Alexander Graham Bell - History

Alexander Graham Bell - History

Alexander Graham Bell

1847- 1922

Inventor

Alexander Bell was born in Edinburgh Scotland on March 3, 1847. At the age of 12, he made his first invention the dehusking machine for his neighbors' mill. Bell we first homeschooled and not a particularly good student. Eventually thanks to his grandfather he gained a love of learning. He attended the University of Edinburgh for a year.

After the death of his brother from tuberculosis, the family moved to Canada, where his family bought a farm. He split his time between teaching and working in Boston and his family back in Canada. He demonstrated his first telephone in 1875. On March 7, 1876, the US patent office issued Bell a patent that covered "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 sound". The first commercial phone was offered a mere year later. Bell also worked on early aircraft designs, but none of his other efforts equaled the profound impact of the telephone.


Alexander Graham Bell

Alexander Graham Bell is most well known for inventing the telephone. He came to the U.S as a teacher of the deaf, and conceived the idea of "electronic speech" while visiting his hearing-impaired mother in Canada. This led him to invent the microphone and later the "electrical speech machine" -- his name for the first telephone.

Bell was born in Edinburgh, Scotland on March 3, 1847. He enrolled in the University of London to study anatomy and physiology, but his college time was cut short when his family moved to Canada in 1870. His parents had lost two children to tuberculosis, and they insisted that the best way to save their last child was to leave England.

When he was eleven, Bell invented a machine that could clean wheat. He later said that if he had understood electricity at all, he would have been too discouraged to invent the telephone. Everyone else "knew" it was impossible to send voice signals over a wire.

While trying to perfect a method for carrying multiple messages on a single wire, he heard the sound of a plucked spring along 60 feet of wire in a Boston electrical shop. Thomas A. Watson, one of Bell's assistants, was trying to reactivate a telegraph transmitter. Hearing the sound, Bell believed that he could solve the problem of sending a human voice over a wire. He figured out how to transmit a simple current first, and received a patent for that invention on March 7, 1876. Five days later, he transmitted actual speech. Sitting in one room, he spoke into the phone to his assistant in another room, saying the now famous words: "Mr. Watson, come here. I need you." The telephone patent is one of the most valuable patents ever issued.

Bell had other inventions as well -- his own home had a precursor to modern day air conditioning, he contributed to aviation technology, and his last patent, at the age of 75, was for the fastest hydrofoil yet invented.

Bell was committed to the advancement of science and technology. As such he took over the presidency of a small, almost unheard-of, scientific society in 1898: the National Geographic Society. Bell and his son-in-law, Gilbert Grosvenor, took the society's dry journal and added beautiful photographs and interesting writing -- turning National Geographic into one of the world's best-known magazines. He also is one of the founders of Science magazine.

Bell died on August 2, 1922. On the day of his burial, all telephone service in the US was stopped for one minute in his honor.


Alexander Graham Bell (1847 - 1922)

Alexander Graham Bell © Bell was a Scottish-born American scientist and inventor, most famous for his pioneering work on the development of the telephone.

Alexander Graham Bell was born on 3 March 1847 in Edinburgh and educated there and in London. His father and grandfather were both authorities on elocution and at the age of 16 Bell himself began researching the mechanics of speech. In 1870, Bell emigrated with his family to Canada, and the following year he moved to the United States to teach. There he pioneered a system called visible speech, developed by his father, to teach deaf-mute children. In 1872 Bell founded a school in Boston to train teachers of the deaf. The school subsequently became part of Boston University, where Bell was appointed professor of vocal physiology in 1873. He became a naturalised U.S. citizen in 1882.

Bell had long been fascinated by the idea of transmitting speech, and by 1875 had come up with a simple receiver that could turn electricity into sound. Others were working along the same lines, including an Italian-American Antonio Meucci, and debate continues as to who should be credited with inventing the telephone. However, Bell was granted a patent for the telephone on 7 March 1876 and it developed quickly. Within a year the first telephone exchange was built in Connecticut and the Bell Telephone Company was created in 1877, with Bell the owner of a third of the shares, quickly making him a wealthy man.

