Alexander Graham Bell was born to Alexander Melville and Eliza Symonds Bell in Edinburgh, Scotland on March 3, 1847. His father worked with the deaf, and was the inventor of "Visible Speech," a universal alphabet that portrays the sounds made by the human voice as a series of symbols. Bell followed in his father's footsteps to become a teacher of music and elocution and--in 1868--began teaching speech to deaf children in London. In 1870, Alexander and his parents immigrated to Brantford, Ontario, Canada.
The younger Bell soon moved to Boston, Massachusetts, where he found work teaching. In 1872, he opened the School of Vocal Physiology in Boston and started experimenting with the multiple telegraph. He met Boston attorney Gardiner Greene Hubbard, and in 1873 met Hubbard's daughter, Mabel (who was to be his wife).
In 1874, while conducting acoustics experiments at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Bell conceived the idea for a telephone. This same year, he met Thomas Watson, who would become his assistant. In 1875, Thomas Sanders (whose son had been taught by Bell) and Gardiner Greene Hubbard entered into an agreement to provide financial backing of Bell's inventions.
On February 14, 1876, Bell's telephone patent application was filed at the U S Patent Office, and on March 7, United States Patent No. 174,465 was officially issued. Three days later, intelligible human speech was heard over the telephone for the first time when Bell called to Watson, "Mr. Watson--Come here--I want you." In June, Bell demonstrated the telephone for Sir William Thomson (Baron Kelvin) and Emperor Pedro II of Brazil at the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia. On July 9, 1877, Bell, Hubbard, Sanders and Watson formed the Bell Telephone Company, the precursor of the Bell System.
Alexander Graham Bell and Mabel Hubbard were married on July 11, 1877. They had two daughters: Elsie May Bell (1878) and Marian "Daisy" Bell (1880). (Elsie would later marry Gilbert Grosvenor, the National Geographic Magazine editor, and Daisy married botanist David Fairchild.) Bell became an American citizen in 1882, and was involved with the journal Science
, the National Geographic Society
, and the Smithsonian Institute
Bell continued his experiments with sound and electricity, as well as his involvement with the deaf community. He explored new technologies throughout his life. He was granted 18 patents in his name, and 12 others that he shared with collaborators. Among his inventions were:
- the photophone, an apparatus that transmits sound through light (1880)
- the tetrahedral kite, whose shape of four triangular sides would prove to be light, strong, and rigid (1901)
- the first heavier-than-air machine to fly in Canada (1909)
- HD-4, a hydrofoil craft, which set a world marine speed record (1919)
Alexander Graham Bell died on August 2, 1922, and is buried at Beinn Bhreagh, Nova Scotia.
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