Alexander Graham Bell
Alexander Graham Bell was born on March 3, 1847, in Edinburgh, Scotland. His parents were Alexander Melville Bell and Eliza Grace Symonds. He did not add the name Graham until he was 11 years old. He attended high school in Edinburgh but did not enjoy the curriculum so left at the age of 15. The fact that his mother was partly deaf and his father taught the deaf had some influence on Bell's later career.
Bell began university work in London in 1868, but his family moved on to Canada in 1870 after the deaths of his two brothers. Both died from tuberculosis. Although his family stayed in Ontario, Alexander moved to Boston. He taught at three schools for the deaf in Massachusetts and Connecticut. He married Mabel Hubbard who had been deaf since catching scarlet fever at age 5.
Bell wanted to try to develop a method of sending several messages through the telegraph over one wire. However, he was most interested in transmitting the human voice over distance by telephone. On February 14, 1876, Bell filed for a patent on his method of transmitting sounds. Elisha Gray had been working on the same research. It is controversial as to who came up with the idea first. Bell got the patent, though.
Bell's first transmission of the human voice occurred on March 10, 1876, when he was able to call his assistant from another room. He demonstrated the telephone at the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition. In August, he received the first long-distance call from one town to another in Ontario. He made the first transcontinental telephone call on January 15, 1915.
His father-in-law, Gardiner Hubbard, set up a company called Bell Telephone Company in 1877. Bell became wealthy but lost interest in the company and sold off his shares. In 1880, the French government awarded him some prize money for an achievement in electrical science. Bell used that money to set up his Volta Laboratory where he could study deafness and learn how to make the lives of the deaf better.
He also wanted to improve the phonograph invented by Thomas Edison. By 1885, he and two associates applied for a patent on what they called a graphophone, an improved type of phonograph. They were granted the patent in 1886. The three sold their patents in 1887 to a company which would later become the Columbia Phonograph Company. Bell used his funds to continue his laboratory work.
Another major achievement was his development of an electrical bullet probe. After President Garfield was shot in July 1881, surgeons were not able to find the bullet by any physical means. Bell used an induction balance which gave out a tone when it came near metal. He could not find the bullet, however, and Garfield died in September. Later, this device was adopted by surgeons. Lives were saved during the Boer War and World War I because of this device.
The Bell family bought land in Nova Scotia in September 1885, as a vacation home. Later they moved there permanently. Bell was addicted to inventing. Next, he decided to work on flying machines. He did research on wing shapes and propeller designs even after the Wright brothers made the first flight. He helped found the National Geographic Society in 1888.
Alexander Graham Bell's continuing goal throughout his life was to advance scientific knowledge. He died in Nova Scotia on August 7, 1922. After his death, every telephone in America became silent for a short period of time to honor Mr. Bell.
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