In 1880, Bell was awarded the French Volta Prize for his invention and with the money, founded the Volta Laboratory in Washington, where he continued experiments in communication, in medical research, and in techniques for teaching speech to the deaf, working with Helen Keller among others. In 1885 he acquired land in Nova Scotia and established a summer home there where he continued experiments, particularly in the field of aviation.

In 1888, Bell was one of the founding members of the National Geographic Society, and served as its president from 1896 to 1904, also helping to establish its journal.


A (Shockingly) Short History Of 'Hello'

What do you say when you pick up the phone?
You say "hello," of course.
What do you say when someone introduces a friend, a relative, anybody at all?
You say "hello."
Hello has to have been the standard English language greeting since English people began greeting, no?

Well, here's a surprise from Ammon Shea, author of The First Telephone Book: Hello is a new word.

The Oxford English Dictionary says the first published use of "hello" goes back only to 1827. And it wasn't mainly a greeting back then. Ammon says people in the 1830's said hello to attract attention ("Hello, what do you think you're doing?"), or to express surprise ("Hello, what have we here?"). Hello didn't become "hi" until the telephone arrived.

The dictionary says it was Thomas Edison who put hello into common usage. He urged the people who used his phone to say "hello" when answering. His rival, Alexander Graham Bell, thought the better word was "ahoy."

"Ahoy," it turns out, had been around longer — at least 100 years longer — than hello. It too was a greeting, albeit a nautical one, derived from the Dutch "hoi," meaning "hello." Bell felt so strongly about "ahoy" he used it for the rest of his life.

And so, by the way, does the entirely fictional "Monty" Burns, evil owner of the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant on The Simpsons. If you watch the program, you may have noticed that Mr. Burns regularly answers his phone "Ahoy-hoy," a coinage the Urban Dictionary says is properly used "to greet or get the attention of small sloop-rigged coasting ship." Mr. Burns, apparently, wasn't told.

Why did hello succeed? Aamon points to the telephone book. The first phone books included authoritative How To sections on their first pages and "hello" was frequently the officially sanctioned greeting.

In fact, the first phone book ever published, by the District Telephone Company of New Haven, Connecticut, in 1878 (with 50 subscribers listed) told users to begin their conversations with "a firm and cheery 'hulloa.'" (I'm guessing the extra "a" is silent.)

Whatever the reason, hello pushed past ahoy and never looked back. The same cannot be said of the phonebook's recommended Way To End A Phone Conversation. The phonebook recommended: "That is all."

This strikes me as an eminently more honest and forthright way to end a phone call than "good-bye." "Good-bye," "bye-bye," and all the other variants are ultimately contractions of the phrase "God Be with you" (or "with ye"). I don't know about you, but I don't really mean to say that when I end a conversation. I suppose I could say "ciao" — which does have a certain etymological background of coming from the Italian schiavo, which means "I am your slave," and I don't much want to say that either.

The more Ammon thought about it, the more he liked "That is all."

. For several decades the great newscaster Walter Cronkite would end his broadcasts by saying "And that's the way it is," a fine turn of phrase that has almost as much pith and truth to it as "That is all." Broadcast journalist Linda Ellerbee had a similar method of ending her news segments, with the trenchant "And so it goes." These are perfectly serviceable phrases, but even they don't have the clarity and utility of "That is all." I should like to see "That is all" make a comeback in colloquial speech, and I have resolved to attempt to adopt it in the few telephone conversations that I engage in.

Well, this probably wasn't fair or even nice, but I decided to call Ammon Shea to see if he practices what he preaches. He answered his phone with a very standard "hello" and then, after I'd gotten permission to quote from his book, when it was time to end our conversation, I gave him no hint, no encouragement, I just waited to see how it would go. hoping to hear him do his "That is all." But no.

Ammon Shea's new book (Perigee/Penguin 2010) is called The Phone Book: The Curious History of the Book That Everybody Uses But No One Reads.

