Alexander Graham Bell

Alexander Graham Bell

Created a telephone set with a metal handle
Date of Birth: 03.03.1847
Country: USA

  1. Alexander Graham Bell: Biography
  2. The Invention of the Telephone

Alexander Graham Bell: Biography

Alexander Graham Bell was an inventor and scientist, best known for inventing the telephone. He was born in Edinburgh on March 3, 1847, into a family of philologists. His father, Melville Bell, had devised a system called "Visible Speech," which allowed people to correctly pronounce words in any language. Growing up in a musical environment, Alexander developed a keen interest in the sounds of the human voice.

At the age of 14, Alexander moved to London to live with his grandfather, where he studied literature and the art of oratory. Just three years later, he began his own career, teaching music and oratory at the Weston House Academy. Over the course of nine years, he extensively studied acoustics and the physics of human speech, eventually becoming an assistant to his father, a professor at the University of London.

In 1870, Bell fell ill and doctors recommended a change of climate. His family moved to Canada, and by 1871, he was living in Boston, teaching at a school for the deaf using the Visible Speech system.

The Invention of the Telephone

During this time, the Western Union company was seeking a way to transmit multiple telegrams simultaneously over a single pair of wires, eliminating the need for additional telegraph lines. The company announced a large cash prize to the inventor who could propose such a method. Bell began working on this problem, drawing on his knowledge of acoustics. He envisioned placing several tuning forks at the transmitting end, each creating an electrical current pulsating at a specific frequency. At the receiving end, these pulsations would be perceived by tuning forks set to the corresponding frequency. In this way, Bell aimed to transmit seven telegrams simultaneously, an homage to his love for music.

Bell's young assistant, Thomas Watson, helped him in his work on the "musical telegraph." Bell's broad knowledge and lively imagination allowed him to seamlessly connect different fields of science and art, including acoustics, music, electrical engineering, and mechanics.

Although Bell was not an electrician, he sought guidance from another prominent Bostonian scientist, D. Henry, whose name is associated with the unit of inductance. After examining the initial telegraph model in Bell's laboratory, Henry exclaimed, "Under no circumstances should you abandon this project!" While continuing his work on the "musical telegraph," Bell also began constructing a device that aimed to make speech sounds visible to the deaf and mute, without the need for written symbols. He spent almost a year conducting various experiments on human hearing at the Massachusetts Ear and Eye Infirmary. The main component of the device was to be a membrane, with a needle attached to it, which would record curves corresponding to different sounds, syllables, and words on the surface of a rotating drum. Contemplating the action of the membrane, Bell came up with the idea of another device that could "make it possible to transmit various sounds if it were possible to produce variations in the intensity of the electric current corresponding to the variations in the density of the air produced by a given sound." He named this nonexistent apparatus the "telephone." Thus, his work on assisting the deaf and mute led to the realization that a device he was working on could have a broader impact on humanity and significantly influence its future development.

While working on the "musical telegraph," Bell and Watson conducted their experiments in separate rooms, each equipped with transmitting and receiving devices. Steel plates of different lengths served as tuning forks, firmly attached at one end and completing an electrical circuit with the other end. One day, while trying to free a stuck plate, Watson accidentally caused it to vibrate and make a buzzing sound. The stuck plate acted as a primitive diaphragm. In all previous experiments, Bell and Watson had simply opened and closed the circuit with the free end. Now, the sound vibrations of the plate induced electromagnetic oscillations in a nearby magnet. This was the key difference between the telephone and all previously existing telegraph devices.

The telephone required a continuous electrical current, the strength of which would vary precisely with the oscillations of the sound waves in the air.

The invention of the telephone came at a time when electric telegraphy was at its peak, and it was completely unexpected. In 1876, Alexander Bell demonstrated his device at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. The word "telephone" was heard for the first time within the exhibition hall, as the inventor presented his "speaking telegraph." To the astonishment of the jury, the device played a monologue from Shakespeare's Hamlet, "To be or not to be," while Bell himself was in a separate room.

The invention became the sensation of the Philadelphia Exposition, despite the fact that the first telephone apparatus produced terrible sound quality, could only transmit up to 250 meters, and lacked batteries, relying solely on electromechanical induction. Bell and his team established the "Bell Telephone Company" and embarked on a relentless journey to improve their invention. Within a year, they patented a new diaphragm and armature for the telephone. They then introduced the use of carbon microphones by Hughes to increase the transmission distance and incorporated battery power. In this improved form, the telephone has successfully lasted over a hundred years.

On June 11, 1877, Alexander Bell married Mabel Hubbard at the bride's parents' home, and the newlyweds set sail for England.

This trip played a significant role in the history of the telephone. In England, Bell continued to give successful demonstrations that attracted large audiences. Finally, the "amazing telephone performance" was given to the Queen and the royal family. The titled individuals sang, recited, and conversed with each other through the wires, interrupting themselves to inquire about the clarity of their voices. The Queen was pleased with the demonstration.

The newspapers spread the news of the telephone's success in England, forcing the Western Union company to reconsider its attitude towards the invention. The company's president, Orton, reasoned that if a teacher for the deaf had invented the electric telephone, then specialists like Edison and Gray could create a better device. In early 1879, the Western Union company established the "American Speaking Telephone Company" to produce telephones, disregarding Bell's patent rights.

On the other hand, Bell's supporters, having secured loans, created the "New England Telephone Company" and entered the fray. Eventually, the outcome of the struggle led to the formation of the consolidated "Bell Telephone Company" by the end of 1879. In December of the same year, the stock price reached $995. Alexander Graham Bell became an extremely wealthy man.

His wealth was accompanied by fame and worldwide recognition. France awarded him the prestigious Volta Prize, established by Napoleon, worth 50,000 francs (it had been awarded only once before Bell), and he was knighted by the Order of the Legion of Honor. In 1885, he became an American citizen.

On the rainy morning of August 4, 1922, all telephones in the United States and Canada were silenced for a minute. America mourned the loss of Alexander Graham Bell. Thirteen million telephones of various types and designs fell silent in honor of the great inventor.