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Alexander Graham Bell birth anniversary: Interesting facts about the telephone man

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Alexander Graham Bell

Alexander Graham Bell was an influential scientist, engineer and inventor. On his birth anniversary, March 3, here are some interesting facts about the person who gave the world its first telephone.

  • Born on March 3, 1847, Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor of the first practical telephone, become interested in the science of sound because both, his mother and wife, were deaf.
  • ‘Graham’ is not Bell’s real middle name. In fact, the middle name, Graham, was given as a birthday present to Bell by his father when he turned 11 and after being insistent about having a middle name like his two brothers.
  • Bell’s primary focus was to help deaf students communicate. In 1872, when he was 25, he opened a “School of Vocal Physiology and Mechanics of Speech” in Boston. Bell’s father, Melville, had developed a system called Visible Speech, a collection of written symbols designed to help deaf while speaking.
  • The telephone came into existence, when while experimenting with acoustic telegraphy along with his assistant and machinist, Thomas Watson.

    Bell with his telephone

  • The first telephone call was made by Bell on January 15, 1915 from New York to Thomas Watson, who was in San Francisco.
  • Mabel Hubbard, belonging to a very wealthy family, and also one of Bell’s pupils (whom he latter married), was ‘the girl for whom the telephone was invented’. So claimed Bell, who kept a photo of Mabel on his desk, with the quoted inscription at the back of the photo.
  • In 1880, for the invention of the telephone, Bell was awarded 50,000 francs by the French government. He then founded the Volta Laboratory dedicated to the “increase and diffusion of knowledge relating to the deaf.”
  • Out off the several patents that Bell held, photophone was the one that Bell considered to be his “greatest ever”. According to mentalfloss.com, “The photophone was designed for optical wireless communication, which was quite a feat for 1880. Bell and an assistant, Charles Summer Tainter, transmitteda wireless voice message by light beam over a distance of 200 meters from a school roof to their laboratory — a precursor to fibre-optics one hundred years later.”
  • Bell, along with aviation pioneer Frederick ‘Casey’ Baldwin, began building and testing world’s first speedboat, HD-4, which set the world speed record of 70.86 mph on September 9, 1919. The remnants of HD-4 are still housed at the Alexander Graham Bell Historic site and museum in Baddeck.

    The HD-4 speedboat


  • Bell has been credited with having been responsible for Canada’s first controlled plane to take flight. In 1822, Bell had been dabbling in motor-powered aircraft and did several experimentations with tetrahedron kites. Co-designer John McCurdy with Bell’s help flew the Silver Draft over Nova Scotia for half mile. With more improvisations, the flight managed to fly for over 22 miles. In the summer of 1909, Silver Draft carried its first passenger in Canadian airspace.
  • On his death on August 2, 1992, as a tribute to the inventor of the telephone, every telephone in North America was silenced for a minute, in “honour of the man who had given to mankind the means for direct communication at a distance.”
  • Telephone is not the only famous invention by Bell. His repertoire includes:
  • The first metal detector, which was used to find a bullet inside President James Garfield, which was difficult to locate. Taking inspiration from French inventor Gustave Trouvé’s handheld device, Bell built a device based on electromagnetics.
  • Audiometer, a device used for the detection of hearing problems.
  • He made a device, which could help find icebergs.
  • He also invented techniques, which could help teaching speech to people with hearing impairment.