The Telephone Inventor- Alexander Graham Bell

Alexander Graham Bell was one of the primary inventors of the telephone, did important work in communication for the deaf and held more than 18 patents.
 
He only worked on his invention because he misunderstood a technical work he had read in German. His misunderstanding ultimately led to his discovery of how speech could be transmitted electrically.
 
Personal Life
 
Alexander Graham Bell was born March 3, 1847 in Edinburgh, Scotland. His mother, 'Eliza Grace Symonds' was a deaf. His father, Alexander Melville Bell, was a professor of speech elocution at the University of Edinburgh where he taught elocution to the deaf, influencing Alexander’s later career choice as teacher of the deaf.  His father also wrote definitive books about speech and was the inventor of “visible speech,” an alphabet that used symbols to represent human sounds. 
 
Educational Perception Can Be Redefined
 
The young Bell was home-schooled until he was 11, following which he attended Edinburgh’s Royal High School for four years: he enjoyed science, but did not do well academically.
 
Although his schoolwork was poor, his mind was very active. One day, he was playing at a flour mill owned by the family of a young friend. Bell learned that de-husking the wheat grains took a lot of effort and was also very boring. He saw that it would be possible for a machine to do the work, so he built one. He was only 12 at the time. The machine he built was used at the mill for several years.
 
He was groomed early to carry on in the family business, but his headstrong nature conflicted with his father’s overbearing manner. Seeking a way out, at age 15, Bell volunteered to care for his grandfather when he fell ill. The elder Bell encouraged young Bell and instilled an appreciation for learning and intellectual pursuits. By age 16, he enrolled at Weston House Academy in Elgin, Scotland, where he learned Greek and Latin and also earned some money teaching elocution.
 
Still at that age, he and his brother tried to build a talking robot. They built a windpipe and a realistic looking head. When they blew air through the windpipe, the mouth could make a small number of recognizable words.
 
Bell then joined his father in his work with the deaf and soon assumed full charge of his father’s London operations.
 
While he was moving jobs and locations around the UK and North America, Bell had developed an overriding desire to invent a machine that could reproduce human speech.
 
Tragedies Could Help Give Your Life A Meaning
 
Speech had become his life, his mother had gone deaf, and Bell’s father had developed a method of teaching deaf people to speak, which Bell taught. His research into mechanizing human speech had become a relentless obsession: in the UK it had driven him almost to collapse.
 
When Bell was only 19 years old, he had described the work was doing in a letter to the linguistics expert Alexander Ellis. Ellis told Bell his work was similar to work carried out in Germany by Hermann von Helmholtz.
 Image Credit: Britannia
 
While Bell moved around a lot, he continued to carry out his own research into sound and speech. He worked very hard indeed, and by the time he was 20 he was in very poor health and returned to his family home, which was now in London.
 
By mid-1870, when Bell was 23, both of his younger brothers had died of tuberculosis. Bell’s parents were terrified that Alexander, whose health was fragile, would suffer a similar fate. He was now the only child of theirs who was still alive.
 
Bell’s father had gone to Canada when he was younger and found that his poor health had improved dramatically. He now decided that what was left of his family should move to Canada, and by late 1870, they were living in Brentford, Ontario. Thankfully, Alexander Graham Bell’s health began to improve.
 
There’s No Such Thing As A Lame Idea
 
While living in Brentford, Bell learned the Mohawk language and put it in writing for the first time. The Mohawk people made him an Honorary Chief.
 
When he was 25, Bell opened his School of Vocal Physiology and Mechanics of Speech in Boston, MA, where he taught deaf people to speak. At age 26, although he did not have a university degree, he became Professor of Vocal Physiology and Elocution at the Boston University School of Oratory.
 
Aside that, he began work on a device that would allow for the telegraph transmission of several messages set to different frequencies. He found financial backing through local investors Thomas Sanders and Gardiner Hubbard. He spent long days and nights trying to perfect the harmonic telegraph. 
 
During his experiments, he became interested in another idea, transmitting the human voice over wires. The diversion frustrated Bell’s benefactors and Thomas Watson, a skilled electrician, was hired to refocus Bell on the harmonic telegraph. But Watson soon became enamored with Bell’s idea of voice transmission and the two created a great partnership with Bell being the idea man and Watson having the expertise to bring Bell’s ideas to a reality.
 
'Mistake(s)' Is Not A Bad Thing
 
Bell eagerly read Helmholtz’s work, or tried to read it. It was in German, which he did not understand. Instead, he tried to follow the logic of the book’s diagrams. Bell misunderstood the diagrams, believing that Helmholtz had been able to convert all of the sounds of speech to electricity.
 
