Alexander Graham Bell Notebooks Project (1875–)

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Alexander Graham Bell Notebooks Project


SITE SUMMARY: The School of Engineering and Applied Science at the University of Virginia provides this in-progress online reproduction of the notebooks of inventor Alexander Graham Bell, who is best known for his invention of the telephone. It features notes on the process by which his invention was developed. The notebooks are accessible via a Table of Contents link. Included also, via a Bell Research Homepage link, are an Introduction by Professor Michael Gorman, and a bibliography titled "References for Technoscientific Thinking and the Telephone" which is a list of works by and about Bell. Via the Bell Research Homepage link, also find a Master Map with illustrations of Bell's inventions, and see links to search Bell's Path to the Telephone, plus a table of contents with information on the Map's features. An About the Project link on the Project site's main page leads to a page featuring links to Help Using the Notebooks, and Project History. Some pages found via the links in the Table of Contents also include notes via book icon links, and, via small book page icon links, there are reproductions of note pages in Bell's handwriting.


  1. Go to the link to Bell's March 10, 1876 Speech Transmission, found in the notebooks via the main Table of Contents link. See first page, then follow arrow link to the next page. State Bell's famous quotation which he said when he first tested his invention. What would you have said if you were Bell at that moment? Why?
  2. Read the first section of Professor Gorman's Introduction (found as stated in this chapter's Site Summary above). Explain his description of Bell's invention process as compared with Thomas Edison's invention process. Indicate two methods of inventing. Explain how an inventor handles knowledge from other sources. Explain Bell's work with relation to a map and a flowchart.
  3. Keeping in mind your answers to Question/Activity no. 2 above, think of your own invention idea, or choose an invention from one of these Web sites: Smithsonian Institution—Inventors and Inventions—Selected Sites, National Invention Hall of Fame—Inventions and Inventors Search, Community of Science, Inc.—U.S. Manual of Patent Classification, International Federation of Invention Associations—Articles, etc., Untimely Inventions, or Mothers of Invention. (Their urls, with site summaries, are cited in the Related Internet Sites section in this book's chapter featuring inventor George Margolin's article "An Inventor Never Grows Up"; or in this book's Appendix B.) Construct a map or flowchart of your idea. (Hint: For help, see the Flowcharting Help Page [Tutorial] Web site. Its url is cited in this book's Appendix F.)
  4. Click the main Table of Contents link, then the link for March 15, 1876, and read a quotation by Bell. See also a Bell quotation at the end of paragraph six of the "Mental Models and Mechanical Representations" section of the Introduction. Read also Note no. 8 after the introduction. What are the titles of the Bell documents from which the quotes were taken? Identify the two styles of scientific reasoning referred to in the introduction; and tell which style Bell preferred. State the reason why Bell chose this style; why Bell's choice was good; and why the other style may also be good. Extra Activity: Apply one of the styles of scientific reasoning to an invention idea you have, or choose from the Web sites cited in Question/Activity no. 2 above.
  5. Describe Bell's work involving Ohm's Law and Helmholtz. (For data, see March 20, 1876, entry via the Table of Contents; plus Professor Gorman's reference to Bell and "Helmholtz's scientific discoveries" in paragraph five of the first part of his Introduction.)
  6. Professor Gorman, in his Introduction, states that Bell aimed toward "an analogy between technology and nature." See the Bell quotation in paragraph three before Note no. 18 in the Introduction's "Ear Phonautograph" section. State the source of the Bell quote. What was the aspect of nature Bell aimed to duplicate? Did he succeed? Explain your answer.
  7. Read paragraph six of the Introduction's "Harp Apparatus" section before Note no. 20. State the Bell quote and its source. Indicate what, according to Professor Gorman, became "the focus of Bell's successful telephone"; and how.
  8. Go to Professor Gorman's table of contents page (not the main Table of Contents), via a link on his Introduction page. Find, read, and study, the reproductions of Bell's two patent documents, then go to the United States Patent and Trademark Office Homepage Web site (whose url is in this book's Appendix F), and study its features referred to in the Appendix's site summary for this Web site, especially with reference to patents. State the basic features of a patent document. Extra Activity: Following the format of Bell's patent papers, and what is provided for a patent document's format at the United States Patent and Trademark Office Web site (after a search), make and "fill out" a patent document to explain a new invention you have thought of, or one that is listed at a Web site cited in Question/Activity no. 2 above.
  9. Go to the Introduction and read the section titled "Sound Into Current." Tell how Bell's understanding of music influenced his view of inventing something. Next, see the Bell quotation in paragraph three of the "Harp Apparatus" section of the Introduction, then state the quotation and its source, and tell what Bell said about a magnet and a musical sound. Next, go to the main Table of Contents via the link on the Project's main Web page. State a quotation from an entry (and give the date) on the subject featured in the first part of this Question/Activity, then explain the quotation's idea.


Alexander Graham Bell Family Papers at the Library of Congress, 1862–1939

This collection of digital replicas of Alexander Graham Bell's Papers is part of the Library of Congress' American Memory Project. It will have more than 4,500 items, including Bell's scientific notebooks, journals, articles, correspondence, blueprints, and photographs, that document his invention of the telephone, his aeronautical and other scientific research, his interest in the education of the deaf, and his family life. Links to information to aid access and understanding include: Collection Highlights, Timeline, Telephone and Multiple Telegraph, About the Collection, Collection Connections from the Learning Page, and Bell as Inventor and Scientist.

Turning Secondary Students into Inventors∼meg3c/id/id_sep/id_sep.html

At this site, which features information about an Invention and Design course for high school students, note, at the top of the page, a link to Modules (which features a Telephone Module link). In addition, see links to an introduction, resources, an index, and education. See also links to Suggestions for Using the Modules, References and Suggestions for Further Reading, and, based on an actual class which took the course, an Evaluation Report Submitted to the Dodge Foundation.

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Alexander Graham Bell Notebooks Project (1875–)

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