone.

All of the experiences he had prior to 1876, led Bell to one of the greatest inventions in history. He had a special ear for pitch and tones, thanks to music lessons with his mother; he had a mind for science like his father and grandfather; and he had knowledge gained from his experiments with the telegraph and other sound-producing devices. Bell developed a basic concept for the phone and worked diligently for over a year to get it to work. Finally, he discovered that he could reproduce the tone and overtones of the human voice through a wire.

Bell gave the plans to build the first telephone to his assistant, Thomas A. Watson (1854-1934), and on March 10, 1876, they used the phone to communicate for the first time. Two months later, Bell introduced the telephone to the scientific world at the Academy of Arts and Sciences in Boston. By July 1877, the Bell Telephone Company was formed and the first telephone was installed in a private home.

Bell continued experimenting with communication equipment and developed many noteworthy devices including the photophone, a device that transmits sound on a beam of light. The photophone was the predecessor of today's optical fiber systems. He also worked on an audiometer, an instrument used to measure how well a person hears, and the first successful phonograph record.

Beginning in 1895, Bell's scientific interests moved into the area of aviation. He worked with a friend, Samuel P. Langley, on things like gunpowder rockets and the rotating blades of helicopters. Bell eventually received five patents for aerial vehicles and four for a system called hydrodynamics, which propels a vehicle by skimming the surface of water.

After the Phone

Bell, his wife, and two daughters moved from Boston to Washington, D.C., in 1882, where he became a United States citizen. By this time, he had become a stout man with a full, gray beard, reminiscent of Santa Claus. And, just like Santa, his benevolent acts continued throughout his lifetime.

Patricia F. Russo: Lucent's New Leader

Taking over a failing company is not a job many want. After losing $16 million and 90 percent of its stock value, one of Lucent's goals for 2002 was to find a leader who would help them at least break even. The company found just the person to fill the job: Patricia F. Russo

Russo was born in New Jersey, one of seven children. "In a big family, everyone pitches in," she said in a 2002 Wall Street journal interview. She attended college at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., completed the Advanced Management Program at Harvard University, and received an Honorary Doctorate in Entrepreneurial Studies from Columbia College in South Carolina.

Russo began her business career in sales and marketing at IBM, one of the leading technology companies in the world. Although she majored in political science and history, not computer science, she was able to successfully sell mainframes and other computer equipment. At the time, she was one of only a few women who held this type of job. In 1981, she joined AT&T as a manager, and from 1992 through 1996, she was president of AT&T's Business Communications Systems division.

In 1996, Russo was one of the founding executives who helped launch Lucent Technologies. She remained at Lucent for the next five years. From 2001 to 2002, Russo was president and chief operating officer (COO) of Eastman Kodak Company (see entry). She returned to Lucent in January 2002, as president and CEO.

After it was announced that Russo would fill the job as leader of Lucent, she said that she would focus on employee morale and building customer relationships. In a 2002 Wall Street journal article, the authors said, "The fact that Ms. Russo has played golf since she was a teenager probably doesn't hurt her sales pitch. Nor does the fact that she knows her customers extremely well." Russo was named one of the "50 Most Powerful Women in American Business" by Fortune magazine in 1998, 1999, and 2001.

He was partly responsible for ensuring the advancement of science and Bell continued research to benefit the deaf. He helped develop the journal Science in 1880, became president of the American Association for the Promotion of the Teaching of Speech to the Deaf in 1890, joined the board of the Smithsonian Institution in 1898, served as president of the National Geographic Society from 1898 to 1903, succeeding his father-in-law, Gardiner Hubbard, who was founder of the society, and organized the Aerial Experiment Association in 1907.

During most of his later years, Bell and his family spent increasingly more time at a Baddeck, Nova Scotia, summer home they had purchased in 1886. Eventually they lived there year-round. Bell continued his work, often working and studying past midnight, enjoying the solitude of the quiet hours when everyone else was asleep. He died there at the age of seventy-five.

Alexander Graham Bell will always be remembered as the inventor of the telephone. But his life and works reached far beyond that. For his two daughters, nine grandchildren, and the countless numbers of deaf and hearing children who crossed his path, perhaps he was also remembered as a kind soul and a good teacher.

For More Information

Books

Adams, Stephen B., and Orville R. Butler. Manufacturing the Future: A History of Western Electric. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1999.

Grosvenor, Edwin S., and Morgan Wesson. Alexander Graham Bell: The Life and Times of the Man Who Invented the Telephone. New York: Harry Abrams, Inc., 1997.

Periodicals

Berman, Dennis K., and Joann S. Lublin. "Russo's Goal as Lucent's New Chief: Restore Luster." The Wall Street Journal (January 8, 2002): pBl.

Bruce, Robert V., and Ira Block. "Alexander Graham Bell." National Geographic (September 1988): p. 358.

Chang, Kenneth. "The Precursor to Tiniest Chip is Developed." New York Times (October 18, 2001): p. A22.

Peraino, Kevin. "An Earlier ATT Spinoff Sputters: Once a High Flier, Lucent Hits a Downdraft." Newsweek (November 6, 2000): p 53.

