Alexander Graham Bell was a Scottish born American inventor and a scientist. The invention of telephone was among his greatest inventions including many others. He mostly received his education through numerous learning from his father's work on Visible Speech for the deaf.

Alexander Graham Bell Early Years

Alexander Graham Bell

Alexander Graham Bell was born Alexander Bell on March 3,1847, in Edinburgh, Scotland. He Was the second son of Alexander Melville Bell and Eliza Grace Symonds Bell. He had two brothers: Melville James Bell (1845-1870) and Edward Charles Bell (1848-1867). Both his brothers died of tuberculosis.
When, Alexander was 10 years old he urged his father to give him a middle name just like his two brothers. So, on his 11th birtday, his father allowed him to use'Graham' as his middle name. However, to his family and friends, he remained 'Aleck'.
Asayouth, Alexander Graham Bell showed a  curious nature regarding the world around him. While still young, he could mimic voices. His grandfather Alexander Bell was a well-known professor and teacher of elocution and had a great influence over young bell. His mother too encouraged him in his experiments and taught him piano despite her increasing deafness, which started when Alexander was 12 years old. This taught Alexander to look past people's disadvantages and to find solutions to help them.

Alexander Graham Bell was home schooled by his mother. He received one year of formal education in a private school and spent two years at Edinburgh's Royal High School. Though a mediocre student, he displayed an uncanny interest in sciences, especially biolgy while disregarding the other subjects. He also displayed an uncommon ability to solve problems. When he was 12 years of age, he used to play with a friend in a grain mill owned by his friend's father. There he learnt the process of dehusking wheat. Alexander, when he returned home, built a device with rotating paddles with sets of nail brushes that easily dehusked the wheat. This was his first invention.
After completing his studies at school, he went to London to live with his grandfather, Alexander Bell who taught elocution. During his stay with his grandfather, Alexander learnt to speak clearly and with conviction.

Early Attempts to Follow his Passion

Meanwhile, Alexander's elder brother, Melville. had followed in his father's footsteps and had become an authority on elocution and speech correction. Though young Alexander too was trained to carry forward the family business but he had other ideas
At 16, Alexander Graham Bell accepted a position of pupil teacher at Weston House Academy in Elgin, Scotland. Here he taught elocution and music to students. The next few years, he attended the University of Edinburgh where he joined his brother Melville. At the end of the term, Alexander returned home and joined his father in promoting Melville Bell's technique of Visible Speech. This technique taught the deaf to align specific phonetic symbols with a particular position of the speech organs. By now Alexander had developed a great interest in the transmission of sound.
Between 1865 and 1870, a lot of change took place in the Bell household. In 1867, the family moved to London and Alexander returned to teaching in Western House Academy. During his stay, he started to experiment with electricity to convey sound. It was also during this year that Alexander's younger brother, Edward, died of tuberculosis. The following year, he once again became his father's apprentice. During this time, his health suffered though he managed to recover. Then, he started staying with his family and soon took full charge of his father's London operations while Melville lectured in America. By now, Melville had married and started a family. He had even started his own elocution school and was successful. However, suddenly in 1870, the family went into a crisis with the death of Melville due to complications from tuberculosis.

It was then that Alexander's father decided to move the family to New foundland. On an earlier trip, he had seen that the environment there had cured him of his illness. In the beginning, though Alexander was ill, he wanted to stay in London and establish himself. But when he realized that his own health was in jeopardy, he agreed to move. So, after settling all their affairs, in July 1870, the family settled in Brantford, Ontario, Canada. There, Alexander's health improved, and he set up a workshop to continue his study of the human voice. He called his workshop, his 'dreaming place' and continued with his experiments working with electricity and sound.

Passion for Shaping the Future

In 1871, Melville Bell, Sr. was invited to teach a the Boston School for Deaf Mutes. However, as working there clashed with his numerous tours, he declined the position to teach there. He, however recommended Alexander in his place. The younger Bell quickly accepted the position. Combining his father's system of Visible Speech and some of his own methods, he achieved remarkable success It was during his tours that he continued his experiments with his 'harmonic telegraph'. The idea behind his device was that messages could be sent using a single wire if the messages were sent at different pitches.

As the school had no funds to hire Bell for another semester, he had to leave working at the school. In 1872, Alexander set out on his own and started tutoring deaf children in Boston. It was during this time that he met two of his students -George Sanders and Mabel Hubbard-meeting whom would set him on a new course.
After one of his tutoring sessions with Mabel, Bell sat talking with her father, Gardiner, about his ideas of how several telegraph transmissions might be sent on the same wire if they were transmitted on different harmonic frequencies. Hubbard was interested in Bell at once. It was because he too was trying to find a way to improve telegraph transmissions, which then carried only one message at a time. Hubbard then was able to convince Thomas Sanders, father of George Sanders who was Bell's student, to support the idea by financing it.

