Alexander Graham Bell was born on March 3, 1847 in Edinburgh, Scotland. His father taught elocution and his mother was deaf. In 1870, Bell and his family moved to Canada.
On March 7, 1876, the U.S. Patent Office granted Bell a patent for a communication device for "transmitting vocal or other sounds telegraphically." However, in 2002, the United States House of Representatives passed a bill conferring recognition for the invention of the telephone to Antonio Meucci. Later that year, the Parliament of Canada countered with a bill conferring official recognition for the invention to Bell. The controversy continues.
Bell's telephone grew out of improvements he made to the telegraph. He had invented the "harmonic telegraph" which could send more than one message at a time over a single telegraph wire. Bell reasoned that it would be possible to pick up and transmit the sound of the human voice using an adaptation of his "harmonic telegraph." In 1875, along with his assistant Thomas A. Watson, Bell constructed instruments that transmitted recognizable voice-like sounds.
In 1876, three days after he received his first patent, Bell and Watson, located in different rooms, were about to test the new transmitter described in the patent. Watson heard Bell's voice saying, "Mr. Watson, come here. I want you." Bell had upset a battery, spilling acid on his clothing. He soon forgot the accident in his excitement over the success of the telephone transmitter. The first telephone company, Bell Telephone Company, was founded on July 9, 1877.
Bell continued his experiments in communication. He invented the photophone-transmission of sound on a beam of light, which was a precursor of fiber-optics. He also invented techniques for teaching speech to the deaf. Bell was granted 18 patents in his name, and 12 he shared with collaborators. He became one of the founding members of the National Geographic Society in 1888.
Bell died at the age of 75 in Baddek, Nova Scotia, on August 2, 1922 of complications from diabetes.
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Reluctant Genius: Alexander Graham Bell and the Passion for Invention
by Charlotte Gray
Gray portrays the attractions and exasperations of Bell's life.
Always Inventing: A Photobiography of Alexander Graham Bell
by Tom L. Matthews
A photobiography of Bell's life and work. Cool historical photos. Age 9 to 12
Biography - Alexander Graham Bell
An A&E Biography series profile.
Alexander Graham Bell & The Telephone
A History Channel reenactment of Bell's story.
The Invention of the Telephone
A look at the many contributors and inventors of the telephone
Bell Family Papers
The online version of the Alexander Graham Bell Family Papers at the Library of Congress
PBS's American Experience Website about the invention of the telephone