"Telecom: $3-billion Stock Offering, Part of Plan to Split AT&T, Gives Equipment Firm a Value of About $15 million." Los Angeles Times (April 4, 1996): p. D-1.

"Telephones in the United States." Popular Mechanics (March 2002): pS6.

Web Sites

"The Alexander Graham Bell Family Papers in the Library of Congress 1862-1939" [On-line] http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/bellhtml/bellhome.html (accessed on August 15, 2002).

AT&T. [On-line] http://www.att.com (accessed on August 15, 2002).

Lucent Technologies. [On-line] http://www.lucent.com (accessed on August 15, 2002).

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Bell, Alexander Graham

Alexander Graham Bell

Born: March 3, 1847
Edinburgh, Scotland
Died: August 2, 1922
Baddeck, Nova Scotia, Canada

Scottish-born American inventor

Alexander Graham Bell, Scottish-born American inventor and teacher of the deaf, is best known for perfecting the telephone to transmit, or send, vocal messages using electricity. The telephone began a new age in communications technology.

The young man

Alexander Graham Bell was born on March 3, 1847, in Edinburgh, Scotland. His father, Alexander Melville Bell, was an expert on the mechanics of the voice and on elocution (the art of public speaking). His grandfather, Alexander Bell, was an elocution professor. Bell's mother, Eliza, was hard of hearing but became an accomplished pianist (as well as a painter), and Bell took an interest in music. Eliza taught Alexander, who was the middle of three brothers, until he was ten years old. When he was a youth he took a challenge from a mill operator and created a machine that removed the husks from grain. He would later call it his first invention.

After studying at the University of Edinburgh and University College, London, England, Bell became his father's assistant. He taught the deaf to talk by adopting his father's system of visible speech (illustrations of speaking positions of the lips and tongue). In London he studied Hermann Ludwig von Helmholtz's (18211894) experiments with tuning forks and magnets to produce complex sounds. In 1865 Bell made scientific studies of the resonance (vibration) of the mouth while speaking.

Both of Bell's brothers had died of tuberculosis (a fatal disease that attacks the lungs). In 1870 his parents, in search of a healthier climate, convinced him to move with them to Brantford, Ontario, Canada. In 1871 he went to Boston, Massachusetts, to teach at Sarah Fuller's School for the Deaf, the first such school in the world. He also tutored private students, including Helen Keller (18801968). As professor of voice and speech at Boston University in 1873, he initiated conventions for teachers of the deaf. Throughout his life he continued to educate the deaf, and he founded the American Association to Promote the Teaching of Speech to the Deaf.

Inventing the telephone

From 1873 to 1876 Bell experimented with many inventions, including an electric speaking telegraph (the telephone). The funds came from the fathers of two of his students. One of these men, Gardiner Hubbard, had a deaf daughter, Mabel, who later became Bell's wife.

To help deaf children, Bell experimented in the summer of 1874 with a human ear and attached bones, magnets, smoked glass, and other things. He conceived the theory of the telephone: that an electric current can be made to change its force just as the pressure of air varies during sound production. That same year he invented a telegraph that could send several messages at once over one wire, as well as a telephonic-telegraphic receiver.

Bell supplied the ideas; Thomas Watson created the equipment. Working with tuned reeds and magnets to make a receiving instrument and sender work together, they transmitted a musical note on June 2, 1875. Bell's telephone receiver and transmitter were identical: a thin disk in front of an electromagnet (a magnet created by an electric current).

On February 14, 1876, Bell's attorney filed for a patent, or a document guaranteeing a person the right to make and sell an invention for a set number of years. The exact hour was not recorded, but on that same day Elisha Gray (18351901) filed his caveat (intention to invent) for a telephone. The U.S. Patent Office granted Bell the patent for the "electric speaking telephone" on March 7. It was the most valuable single patent ever issued. It opened a new age in communications technology.

Bell continued his experiments to improve the telephone's quality. By accident, Bell sent the first sentence, "Watson, come here; I want you," on March 10, 1876. The first public demonstration occurred at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences convention in Boston two months later. Bell's display at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition a month later gained more publicity. Emperor Dom Pedro of Brazil (18251891) ordered one hundred telephones for his country. The telephone, which had been given only eighteen words in the official catalog of the exposition, suddenly became the "star" attraction.

Establishing an industry

Repeated demonstrations overcame public doubts. The first two-way outdoor conversation was between Boston and Cambridge, Massachusetts, by Bell and Watson on October 9, 1876. In 1877 the first telephone was installed in a private home; a conversation took place between Boston and New York using telegraph lines; in May the first switchboard (a central machine used to connect different telephone lines), devised by E. T. Holmes in Boston, was a burglar alarm connecting five banks; and in July the first organization to make the telephone a commercial venture, the Bell Telephone Company, was formed. That year, while on his honeymoon, Bell introduced the telephone to England and France.

