Alexander Graham Bell

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Alexander Graham Bell
BirthplaceEdinburgh, Scotland, UK
Inventor, Scientist, Engineer, Professor (Boston University), Teacher of the deaf[N 2]
Known for Inventing the Telephone

Bell, Alexander Graham

Bell, Alexander Graham, 1847–1922, American scientist, inventor of the telephone, b. Edinburgh, Scotland, educated at the Univ. of Edinburgh and University College, London; son of Alexander Melville Bell. He worked in London with his father, whose system of visible speech he used in teaching the deaf to talk. In 1870 he went to Canada, and in 1871 he lectured, chiefly to teachers of the deaf, in Boston and other cities. During the next few years he conducted his own school of vocal physiology in Boston, lectured at Boston Univ., and worked on his inventions. His teaching methods were of lasting value in the improvement of education for the deaf.

As early as 1865, Bell conceived the idea of transmitting speech by electric waves. In 1875, while he was experimenting with a multiple harmonic telegraph, the principle of transmission and reproduction came to him. By Mar. 10, 1876, his apparatus was so far developed that the first complete sentence transmitted, “Watson, come here; I want you,” was distinctly heard by his assistant. The first demonstration took place before the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in Boston on May 10, 1876, and a more significant one, at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition the same year, introduced the telephone to the world. The Bell Telephone Company was organized in July, 1877. A long period of patent litigation followed in which Bell's claims were completely upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.

With the 50,000 francs awarded him as the Volta Prize for his invention, he established in Washington, D.C., the Volta Laboratory, where the first successful sound recorder, the Graphophone, was produced. Bell invented the photophone, which transmitted speech by light rays; the audiometer, another invention for the deaf; the induction balance, used to locate metallic objects in the human body; and the flat and the cylindrical wax recorders for phonographs. He investigated the nature and causes of deafness and made an elaborate study of its heredity.

In 1880 the magazine Science, which became the official organ for the American Association for the Advancement of Science, was founded largely through his influence. Bell was president of the National Geographic Society from 1898 to 1903 and was made a regent of the Smithsonian Institution in 1898. After 1895 his interest was occupied largely by aviation. He invented the tetrahedral kite. The Aerial Experiment Association, founded under his patronage in 1907, brought together G. H. Curtiss, F. W. Baldwin, and others, who invented the aileron principle and developed the hydroplane.


See biographies by C. D. Mackenzie (1928, repr. 1971), A. Johnson (1985), E. S. Grosvenor and M. Wesson (1997), and T. Foster (1998).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Bell, Alexander Graham


Born Mar. 3, 1847, in Edinburgh, Scotland; died Aug. 2, 1922, in Baddeck, Nova Scotia, Canada. One of the inventors of the telephone.

Bell graduated from the universities of Edinburgh and London. In 1870 his family moved to Brantford, Ontario, Canada. In 1872, Bell opened an educational institution in Boston to prepare teachers of the deaf. From 1873 he was professor of the physiology of the speech organs at Boston University (USA). In 1876 he was issued a U.S. patent for a telephone which he invented, and in 1877, an additional patent on the diaphragm and fitting. From 1884 to 1886, together with others, he published his works and received patents in the field of the recording and reproduction of sound. From 1898 he was one of the directors of the Smithsonian Institution.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

Bell, Alexander Graham

(1847–1922) telephone inventor; renowned for studies of deafness. [Am. Hist.: NCE, 265]

Bell, Alexander Graham

(1847–1922) inventor of telephone (1876). [Am. Hist.: Jameson, 46]
Allusions—Cultural, Literary, Biblical, and Historical: A Thematic Dictionary. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

Bell, Alexander Graham

(1847–1922) inventor, educator; born in Edinburgh, Scotland. The son of an elocution teacher and authority on vocal physiology, he worked as his father's assistant at University College, London, where he pursued research in the techniques of teaching speech to the deaf. His family emigrated to Canada in 1870 and he went to Boston, Mass., in 1871; he obtained a professorship at Boston University two years later. Meanwhile, his interest in the applications of electricity to sound led him to invent a new telegraph system, patented in 1875, and to experiment with methods of transmitting voice sounds. On March 10, 1876, he sent his famous telephone message, the world's first, to his assistant, Thomas A. Watson: "Mr. Watson, come here; I want you." He established the Bell Telephone Company the following year. The telephone assured his fortune; the U.S. Supreme Court upheld his patent rights against various claimants. He pursued other interests after 1880, including research into methods of teaching the deaf to speak. He also made improvements to Thomas A. Edison's phonograph. With Gardiner C. Hubbard, his father-in-law and business associate, Bell founded the journal Science, and he was president of the National Geographic Society from 1897–1904. Toward the end of his long life he became interested in aviation; he invented the tetrahedral kite and helped support some of the aircraft development schemes of Samuel P. Langley and Glenn A. Curtiss.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.