The Story of The Telephone

Most people seem to have heard of Alexander Graham Bell, widely credited as the inventor of the telephone. What he had actually created however was something more fundamental than just the "telephone" as we know it today.

What he had actually invented was the speaker and microphone, the two fundamental devices for transmitting sound to a remote location and the foundation stone for not only the telephone, but also, radio and music distribution via electricity including live performances using speaker and microphones, or storage onto cassette tapes, CD's or MP3 files. Think about that the next time you fire up your iPod.

Bell was born in Edinburgh on 3rd March 1847. His father Alexander Meville Bell was a very successful teacher on elocution and author of text books on the principles of correct speech. His Mother, Eliza, was a musician. Bell was educated at Royal High School Edinburgh and University College, London.

Like his mother, Bell showed a flair for music and initially planned a musical career but eventually decided to follow in his father's footsteps, joining his father's business in speech studies. After the death of Bells' two brothers from TB in 1870, the family emigrated to Canada, where Alexander continued to help his father experimenting with ways to help the deaf and mute communicate. He had great success with developing methods for teaching the deaf to speak and in 1872 opened a school in Boston for this purpose, as well as for helping people with stammering and pronunciation difficulties. One of Bells' pupils was Mabel Hubbard who had become deaf as a result of scarlet fever. They would later marry.

In 1873 Bell became Professor of Vocal Physiology at Boston University. The idea of transmitting sound by electricity was laid at Bells' home in 1874 and the telephone carried its first message in 1876. Although he successfully patented his invention in 1875 and travelled to the UK in 1877 to promote its introduction, he somewhat lost interest in it after returning to the USA and took no further part in its development after 1881. Instead he dedicated his life to helping the deaf.

Bell was also involved in several other inventions during his life including a hydrofoil boat which set the marine speed record in 1919 of 70.86 mph. He also studied flight, and along with his associates invented the aileron, a device which is still fundamental to the control of an aircraft.

He died on 2nd August 1922 at his summer retreat in Nova Scotia Canada and was buried on 4th August. For one minute during the ceremony the telephone network in the USA was "switched off" as a tribute.

Alexander Graham Bell

Alexander Graham Bell

Next: How the Telephone came about