The first commercial switchboard was set up in New Haven, Connecticut, in 1878, the same year Bell's New England Telephone Company was organized. Charles Scribner improved switchboards, with more than five hundred inventions. Thomas Cornish, a Philadelphia electrician, had a switchboard for eight customers and published a one-page telephone directory in 1878.

Questioning Bell's patent

Other inventors had been at work between 1867 and 1873. Professor Elisha Gray (of Oberlin College in Ohio) invented an "automatic self-adjusting telegraph relay," installed it in hotels, and made telegraph printers. He also tried to perfect a speaking telephone from his multiple-current telegraph. The Gray and Batton Manufacturing Company of Chicago developed into the Western Electric Company.

Another competitor was Professor Amos E. Dolbear, who insisted that Bell's telephone was only an improvement on an 1860 invention by Johann Reis, a German who had experimented with pigs' ears and may have made a telephone. Dolbear's own instrument could transmit tones but not voice quality.

In 1879 Western Union, with its American Speaking Telephone Company, ignored Bell's patents and hired Thomas Edison (18471931), along with Dolbear and Gray, as inventors and improvers. Later that year Bell and Western Union formed a joint company, with the latter getting 20 percent for providing wires, equipment, and the like. Theodore Vail, organizer of Bell Telephone Company, combined six companies in 1881. The modern transmitter was born mainly in the work of Emile Berliner and Edison in 1877 and Francis Blake in 1878. Blake's transmitter was later sold to Bell.

The claims of other inventors were contested. Daniel Drawbaugh, who was from rural Pennsylvania and had little formal schooling, almost won a legal battle with Bell in 1884 but was defeated by a four-to-three vote in the Supreme Court (the highest court in the United States). This claim made for the most exciting lawsuit over telephone patents. Altogether the Bell Company was involved in 587 lawsuits, of which five went to the Supreme Court. Bell won every case. The defending argument for Bell was that no competitor had claimed to be original until seventeen months after Bell's patent. Also, at the 1876 Philadelphia Exposition, major electrical scientists, especially Lord Kelvin (18241907), the world's leading authority, had declared Bell's invention to be "new." Professors, scientists, and researchers defended Bell, pointing to his lifelong study of the ear and his books and lectures on speech mechanics.

The Bell Company

The Bell Company built the first long-distance line in 1884, connecting Boston and New York. Bell and others organized The American Telephone and Telegraph Company in 1885 to operate other long-distance lines. By 1889 there were 11,000 miles of underground wires in New York City.

The Volta Laboratory was started by Bell in Washington, D.C., with France awarding the Volta Prize money (about $10,000) for his invention. At the laboratory Bell and his associates worked on various projects during the 1880s, including the photophone, induction balance, audiometer, and phonograph improvements. The photophone transmitted speech by light. The induction balance (electric probe) located metal in the body. The audiometer, used to test a person's hearing, indicated Bell's continued interest in deafness. The first successful phonograph record was produced. The Columbia Gramophone Company made profitable Bell's phonograph records. With the profits Bell established an organization in Washington to study deafness.

Bell's later interests

Bell was also involved in other activities that took much of his time. The magazine Science (later the official publication of the American Association for the Advancement of Science) was founded in 1880 because of Bell's efforts. He made many addresses and published many papers. As National Geographic Society president from 1896 to 1904, he contributed to the success of the society and its publications. In 1898 he became a member of a governing board of the Smithsonian Institution. He was also involved in sheep breeding, hydrodynamics (the study of the forces of fluids, such as water), and projects related to aviation, or the development and design of airplanes.

Aviation was Bell's primary interest after 1895. He aided physicist and astronomer Samuel Langley (18341906), who experimented with heavier-than-air flying machines; invented a special kite (1903); and founded the Aerial Experiment Association (1907), bringing together aviator and inventor Glenn Curtiss (18781930), Francis Baldwin, and others. Curtiss provided the motor for Bell's man-carrying kite in 1907.

Bell died in Baddeck, Nova Scotia, Canada, on August 2, 1922. His contribution to the modern world and its technologies was enormous.

For More Information

Grosvenor, Edwin S., and Morgan Wesson. Alexander Graham Bell. New York: Harry Abrams, 1997.

Mackay, James A. Alexander Graham Bell: A Life. New York: J. Wiley, 1998.

Weaver, Robyn M. Alexander Graham Bell. San Diego: Lucent, 2000.

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Alexander Graham Bell

Alexander Graham Bell

Scottish-born American inventor and teacher of the deaf, Alexander Graham Bell (1847-1922) is best known for perfecting the telephone to transmit vocal messages by electricity. The telephone inaugurated a new age in communication technology.

Alexander Graham Bell was born on March 3, 1847, in Edinburgh. His father, Alexander Melville Bell, was an expert in vocal physiology and elocution; his grandfather, Alexander Bell, was an elocution professor.

After studying at the University of Edinburgh and University College, London, Bell became his father's assistant. He taught the deaf to talk by adopting his father's system of visible speech (illustrations of speaking positions of the lips and tongue). In London he studied Hermann Ludwig von Helmholtz's experiments with tuning forks and magnets to produce complex sounds. In 1865 Bell made scientific studies of the resonance of the mouth while speaking.

