Alexander Graham Bell
Educator, Linguist, Inventor, Scientist
B: March 3, 1847 – Scotland
D: August 2, 1922 – Canada
Alexander Graham Bell is mostly known for the invention of the telephone. Though this gained him fame and considerable wealth, it was not from the efforts of his passion. There are some urban legend stories regarding Bell personally experiencing “disembodied voices” from his invention but, the limited research for this article found nothing verifiable. These stories likely originate from early voice transmissions often being difficult to discern and understand.
Alexander’s passion was helping and teaching the deaf community. This was the family business and in spite his other ventures, Alexander always considered himself to be a teacher of the deaf. He was mostly home schooled by his mother who was deaf and also an accomplished musician. She had significant influence on his life by inspiring his curiosity.
At the age of 12, while playing at a grain mill, Alexander conceived his first invention in a faster method to remove wheat husks.
At age 16 he took a position teaching elocution (speaking in a manner that allowed the deaf to more easily read lips) and music at an academy in Scotland. After one term, he returned to the family business to help teach his father’s methods of “lip reading” to the deaf community. After several more years alternating between teaching on his own and helping his father, the family moved to Boston, Massachusetts in 1871.
In 1872 Alexander, now in his mid-20s, ventured out on his own tutoring deaf children in Boston. Gardiner Hubbard, the father of one of his students had been seeking to improve telegraph technology. Alexander, shared his ideas with Gardiner. Intrigued by Alexander’s ideas, Gardiner convinced another student’s father to help finance development of the technology. As Alexander worked on telegraph improvements, he became distracted by the idea of transmitting voice by wire. Gardiner hired Thomas Watson in an effort to help focus Alexander on the telegraph. Thomas also became distracted with the idea of voice transmission. In March of 1876, legend suggests Alexander was speaking to Thomas when, due to circumstance and without direct intent, Thomas heard Alexander’s voice from the wired device.
The Bell Telephone Company came into existence in 1877. Alexander assigned others to run the company and continued his efforts to develop his ideas and to work with the deaf community. Alexander is credited with involvement in the invention of many things including the iron lung, metal detector, the audiometer (for testing hearing), and Thomas Edison’s phonograph.
Alexander Graham Bell. (2014). The Biography.com website. Retrieved Nov 29, 2014, from http://www.biography.com/people/alexander-graham-bell-9205497.