Alexander Graham Bell
Born: March 3, 1847, Died: August 2 1922
Patent No. 174, 465
Alexander Graham Bell’s invention of the telephone grew out of his research into ways to improve the telegraph. On April 6, 1875, Bell was granted the patent for the multiple telegraph, which sent two signals at the same time. In September 1875 he began to write the specifications for the telephone.
On March 7, 1876, the U.S. Patent Office granted him Patent Number 174,465 (PDF) covering, the method of, and apparatus for, transmitting vocal or other sounds telegraphically by causing electrical undulations, similar in form to the vibrations of the air accompanying the said vocal or other sounds.
Born in Edinburgh, Scotland, the inventor spent one year at a private school, two years at Edinburgh’s Royal High School (from which he graduated at 14), and attended a few lectures at Edinburgh University and at University College in London, but he was largely family-trained and self-taught. He also worked in medical research and invented techniques for teaching speech to the deaf. In 1888 he founded the National Geographic Society.
Never adept with his hands, Bell had the good fortune to discover and inspire Thomas Watson, a young repair mechanic and model maker, who assisted him enthusiastically in devising an apparatus for transmitting sound by electricity.
After inventing the telephone, Bell continued his experiments in communication, which culminated in the invention of the photophone-transmission of sound on a beam of light– a precursor of today’s optical fiber systems.
The range of Bell’s inventive genius is represented only in part by the 18 patents granted in his name alone and the 12 he shared with his collaborators. These included:
- 14 for the telephone and telegraph,
- 4 for the photophone (PDF),
- 1 for the phonograph (PDF),
- 5 for aerial vehicles (PDF),
- 4 for hydroairplanes (PDF), and
- 2 for a selenium cell (PDF).
Posted with the permission of the National Inventors Hall of Fame™