In 1870 the Bells moved to Brantford, Ontario, Canada, to preserve Alexander's health. He went to Boston in 1871 to teach at Sarah Fuller's School for the Deaf, the first such school in the world. He also tutored private students, including Helen Keller. As professor of vocal physiology and speech at Boston University in 1873, he initiated conventions for teachers of the deaf. Throughout his life he continued to educate the deaf, and he founded the American Association to Promote the Teaching of Speech to the Deaf.

From 1873 to 1876 Bell experimented with a phonautograph, a multiple telegraph, and an electric speaking telegraph (the telephone). Funds came from the fathers of two of his pupils; one of these men, Gardiner Hubbard, had a deaf daughter, Mabel, who later became Bell's wife.

Inventing the Telephone

To help deaf children, Bell experimented in the summer of 1874 with a human ear and attached bones, a tympanum, magnets, and smoked glass. He conceived the theory of the telephone: an electric current can be made to change intensity precisely as air density varies during sound production. Unlike the telegraph's use of intermittent current, the telephone requires continuous current with varying intensity. That same year he invented a harmonic telegraph, to transmit several messages simultaneously over one wire, and a telephonic-telegraphic receiver. Trying to reproduce the human voice electrically, he became expert with electric wave transmission.

Bell supplied the ideas; Thomas Watson made and assembled the equipment. Working with tuned reeds and magnets to synchronize a receiving instrument with a sender, they transmitted a musical note on June 2, 1875. Bell's telephone receiver and transmitter were identical: a thin disk in front of an electromagnet.

On Feb. 14, 1876, Bell's attorney filed for a patent. The exact hour was not recorded, but on that same day Elisha Gray filed his caveat (intention to invent) for a telephone. The U.S. Patent Office granted Bell the patent for the "electric speaking telephone" on March 7. It was the most valuable single patent ever issued, and it opened a new age in communication technology.

Bell continued his experiments to improve the telephone's quality. By accident, Bell sent the first sentence, "Watson, come here; I want you, " on March 10, 1876. The first demonstration occurred at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences convention in Boston 2 months later. Bell's display at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition a month later gained more publicity, and Emperor Dom Pedro of Brazil ordered 100 telephones for his country. The telephone, accorded only 18 words in the official catalog of the exposition, suddenly became the "star" attraction.

Establishing an Industry

Repeated demonstrations overcame public skepticism. The first reciprocal outdoor conversation was between Boston and Cambridge, Mass., by Bell and Watson on Oct. 9, 1876. In 1877 the first telephone was installed in a private home; a conversation was conducted between Boston and New York, using telegraph lines; in May, the first switchboard, devised by E. T. Holmes in Boston, was a burglar alarm connecting five banks; and in July the first organization to commercialize the invention, the Bell Telephone Company, was formed. That year, while on his honeymoon, Bell introduced the telephone to England and France.

The first commercial switchboard was set up in New Haven, Conn., in 1878, and Bell's first subsidiary, the New England Telephone Company, was organized that year. Switchboards were improved by Charles Scribner, with more than 500 inventions. Thomas Cornish, a Philadelphia electrician, had a switchboard for eight customers and published a one-page directory in 1878.

Contesting Bell's Patent

Other inventors had been at work. Between 1867 and 1873 Professor Elisha Gray (of Oberlin College) invented an "automatic self-adjusting telegraph relay, " installed it in hotels, and made telegraph printers and repeaters. He tried to perfect a speaking telephone from his harmonic (multiple-current) telegraph. The Gray and Batton Manufacturing Company of Chicago developed into the Western Electric Company.

Another competitor was Professor Amos E. Dolbear, who insisted that Bell's telephone was only an improvement on an 1860 invention by Johann Reis, a German, who had experimented with pigs' ear membranes and may have made a telephone. Dolbear's own instrument, operating by "make and break" current, could transmit pitch but not voice quality.

In 1879 Western Union, with its American Speaking Telephone Company, ignored Bell's patents and hired Thomas Edison, along with Dolbear and Gray, as inventors and improvers. Later that year Bell and Western Union formed a joint company, with the latter getting 20 percent for providing wires, circuits, and equipment. Theodore Vail, organizer of Bell Telephone Company, consolidated six companies in 1881. The modern transmitter evolved mainly from the work of Emile Berliner and Edison in 1877 and Francis Blake in 1878. Blake's transmitter was later sold to Bell for stock.

The claims of other inventors were contested. Daniel Drawbaugh, from rural Pennsylvania, with little formal schooling, almost won a legal battle with Bell in 1884 but was defeated by a 4 to 3 vote in the Supreme Court. The claim by this "Edison of the Cumberland Valley" was the most exciting (and futile) litigation over telephone patents. Altogether, the Bell Company was involved in 587 lawsuits, of which 5 went to the Supreme Court; Bell won every case. A convincing argument was that no competitor claimed originality until 17 months after Bell's patent. Also, at the 1876 Philadelphia Exposition, eminent electrical scientists, especially Lord Kelvin, the world's foremost authority, had declared it to be "new." Professors, scientists, and researchers defended Bell, pointing to his lifelong study of the ear and his books and lectures on speech mechanics.

