Alexander Graham Bell


Alexander Graham Bell
Even as a young boy growing up in Edinburgh, Scotland, Alexander Graham Bell has a passion for inventing, and by the time he was twelve he had already created a wheat dehusker for a friend's flour mill. He was very musically talented as well, mastering the piano without any formal training. Bell's father was a well-respected professor of elocution—the art of formal speaking--as well as the inventor of a language known as Visible Speech, through which deaf people could communicate orally. The study and publication of such held particular significance with the Bell family, as Alexander's mother began to lose her hearing while he was still a young boy. Bell attended the local school along with his two brothers until the age of 15, when he dropped out and went to live with his grandfather.

Within the next year, he had secured a position as an assistant teacher of elocution and music, but he did not remain long at this post before the deaths of his brothers led his heartbroken family to move to Canada. Once there, Bell and his father both taught at various New England schools for the deaf, and by 1872 Bell had opened his own institution in Boston, the popular "School of Vocal Physiology and Mechanics of Speech." He also procured a position as a professor at the Boston University School of Oratory, but the stress of teaching combined with his continued dedication to invention finally forced him to retire from the college and focus solely on his projects, retaining only two students.

Now focusing solely on his studies of sound, Bell began to put together his most famous project, known then as the harmonic telegraph. Procuring the aid of Thomas Watson, an electrical designer who could provide working models of Bell's plans, the inventor raced to the patent office in 1875 with his new creation. A war ensued then between Bell and a competitor, Elisha Grey, who had also been experimenting with acoustic telegraphy and had created a model similar to that of Alexander. While the integrity of Bell's claims is still being questioned, it was nevertheless he who walked away in 1876 with the patent for his latest invention--the telephone. Soon the Bell Telephone Company was created, with the inventor and his parter exhibiting their amazing creation all across the country. That same year, Alexander married his long-time sweetheart Mabel Hubbard, a deaf young women ten years his junior and one of the pupils he had continued to train after his retirement from Boston. In 1915, Bell made the first international telephone call from New York to San Francisco, where Thomas Watson answered him. These two men had made history by creating one of the most widely used products of the modern world well over 100 years ago.

Alexander Bell explored many other scientific endeavors, though few are as famous as his telephone. He invented the metal detector in 1881, and he also made significant discoveries in aeronautics and hydroplanes.

Key events during the life of Alexander Graham Bell:

Born in Edinburgh, Scotland.
Adopted the middle name 'Graham.'
Dropped out of school and went to live with his grandfather.
Secured a position as an assistant teacher of elocution and music.
Death of Bell's younger brother.
Death of Bell's older brother; his family moved to Canada shortly afterward.
Taught at several New England schools for the deaf.
Opened his 'School of Vocal Physiology and Mechanics of Speech' in Boston.
Became a professor at the Boston University School of Oratory.
  Gave up his career in order to devote his full attention to his experiments.
Received a patent for his electromagnetic telephone.
Creation of the Bell Telephone Company.
  Married Mabel Hubbard.
Invented the metal detector
Made the first transcontinental telephone call.
Served as honorary president at the Second International Congress of Eugenics.
Died of complications from diabetes.

Other Resources

Story Links
Book Links
Alexander Graham Bell & Invention of the Telephone  in  Great Inventors and Their Inventions  by  Frank P. Bachman
Telephone  in  America First—100 Stories from Our History  by  Lawton B. Evans

Image Links

Testing Their Talking Machine on the Neighbors
 in Great Inventors and Their Inventions

Talking in First Form of Telephone
 in Great Inventors and Their Inventions

Dom Pedro and the Telephone
 in Great Inventors and Their Inventions

Short Biography
Thomas Edison Prolific inventor, responsible for improvements in the light bulb, movies, phonograph, and many others.
Wilber and Orville Inventors of the first practical airplane. The Wright brothers were self-educated bicycle shop owners.