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Alexander Graham Bell
The most successful men in the end are those
whose success is the result of steady accretion.
—Alexander Graham Bell
Alexander Graham Bell was born on March 3, 1847 in Edinburgh, Scotland. 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 also founded the National Geographic Society in 1888. Alexander Graham Bell died in Baddek, Nova Scotia, on August 2, 1922.