The Bell Company

The Bell Company built the first long-distance line in 1884, connecting Boston and New York. The American Telephone and Telegraph Company was organized by Bell and others in 1885 to operate other long-distance lines. By 1889, when insulation was perfected, there were 11, 000 miles of underground wires in New York City.

The Volta Laboratory was started by Bell in Washington, D.C., with the Volta Prize money (50, 000 francs, about $10, 000) awarded by France for his invention. At the laboratory he and associates worked on various projects during the 1880s, including the photophone, induction balance, audiometer, and phonograph improvements. The photophone transmitted speech by light, using a primitive photoelectric cell. The induction balance (electric probe) located metal in the body. The audiometer indicated Bell's continued interest in deafness. The first successful phonograph record, a shellac cylinder, as well as wax disks and cylinders, was produced. The Columbia Gramophone Company exploited Bell's phonograph records. With the profits Bell established the Volta Bureau in Washington to study deafness.

Bell's Later Interests

Other activities took much time. The magazine Science (later the official organ of the American Association for the Advancement of Science) was founded in 1880 because of Bell's efforts. He made numerous addresses and published many monographs. As National Geographic Society president from 1896 to 1904, he fostered the success of the society and its publications. In 1898 he became a regent of the Smithsonian Institution. He was also involved in sheep breeding, hydrodynamics, and aviation projects.

Aviation was Bell's primary interest after 1895. He aided Samuel Langley, invented the tetrahedral kite (1903), and founded the Aerial Experiment Association (1907), bringing together Glenn Curtiss, Francis Baldwin, and others. They devised the aileron control principle (which replaced "wing warping"), developed the hydroplane, and solved balance problems in flying machines. Curtiss furnished the motor for Bell's man-carrying kite in 1907.

Bell died at Baddeck, Nova Scotia, on Aug. 2, 1922.

Further Reading

Catherine D. MacKenzie, Alexander Graham Bell (1928), is interesting and contains much personal information. Thomas Bertram Costain, Chord of Steel (1960), a recent history of the telephone, discusses Bell at length. Herbert Casson, The History of the Telephone (1910), is still useful for the early story. See also Arthur Pound, The Telephone Idea: Fifty Years After (1926), and Frederick Leland Rhodes, Beginnings of Telephony (1929). For the story of Bell's persistent rival see Warren J. Harder, Daniel Drawbaugh (1960). □

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Bell, Alexander Graham

BELL, ALEXANDER GRAHAM


In 1876 Alexander Graham Bell (18471922), at age twenty-nine, invented the telephone. A year later he founded the Bell Telephone Company, which later became the American Telephone and Telegraph Company (AT&T). Throughout the remainder of his long and productive life, Bell continued his work as an inventor, eventually securing eighteen patents in his name. In addition he maintained a lifelong commitment to the education of the deaf.

Bell was born in 1847 Edinburgh, Scotland, to a family of eminent speech educators and musicians. His father, Alexander Melville Bell, taught speech to the deaf and the mute and wrote textbooks on correct speech. Bell's mother was a portrait painter and an accomplished musician. Bell received his early education at home and graduated at age fourteen from the Royal High School, Edinburgh. He then enrolled as a student teacher at Weston House, a nearby boys' school, where he taught music and speech and in turn received instruction in other subjects. Bell also studied briefly at Edinburgh University. In his late teens, Bell worked as an assistant to his father, promoting "visible" speech, a system developed by his father that shows the articulation of sound on the lips, tongue, and throat. Bell became deeply interested in the study of sound, especially as it affects hearing and speech, and he followed this interest throughout his life.

When young Bell's two brothers died of tuberculosis, their father took the family to the healthier climate of Ontario, Canada, in 1870. Bell soon moved to Boston, Massachusetts, and in 1872 opened his own school for training teachers of the deaf. In 1873 he became a professor of vocal physiology at Boston University.

Bell's interest in speech and communication led him to investigate the transmission of sound over wires. Backed financially in his investigations by Gardiner Hubbard and Thomas Sanders, grateful fathers of two of his deaf pupils, he experimented with developing the harmonic telegraph, a device that could send multiple messages at the same time over a single wire. Using vibrating membranes and an actual human ear in his tests, Bell also investigated the possibility of transmitting the human voice by wire.

Early in 1874 Bell met Thomas A. Watson (18541934), a young machinist and technician with expertise in electrical engineering. Watson became Bell's indispensable assistant and the two spent endless hours together experimenting with transmitting sound. In the summer of 1874 Bell developed the basic concept of the telephone using a varying but unbroken electric current to transmit the sound waves of human speech. However, at the urging of his financial backers, who were more interested in the potential of the harmonic telegraph, Bell did not pursue the idea for several months. He resumed work on the telephone in 1875 and by September began to write the required patent specifications.

