Alexander Graham Bell
Alexander Graham Bell (1847-1922) was the inventor of the telephone. Born in Scotland, Bell invented the telephone in 1875 after he emigrated to the United States. Bell's mother was deaf, and he devoted his life to attempting to help the deaf. His invention of the telephone was simply a byproduct of his devotion to helping the deaf communicate.
As a boy, Bell was began reading and writing at a very early age, under the instruction of his deaf mother. He also attempted new techniques for speaking to her:
- Unlike others, who spoke to Mrs. Bell through her ear tube, Aleck chose to communicate with her by speaking in low, sonorous tones very close to her forehead. Young Aleck surmised that his mother would be able to "hear" him through the vibrations his vocal intonations would make. This early insight would prove significant as Alexander Graham Bell went on to develop more elaborate theories regarding the characteristics of sound waves. It would also lend rationale to Bell's opinions as to how the deaf could be assimilated into a world of sound.
By the age of 14, Bell invented a device that could produce human-like sounds. When he was 16, he was already teaching music and elocution at a boarding school. He later studied at the University of London, where he read German papers by the physicist Hermann Von Helmholtz. Bell, who did not understand German well, misinterpreted Von Helmholtz's thesis, On The Sensations of Tone, to say that vowel sounds could be produced from combining electrical tuning forks and resonators. He later described this as his "very valuable blunder," because Bell thought this meant that a wire could transmit vowel sounds.
After Bell emigrated to Canada, and then to the United States, he pursued his dream of carrying sound over a wire. By legend the first sentence spoken over the telephone was by Bell to his assistant Watson: "Watson, come here; I want you."
Bell founded American Bell in 1875 to develop and market his invention, which founded American Telephone & Telegraph as a subsidiary in 1885. AT&T, as it is now called, has undergone many changes since then but remains profitable today.
Bell obtained 14 patents for the "telephone" and "telegraph", 4 for the "photophone", 1 for the "phonograph", 5 for the "aerial vehicles", 4 for the "hydroairplanes" and 2 for the "selenium cells".
- This is disputed, as Elisha Gray filed a patent the same day and Antonio Meucci reportedly had working models a few years before Bell. In Europe, Canada, and Asia Meucci is the one credited as the inventor of the telephone.