Alexander Graham Bell (Scotland/United States, 1847-1922)


Figure 1.--Here we see the Bell family at their Ediunburgh home, 16 South Charlotte Street. The photograph was taken in 1852 when Alexander was 5 years old. He had two brothers: Melville James Bell and Edward Charles Bell.

Alexander Graham Bell was home schooled and then attended a school in Edinburgh until he was 15 years old. He then spent 12 months living with his grandfather in London. It was at this time that he developed an appreciation for school-based learning. He is best known for inventing the telephone (1876), but also worked extensiuvely with the death. He formed the Bell Telephone Company which provided him the wealth to finance a long career of research and invention (1877). In that same year, with financial security asssured, he married Mabel Hubbard and began a yearlong grand honeymoon tour of Europe in style. His inquiring mind led him to a long careeer pursuing new inventions in many different fields.

Family

Alexander's father was educator Alexander Melville Bell. His father was a famous Professor of linguistics. He had wrote many learned books on the mechanics of soeech and how we learn to speak. He developed a system that he called "visible speech". The system showed how the lips, tongue, and throat are used to create sounds. His mother was Eliza Grace.

Childhood

Alexander was born in Edinburgh, Scotland (1847). The family home was at 16 South Charlotte Street. The photograph here was taken in 1852 when Alexander was 5 years old. He had two brothers: Melville James Bell and Edward Charles Bell. He played a lot with his brothers they were all good companions. As a boy he vecame disturbed by the fact that he did not have a middle name. His brothers had but he had not one. When he was 10 years old he spoke with his father about it. On his next birthday his fatherís present was a middle name. Alexander chose Graham. He was the happiest boy in all of Edinburgh now that he had a middle name. His friends and family called him "Aleck." He liked it when his father called him ďAleckí which he did all through his life which his father continued to call him into later life. Alexander was a bright happy and friendly boy. He was curious about all sorts of things. He liked collecting botanical specimens. Alexander could play football and he learned to play the piano. He played it at family entertainments. He loved poetry and he liked to draw. His mother gave him a lot of encouragement. Alexander was a comical boy because he learnt to mimic sounds and speech. He did "voice tricks" akin to ventriloquism that entertained his family and the guests which visits.

Boyhood Inventions

Alexabder loved making experiments and inventing things. is best friend was Ben Herdman. They lived near each other. Ben and Alexander often played in Benís fatherís flour mill. Young Aleck asked what needed to be done at the mill. He was told wheat had to be de-husked through a laborious process. Aleck got to thinking about this and even though he was 12 he was able to come up with a clever idea. He invented a machine that could take the husks of wheat easier. Benís dad was very grateful. He let Alexander have a room to experiment. The machine was in use for many years.

Mother Deafness

There was a great sadness in his life when he was 12. His mother became deaf. Alexander was sad for his mother. She did not know what people were saying. She loved to talk and listen to what people said. Now she could not hear her friends tell her news. Alexander thought about this. He invented a way to move her fingers so that she could know peopleís news. Alex sat by her side and pressed her fingers together. He also developed a way to talk to his mother which made his voice vibrate stronger. This helped his mother to hear what was being said.

Education

Alexander was home schooled and then attended a school in Edinburgh until he was 15 years old. He attended Edinburgh high school. He assisted his father in efforts to develop training methods for people aflicted with speech impediments. He entered the Uniuversity of Edinburgh. He then spent 12 months living with his grandfather in London. He entered university in London (1867), but wiuthdrew because of health problems.It was at this time that he developed an appreciation for school-based learning.

Emigration (1870)

Alexander with his father emigrated to Canada (1870). He moved on to the United States (1872).

The Telephone (1876)

Bell once in Amnerica introduced his father's system of speech instruction, focusing on deaf-mutes instruction. This provided hope to families that were struggling with seemingly unteachavke children. He was appointed professor of vocal physiology at Boston University. He founded a school for deaf-mutes in Boston (1872). This work in the mechanics of speech led him into the field of the transmission of sound by electricity. It is something that had captivated his mind while still a teenager. Other researchers were also working in this aerea. He devised many different types of apparatus attenpting to transmit vocal messages. He is best known for inventing the telephone. He was working on a multiple telegraph (1874). Telegraphy was limited at first by the inability to send multiple messages on a wire. During the process of woirking on the telegraph prooblem, he developed the basic idea for tranmitting vocal messages. He worked with his assistant Thomas Watson. The first full sentence transmitted was, "Watson, come here; I want you." (March 10, 1876). He first exhibited the device at the Philadelphia Centenial Exhibition (1876). This was the first American world's fair. It astounded observers. It proved an enormous success both technically and commercially. He formed the Bell Telephone Company which made him a fortune (1877).

Family

In that same year, with financial security asssured, he married Mabel Hubbard and began a yearlong grand honeymoon tour of Europe in style.

Other Activities

Bell was only 26 years old when he invented the telephone. His inquiring mind led him to a long careeer pursuing new inventions in many different fields. He pursued all kinds of ideas through a long life that extended four more decaded after the telephone. And thanks to the success of Bell Telephone, his research was well financed. His sedearch led him further into communications as well as many other disperate areas including kites, airplanes, tetrahedral structures, sheep-breeding, artificial respiration, desalinization and water distillation, and hydrofoils.

President Garfield

Professor Bell, along with Sumner Tainter, was one of the scientists called on to sace President Garfiekd after he was assadinated. They experimented with an form of Hughes's induction balance, in an effort to find the exact location of the bullet, but failed to locate it.

Deaf mutes

Bell dabeled with eugenics. He theorized that the system of educating deaf-mutes was flaws because it hasd the effect of restrict them to each other's society. This increased marriages between and thus the number of deaf-mute children. Like many eugenbecisyts, Bell developed his theory with very little actual genetic information.

Photophone

Bell did a lot of work recording speech by means of photographing the vibrations of a jet of water. He first described another invebtion, the "photophone" at the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Boston (1880). Here a vibrating beam of light was substituted for an electric wire in conveying speech. It did not, however, prove a commercial success or lead to practical uses.

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Created: 10:22 AM 3/17/2010
Last updated: 10:22 AM 3/17/2010