Bell's patent, U.S. Patent No. 174,465, was granted on March 7, 1876, and on March 10, the first message transmitted by telephone passed from Bell to Watson in their workshop: "Mr. Watson, come here, I want you!" After a year of refining the new device Watson and Bell, along with their two backers Hubbard and Sanders, formed the Bell Telephone Company in 1877. Soon afterwards Bell married Mabel Hubbard, his former speech student and daughter of his new partner, and sailed to England for a yearlong honeymoon.

Bell's claim to have invented the telephone was challenged in more than 600 lawsuits. The courts eventually upheld Bell's patent, and the Bell Company's principal competitor, Western Union Telegraph, agreed to stay out of the telephone business. The Bell Company, in turn, stayed away from the telegraph. In 1878, with the sale of the Bell Company to a group of investors, Bell's financial future was secure and he could devote the rest of his life to his work as an inventor. Bell won France's Volta Prize for his telephone invention and received 50,000 francs in prize money. With this reward he established the Volta Laboratory in Washington, D.C., primarily for research on deafness. Among the new devices he and his fellow scientists at the laboratory invented were the graphophone, a device for recording sound on wax cylinders or disks (an advance that made Thomas Edison's (18471931) phonograph commercially viable); the photophone, used for transmitting speech on a beam of light; a telephone probe, used in surgery until the discovery of the X-ray; an audiometer; and an induction balance for detecting metal within the human body.

Working with collaborators at the Volta Laboratory and at another scientific facility he established near Baddeck, Nova Scotia, Bell invented a prototype air conditioning system, an improved strain of sheep, an early iron lung, solar distillation of water, and the sonar detection of icebergs. The possibility of flight fascinated Bell. He built tetrahedral kites capable of carrying a human being and supported pioneering experiments in aviation. He also designed a hydrofoil boat that set the world water speed record in 1918.

Bell retained his dual interests in education of the deaf and invention throughout his later life. He became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1882 and established several organizations to support teaching of the deaf, including the American Association to Promote the Teaching of Speech to the Deaf in 1890, later known as the Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf. He was also influential in the founding of Science magazine and the National Geographic Society. Bell died in 1922.

See also: American Telephone and Telegraph

FURTHER READING

Mackay, James A. Alexander Graham Bell: A Life. New York: J. Wiley, 1997.

Grosvenor, Edwin S. Alexander Graham Bell: The Life and Times of the Man who Invented the Telephone. New York: Harry Abrams, 1997.

Bruce, Robert V. Bell: Alexander Graham Bell and the Conquest of Solitude. Boston: Little, Brown, 1973.

Costain, Thomas B. The Chord of Steel: The Story of the Invention of the Telephone. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1960.

"The Papers of Alexander Graham Bell: An Introduction," [cited March 3, 1999] available from the World Wide Web @ memory.loc.gov/ammem/atthtml/bell_ms.html

mr. watson, come here, i want you!

alexander graham bell, first words spoken on the telephone, march 10, 1876

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Bell, Alexander Graham

Bell, Alexander Graham

American Inventor
18471922

Alexander Graham Bell, best known as the inventor of the telephone, was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, on March 3, 1847. When he died in Baddeck, Nova Scotia, Canada, on August 2, 1922, he was considered one of the most successful inventors of his time.

Bell's interest in communication was stimulated by unique family circumstances. Both his grandfather and father were accomplished speech experts. Many believe Bell's father was the inspiration for Professor Henry Higgins in the 1964 movie My Fair Lady. Having a hearing-impaired mother also made Bell conscious of the challenges of being deaf. In 1868 he began using his father's models of visible speech to teach deaf students phonetics, a career he resumed after emigrating with his family from Scotland to Brantford, Ontario, Canada, in 1870.

The following year he moved to Boston, Massachusetts, and taught at the Boston School for Deaf Mutes (later called the Horace Mann School). Teaching private students supplemented his income. One of these hearing-impaired students, Mabel Hubbard, later became his wife. Bell's passion for helping the disabled, particularly the sight- and hearing-impaired, remained with him throughout his life.

Although Bell experimented throughout his childhood, it was not until he moved to Boston that his interests in inventing became serious. There he decided to work on developing the multiple telegraph, which would allow several telegraphs to be sent over the same line simultaneously instead of one at a time. He received that patent in 1875. He also became fascinated with the concept of sending varying pitches, mimicking the human voice, over a wire via undulating electrical impulses, then reconstructing the pitches at the other end of the wire. After years of experimenting, he and his assistant, Thomas A. Watson, met with success. Bell's patent application for the telephone was submitted only hours before a rival, Elisha Gray, submitted his version.

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In July 1877, the Bell Telephone Company was founded. The shares were divided between Bell, Watson, and two other men. As a wedding gift, Bell gave his wife, Mabel, 5,015 shares of Bell Telephone Company, keeping only ten shares for himself. Bell Telephone rapidly expanded throughout the world. While these shares provided Bell with financial security, they made his wife quite wealthy. During Bell's lifetime, Mabel repeatedly provided grants to fund his research.

