Alexander Graham Bell
(The Great American Inventor)

Alexander Graham Bell was an American inventor and educator, an he is best known for his invention of the telephone. Bell’s family and education deeply influenced his career. he was born n March 3, 1847, in Edinburgh, Scotland. His father, Alexander Melville Bell, taught deaf people to speak and he also wrote textbooks on speech. Graham Bell was a talented musician. He played by ear from infancy and received a musical education. Bell enrolled as a student and teacher at Weston House, a boy’s school, where he taught music and speech in exchange for instruction in other studies. He became a full-time teacher after studying for a year at the University of Edinburgh. He also studied at the University of London and he used Visible Speech to teach a class of deaf children.

In 1866, Alexander Graham Bell carried out a series of experiments to determine how vowel sounds are made. he read a book on acoustics by the German physicist, Herman Von Helmholtz, which described experiments in combining the notes of electrical tuning forks to make vowel sounds. This gave Bell the idea of telegraphing speech, but he still had no idea of how to do it. This is when Bell’s interest in electricity started.

In 1870, disaster uprooted the Bell family. Graham’s younger brother had died of tuberculosis, and his older brother died from the same disease. Fearing that Graham’s health was in jeopardy, his father sacrificed his job in London and moved the family to Brantford Ontario, Canada, where he thought the climate might be healthier.

In 1872, Bell opened a school for teachers of the deaf in Boston. The following year, he became a professor in Boston University. Bell’s instruction in Visible Speech won him many friends in Boston. One of these friends was the Boston attorney, Gardiner Green Hubbard. Hubbard was an outspoken critic of Western Union Telegraph Co. When he learned that Bell had been secretly working on improvements to the telegraph, Hubbard immediately offered him financial backing in the hope of outdoing Western Union. When Bell first began his experiments (in 1872) he did not attempt to transmit speech, electronically. Instead, he tried to send more than on telegraph message over one wire at the same time, which was an important need of the telegraph industry. In 1874, Bell developed the idea for the telephone. Bell continued his telegraphy experiments, but he always had the telephone on his mind.

Bell soon found out that he lacked the time and skill to make the parts for his experiments. Hubbard insisted that he go to an electrical instrument making shop for help. There, Thomas A. Watson began to assist Bell. During the experiments that followed, Bell said it would be possible to pick up the human voice on the harmonic telegragh he had developed for sending two or more messages. Then on July2, 1875, while Bell was at one end of the line and Watson worked on the reeds of the telegraph in another room, Bell heard the sound of a plucked reed coming to him over the wire. He was very excited to discover that his experiment was working.

After an hour or so of plucking reeds and listening to the sounds, Bell gave his assistant instructions for making a pair of improved instruments. These new instruments transmitted recognizable voice sounds, not words. Bell and Watson experimented all summer, and in September 1875, Bell began to write the specifications for his first telephone patent.

Bell demonstrated his telephones at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia in June 1876. Bell’s instruments impressed one of the judges, the Emperor Dom Pedro of Brazil. The British scientist Sir William Thompson called the telephone “The most wonderful thing in America!”

Bell and Watson gave many successful demonstrations of the telephone, and their work paved the way for commercial telephone service in the United States of America. The first telephone service, the Bell Telephone Company, came into existence in July 9, 1877. Two days later, Bell married Mable Hubbard, and they returned home in 1878, and moved to Washington, D.C. Bell didn’t take an active part in the telephone business.

Bell’s Later Life

Bell lived a creative life for more than 45 years after the invention of the telephone, and he produced other communication devices. The French government awarded Bell the Volta Prize of more than 50,000 francs in 1880 for his invention of the telephone. He used the money to help establish the Volta Laboratory for research, invention, and work for the deaf. There, he and his associates developed the method of making phonogragh records on wax discs, and the patents for the method were sold in 1886.

In 1890, Bell founded and financed the American Association for the Deaf (now called the Alexander Graham Bell Association).

Bell developed an electrical apparatus to locate bullets in a body in a vain effort to save President Garfield’s life, who had been shot by an assassin in 1881. Later, Bell perfected an electric probe which was used in surgery for several years before the X-ray was discovered. Bell also advocated a method of locating icebergs by detecting echoes from them. He worked on methods to make fresh water from vapor in the air for people adrift in open boats.

Throughout his life, Bell was interested in flying. He helped finance Samuel P. Langely’s experiments with heavier-than-air machines and used his influence in Langley’s behalf. He conducted a long series of experiments with kites capable of lifting a person into the air. These experiments tested the lifting power of plane surfaces at low speeds. In 1907, Bell helped organize the Aerial Experiment Association, contributed to the establishment of Science Magazine and helped organize the National Geographic Society.

Alexander Graham Bell became a citizen of the U.S. in 1882. He spent most of his later life at his estate, on Cape Brenton Island, Nova Scotia. He worked in his laboratory or sat at his piano playing old Scottish tunes. Bell died August 2, 1922 at his estate in Nova Scotia.

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