In fact, Helmholtz had not been able to do this – he had only succeeded with vowel sounds – but from then on, Bell believed it could be done!
 
Aged 23, Bell built a workshop in the new family home in Ontario and experimented there with converting music into an electrical signal.
 
In Boston, aged 25, Bell continued his experiments through the night while working in the day. In summer, he would return to his workshop in Ontario and continue his experiments.
 
The Reward For Hard Work Is Success
 
Through 1874 and 1875, Bell and Watson labored on both the harmonic telegraph and a voice transmitting device. Though at first frustrated by the diversion, Bell’s investors soon saw the value of voice transmission and filed a patent on the idea. 
For now the concept was protected, but the device still had to be developed. On March 10, 1876, Bell and Watson were successful. Legend has it that Bell knocked over a container of transmitting fluid and shouted, “Mr. Watson, come here. I want you!” The more likely explanation was Bell heard a noise over the wire and called to Watson. In any case, Watson heard Bell’s voice through the wire and thus, he received the first telephone call.
A model of Bell’s very first telephone (top-left). Alexander Graham Bell in 1874, aged 26, when he became a professor at Boston University (bottom-left). Bell, aged 45, making the first call from New York to Chicago when the exchange opened in 1892 (right). Image Credit: Famous Scientists 
 
With this success, Alexander Graham Bell began to promote the telephone in a series of public demonstrations. At the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia, in 1876, Bell demonstrated the telephone to the Emperor of Brazil, Dom Pedro, who exclaimed, “My God, it talks!” Other demonstrations followed, each at a greater distance than the last. The Bell Telephone Company was organized on July 9, 1877. With each new success, Alexander Graham Bell was moving out of the shadow of his father.
 
Your Dream Is Stronger Than Any Obstacle
 
Near the end of 1876, Bell and his investors offered to sell their patent to Western Union for $100,000. Western Union ran America’s telegraph wires, and its top people believed the telephone was just a fad. They thought it would not be profitable.
 
But they were wrong.
 
By 1878, Western Union’s opinion had altered dramatically. They now thought that if they could offer $25 million to get the patent, they would have gotten it cheaply.
 
Unfortunately for Western Union, in 1877, the Bell Telephone Company had been launched. And the rest, as they say, is history.
 
Over the next 18 years, the Bell Company faced over 550 court challenges, including several that went to the Supreme Court, but none were successful. Even during the patent battles, the company grew. Between 1877, and 1886, over 150,000 people in the U.S. owned telephones. Improvements were made on the device including the addition of a microphone, invented by Thomas Edison, which eliminated the need to shout into the telephone to be heard. 
 
A One Time Success Might Not Be Historically Appreciated
 
Alexander Graham Bell had a restless mind. The telephone made him wealthy and famous, but he wanted new challenges, and he continued inventing and innovating. Optical Telephone became a reality
 
Today, it is standard practice to transmit huge amounts of data using photons of light through optical fiber.
 The receiver of Bell’s photophone. In Bell’s opinion, the photophone was his best invention. Image Credit: Famous Scientists
 
In 1880, Bell and his assistant Charles Summer Tainter transmitted wireless voice messages a distance of over 200 meters in Washington D.C. The voice messages were carried by a light beam, and Bell patented the photophone. This was two decades before the first radio messages were sent without wires and a century before optic fiber communications became commercially viable.
 
 In 1881, after President James Garfield was shot, Bell invented the metal detector to locate the bullet precisely. The rudimentary metal detector worked in tests, but the bullet in the President’s body was too deep to be detected by the early detecting equipment.
 
We Are Only Humans
 
Alexander Graham Bell died aged 75 on August 2, 1922 in Nova Scotia, Canada. He had been ill for some months with complications from diabetes. He was survived by his wife, Mabel, and two daughters – Elsie and Marian.
 
Every phone in North America was silenced during his funeral in his honor.
 
The unit of sound intensity, the bel, more usually seen as the smaller unit, the decibel, was named after Bell: it was conceived of in the Bell Laboratories.
 
In 1880, Bell and his assistant Charles Summer Tainter transmitted wireless voice messages a distance of over 200 meters in Washington D.C. The voice messages were carried by a light beam, and Bell patented the photophone. This was two decades before the first radio messages were sent without wires and a century before optic fiber communications became commercially viable.
 
 
 
 
 
 
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