The photophone, which Bell invented in 1880, worked like a telephone but used light beams instead of wire. Bell considered it one of his greatest inventions. Although the photophone's success was limited because of the lack of technology at that time, Bell's invention used the same principles as modern fiber optic telecommunications.

While living in Mabel's hometown of Washington, D.C. in 1882, Bell became an American citizen. Later he built a second home in Baddeck and called it Beinn Bhreagh. Much of his inventing was completed there.

After winning the Volta prize of France for the telephone, Bell invested the award money in the creation of the Volta Labs at Beinn Bhreagh. This lab produced the flat-disk record and a floating stylus to improve upon Thomas Edison's phonograph. With earnings from those patents, Bell established the Volta Bureau in 1908, which was dedicated to advancing knowledge of the deaf. He also established the American Association for the Promotion of the Teaching of Speech to the Deaf and continued being instrumental in assisting many deaf children, including Helen Keller, to overcome their disabilities.

Bell also became interested in screening children for hearing impairment. After developing the audiometer, he was honored for his accomplishments in that field with the term used for measuring the level of audible sound: the decibel.

Bell's interests were not confined to matters of speech. His father-in-law, Gardiner Hubbard, was a founding member and the first president of the National Geographic Society. When Hubbard died in 1897, Bell accepted the presidency of the society. He then underwrote the hiring of his future son-in-law to edit the association's monthly publication. Bell influenced many trademark features of the society, including the formation of grants for research expeditions. He also encouraged the inclusion of dynamic multiple-color photographs in National Geographic Magazine.

Bell also nurtured a fascination with flight. At Beinn Bhreagh, he experimented with kites and eventually developed and patented the tetrahedron, a four-sided triangle used in his aerial experiments. With Mabel's sponsorship, he formed the Aerial Experiment Association (AEA) with four other men. From 1908 to 1909, after the Wright Brothers flew the first airplane, Bell and his associates built four airplanes. With those machines, the AEA gained patents for improving airplane designs. The AEA then sought to build a craft that could take off and land on water. In 1918 this led to the patent for the fastest watercraft of its time, the hydrofoil HD4, which reached speeds of 114 kilometers (71 miles) per hour.

In tribute to Bell's life and accomplishments, telephones across the United States were silenced for one minute during his funeral in Baddeck in 1922.

see also Bell Labs; Internet; Telecommunications.

Mary McIver Puthawala

Bibliography

Bruce, Robert V. Alexander Graham Bell and the Conquest of Solitude. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1990.

Matthews, Tom L. Always Inventing. Washington D.C.: National Geographic Society, 1999.

Pasachoff, Naomi. Alexander Graham Bell: Making Connections. Oxford: Oxford Press, 1996.

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Bell, Alexander Graham

Bell, Alexander Graham

(b. Edinburgh, Scotland, 3 March 1847; d, Baddeck, Nova Scotia, 2 August 1922)

technology.

Both Bell’s grandfather, Alexander, and his father, Alexander Melville, were teachers of elocution; his father was well known as the inventor of Visible Speech (a written code indicating the position and action of throat, tongue, and lips in forming sounds). Bell had a lifelong interest in teaching the deaf to speak, an interest intensified because his mother and his wife were deaf. In 1870, after the second of Bell’s two brothers died of tuberculosis, the family moved to Canada. Bell did his early telephone work in Boston and subsequently moved to Washington. He became a citizen of the United States in 1882.

Bell achieved fame as inventor of the telephone and fortune under a broad interpretation given to the patent granted him 10 March 1876. His early experimental work was spurred on by a persistent belief in its ultimate commercial value, and enthusiasm unshared by his predecessor Philip Reis and his contemporary Elisha Gray. Although the telephone is not properly called a scientific invention (Bell’s knowledge of electricity at the time was extremely limited), a fair proportion of the wealth he received from it was used by Bell to pursue scientific researches of his own and to support those of others.

His interest in the deaf led Bell to publish several articles on hereditary deafness. This in turn led to studies on longevity and a long-term series of experiments in which he attempted to develop a breed of sheep with more than the usual two nipples. In 1909, after twenty years of selection, he had a flock consisting solely of six-nippled sheep. He found, as he had suspected, that twin production increased with the number of nipples. Bell made a number of suggestions on the medical use of electricity but performed few experiments himself. His approach to these areas was as an amateur, although one with an active, inquiring mind.

Bell’s financial support of science took several forms. In 1880 he used the 50,000 francs of the Volta Prize to establish the Volta Laboratory Association (later the Volta Bureau), largely devoted to work for the deaf, in Washington. In 1882 he conceived the idea of the journal Science, which began publication in 1883. In the first eight years of its existence, Bell and his father-in-law, G.G. Hubbard, subsidized this journal to the amount of about $100,000. To allay S.P. Langley’s concern that his post as secretary of the Smithsonian Institution would be merely administrative, Bell and J.H. Kidder each gave $5,000 for Langley’s personal research; this money was used in the establishment of the Smithsonian’s astrophysical observatory. In 1891 Bell gave $5,000 to support Langley’s flight experiments. He himself experimented with kites, and in 1907 he organized the Aerial Experimental Association, which lasted for a year and a half and was financed by his wife. Bell also helped to organize and finance the National Geographic Society, serving as its president from 1898 to 1903.