Between 1873 and 1874, Alexander Graham Bell spent long days and nights trying to perfect the harmonic telegraph. But then he was sidetracked with another idea of transmitting human voice over wires. The diversion frustrated Gardiner Hubbard. It was because he knew that another inventor, Elisha Gray, was working on a multiple- signal telegraph. Several others had also been working along the same lines. In an attempt to make Bell refocus on his efforts, Hubbard hired Thomas Watson, who was a skilled electrician. Watson immediately understood how to develop the tools and instruments Bell needed to continue his project. But Watson soon took interest in Bell's idea of voice transmission. The two men liked and understood each other perfectly from the beginning. It was an excellent partnership with Bell as the ideas man and Watson who had the expertise to put Bell's ideas into reality.
Through 1874 and 1875, Bell and Watson laboured on both the harmonic telegraph and a voice transmitting device. Hubbard insisted that they should give priority to the harmonic telegraph. But soon, he discovered that the two men had conceptualized the mechanism for voice transmission. Without wasting any time, Hubbard filed for a patent. Though the idea was protected for the time being but the device for transmitting sound was yet to be made.

But then suddenly things changed for the better. Bell and Watson started experimenting with acoustic telegraphy. Then, on June 2, 1875, Watson accidentally plucked one of the reeds and Bell, who was at the receiving end of the wire, heard the overtones of the reed. Overtones were essential for transmitting speech. It then became clear to Bell that only one reed was required to create sound instead of multiple reeds. This led to the invention of "gallows" sound-powered telephone. This telephone could send indistinct, voice-like sounds to the other end but not clear speech. Immediately, Bell filed for a patent. It was three days later, after he had filed the patent, that he tasted success.
Inspired to experiment further, Bell and Watson worked harder. Then, something happened on March 10, 1867, that changed the future. That day, Bell and Watson were as usual experimenting in their laboratory. Bell was bent over the liquid transmitted, suddenly he shouted, "Mr. Watson, come here. I want to see you!" It is clear that Bell heard a noise over the wire and called his assistant who was in the adjacent room. In any case, Watson heard Bell's voice through the wire and thus received the first telephone call.

Bell continued his experiments and then brought home the first working model of his telephone. To further promote the idea of the telephone, Bell conducted a series of public demonstrations, ever increasing the distance between the two telephones. At the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia, in 1876, Bell demonstrated the working of the telephone to the Emperor of Brazil, Dom Pedro II, who exclaimed, "My God, it talks!" The invention of telephone now occupied the front page of every newspaper. Several other demonstrations followed, each at a greater distance than the last. 
Bell and his partners, Hubbard and Sanders tried to sell the patent outright to Western Union but the company refused saying that it was merely a toy. Then, The Bell Telephone Company was created on July 9, 1877. In the same year on July 11, Alexander Graham Bell married Mabel Hubbard, his former student and the daughter of Gardiner Hubbard, his initial financial backer. Over the course of the next year, Alexander's fame grew and he along with his wife travelled to Europe for demonstrations of his discovery. While there, the Bells' first child, Elsie May, was born. Upon their return to the United States, Bell was summoned to Washington D.C. to defend his telephone patent from lawsuits by others claiming they had invented the telephone or had conceived of the idea before Bell.

Over the next 18 years, the Bell Telephone Company faced over 550 court challenges but the company did not lose any challenge and continued to grow successfully. By 1886, there were more then 150,000 telephones in the United States. By now a lot of improvement had been made in the telephone including adding a microphone. With the addition of the microphone the people did not had to shout to be heard on the other side.

Alexander Graham Bell
In January 1915, Bell made a transcontinental phone call to Thomas Watson, his associate, from New York City to San Francisco, over a distance of 3, 400 miles.

Pursuing his Passion

Despite his success, Alexander Graham Bell was not a businessman. As he became more affluent, he turned over business matters to Hubbard. He, in the mean time, returned to invent more and was inclined towards his intellectual pursuits. In 1880, he was awarded the French Volta Prize for his invention. With the money that he received, he established the Volta Laboratory in Washington, an experimental facility devoted to scientific discovery and further development in the field of sound and communications. During this time he also discovered new techniques to teach speech to the deaf. He even worked with Helen Keller. There he developed a metal jacket to assist patients with lung problems, conceptualized the process for producing methane gas from waste material, developed a metal detector to locate bullets in bodies, and invented an audiometer to test a person's hearing. He continued to work towards helping the deaf and in 1890, established 'the American Association to Promote the Teaching of Speech to the Deaf.'

Among his first inventions after the invention of telephone was the 'photophone'. It was a device which enabled sound to be transmitted on a beam of light. Bell and his assistant, Charles Sumner Tainter, had developed the photophone. Bell regarded the photophone as "the greatest invention I have ever made; greater than the telephone."

Later Life

In 1885, he bought land in Nova Scotia and built a home there. Here too, he continued with his experiments particularly in the field of aviation. Then, in 1888, he co-founded the National Geographic Society. In the last 3 decades of his life, Bell was involved in a wide range of projects, pursuing them at a furious page. He worked on inventions in flight (the tetrahedral kite), scientific publications (Science magazine), and exploration of the earth  (National Geographic magazine).

 Bell died peacefully, with his wife by his side, in Baddeck, Nova Scotia, Canada, on August 2, 1922. The entire telephone system was shut down for one minute to pay tribute to his life. A few months later, Mabel too passed away. Alexander Graham Bell's contribution to the modern world and his technologies was enormous. He had a rare curiosity to keep searching, striving, to learn and to create.

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