Bell was elected to membership in the National Academy of Sciences in 1883 and was appointed a regent of the Smithsonian Institution in 1898.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

I. Original Works. A complete list of Bell’s publications is given in Osborne’s article (see below). His notebooks, letters, and other documentary material are nicely housed by the Bell family at the National Geographic Society; some of these have been reproduced on microfilm and are available at the Library of Congress and the Bell Telephone Company of Canada, Montreal. Bell’s court testimony dealing with the telephone appears in The Bell Telephone (Boston, 1908). Most of the surviving pieces of apparatus are preserved at the Smithsonian Institution.

II. Secondary Literature. No satisfactory biography of Bell exists. Basic details can be found in W.C. Langdon’s article on Bell, in Dictionary of American Biography, II, 148–152; C.D. Mackenzie, Alexander Graham Bell, the Man Who Contracted Space (New York, 1928); and H.S. Osborne. “Alexander Graham Bell,” in National Academy of Sciences, Biographical Memoirs, 23 (1945), 1–30. Part of the experimental telephone work is analyzed in B.S. Finn, “Alexander Graham Bell’s Experiments With the Variable-Resistance Transmitter,” in Smithsonian Journal of History, 1 , no. 4 (1966), 1–16.

Bernard S. Finn

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Bell, Alexander Graham

Alexander Graham Bell, 1847–1922, American scientist, inventor of the telephone, b. Edinburgh, Scotland, educated at the Univ. of Edinburgh and University College, London; son of Alexander Melville Bell. He worked in London with his father, whose system of visible speech he used in teaching the deaf to talk. In 1870 he went to Canada, and in 1871 he lectured, chiefly to teachers of the deaf, in Boston and other cities. During the next few years he conducted his own school of vocal physiology in Boston, lectured at Boston Univ., and worked on his inventions. His teaching methods were of lasting value in the improvement of education for the deaf.

As early as 1865, Bell conceived the idea of transmitting speech by electric waves. In 1875, while he was experimenting with a multiple harmonic telegraph, the principle of transmission and reproduction came to him. By Mar. 10, 1876, his apparatus was so far developed that the first complete sentence transmitted, "Watson, come here; I want you," was distinctly heard by his assistant. The first demonstration took place before the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in Boston on May 10, 1876, and a more significant one, at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition the same year, introduced the telephone to the world. The Bell Telephone Company was organized in July, 1877. A long period of patent litigation followed in which Bell's claims were completely upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.

With the 50,000 francs awarded him as the Volta Prize for his invention, he established in Washington, D.C., the Volta Laboratory, where the first successful sound recorder, the Graphophone, was produced. Bell invented the photophone, which transmitted speech by light rays; the audiometer, another invention for the deaf; the induction balance, used to locate metallic objects in the human body; and the flat and the cylindrical wax recorders for phonographs. He investigated the nature and causes of deafness and made an elaborate study of its heredity.

In 1880 the magazine Science, which became the official organ for the American Association for the Advancement of Science, was founded largely through his influence. Bell was president of the National Geographic Society from 1898 to 1903 and was made a regent of the Smithsonian Institution in 1898. After 1895 his interest was occupied largely by aviation. He invented the tetrahedral kite. The Aerial Experiment Association, founded under his patronage in 1907, brought together G. H. Curtiss, F. W. Baldwin, and others, who invented the aileron principle and developed the hydroplane.

See biographies by C. D. Mackenzie (1928, repr. 1971), A. Johnson (1985), E. S. Grosvenor and M. Wesson (1997), and T. Foster (1998).

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Bell, Alexander Graham

Bell, Alexander Graham (1847–1922). Inventor of the telephone. Born in Edinburgh, Bell followed his father, who was a distinguished authority on the physiology of the voice, in teaching his system of ‘visible speech’ to the deaf. In 1870 he emigrated with his parents to Canada and in 1873 was appointed professor of vocal physiology at Boston University. It was during his research that Bell conceived the idea of the electrical transmission of speech. The American physicist Joseph Henry encouraged him to perform practical experiments and in June 1875 the first rough telephone was constructed. In March 1876 the first complete intelligible sentence was transmitted. Bell took out a patent which was fiercely contested but eventually upheld by the US Supreme Court. In 1877 Bell went to Europe to promote the new telephone. He won a 50,000-franc prize for his invention which he used to establish the Volta laboratory at Washington for research into deafness.

Richard A. Smith

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Bell, Alexander Graham

Bell, Alexander Graham (1847–1922) US scientist, inventor of the telephone, b. Scotland. He first worked with his father, inventor of a system for educating the deaf. The family moved to America in 1870, and Bell taught speech at Boston University (1873–77). His work on the transmission of sound by electricity led to the first demonstration of the telephone in 1876, and the founding of Bell Telephone Company in 1877.

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