Our illustrations come from the magical pen of Adam Cole, intern with NPR's Science Desk, and should anyone wish to place a call to "Monty" Burns in Springfield, be prepared. This is how he will answer the phone.


First speech transmitted by telephone

The first discernible speech is transmitted over a telephone system when inventor Alexander Graham Bell summons his assistant in another room by saying, “Mr. Watson, come here I want you.” Bell had received a comprehensive telephone patent just three days before.

Alexander Graham Bell, born in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1847, was the son of Alexander Melville Bell, a leading authority in public speaking and speech correction. The young Bell was trained to take over the family business, and while still a teenager he became a voice teacher and began to experiment in sound. In 1870, his family moved to Ontario, Canada, and in 1871 Bell went to Boston to demonstrate his father’s method of teaching speech to the deaf. The next year, he opened his own school in Boston for training teachers of the deaf and in 1873 became professor of vocal physiology at Boston University.

In his free time, Bell experimented with sound waves and became convinced that it would be possible to transmit speech over a telegraph-like system. He enlisted the aid of a gifted mechanic, Thomas Watson, and together the two spent countless nights trying to convert Bell’s ideas into practical form. In 1875, while working on his multiple harmonic telegraph, Bell developed the basic ideas for the telephone. He designed a device to transmit speech vibrations electrically between two receivers and in June 1875 tested his invention. No intelligible words were transmitted, but sounds resembling human speech were heard at the receiving end.

On February 14, 1876, he filed a U.S. patent application for his telephone. Just a few hours later, another American inventor, Elisha Gray, filed a caveat with the U.S. Patent Office about his intent to seek a similar patent on a telephone transmitter and receiver. Bell filed first, so on March 7 he was awarded U.S. patent 174,465, which granted him ownership over both his telephone instruments and the concept of a telephone system.

Three days later, on March 10, Bell successfully tested his telephone for the first time in his Boston home. In May, he publicly demonstrated the invention before the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in Boston, and in June at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. In October, he successfully tested his telephone over a two-mile distance between Boston and Cambridgeport.

Alexander Graham Bell continued his experiments in communication, inventing the photophone, which transmitted speech by light rays, and the graphophone, which recorded sound. He continued to work with the deaf, including the educator Helen Keller, and used the royalties from his inventions to finance several organizations dedicated to the oral education of the deaf. He later served as president of the National Geographic Society. Beginning in 1895, he experimented with the possibility of flight and built giant man-carrying kites and a hydrofoil craft. He died in 1922 at his summer home and laboratory on Cape Breton Island, Canada.


On March 10, 1876, Alexander Graham Bell conducted a successful experiment with the telephone. This breakthrough, during which he uttered his famous directive to his assistant, Thomas Watson, is recorded in the March 10 entry in his 1875-1876 Lab Notebook.

That same day, an ebullient Bell wrote his father of his “great success” and speculated that “the day is coming when telegraph wires will be laid on to houses just like water and gas — and friends converse with each other without leaving home.”

Born on March 3, 1847, in Edinburgh, Scotland, Alexander Graham Bell was the son and grandson of authorities in elocution and the correction of speech. Educated to pursue a career in the same specialty, his knowledge of the nature of sound led him not only to teach the deaf, but also to invent the telephone.

Alexander Graham Bell at the opening of the long-distance line from New York to Chicago [October 18, 1892]. Gilbert H. Grosvenor Collection of Photographs of the Alexander Graham Bell Family. Prints & Photographs Division.

Bell’s unceasing scientific curiosity led to invention of the photophone, to significant commercial improvements in Thomas Edison’s phonograph, and to development of his own flying machine just six years after the Wright Brothers launched their plane at Kitty Hawk. As President James Garfield lay dying of an assassin’s bullet in 1881, Bell hurriedly invented a metal detector in an unsuccessful attempt to locate the fatal slug.

In 1915, fifty-four years after telegraph lines connected America’s coasts, transcontinental telephone lines were completed. Invited to play a role in the formal dedication of the line in New York, Bell used a duplicate of his 1876 telephone to speak to his former assistant, Thomas Watson, in San Francisco. Echoing his famous words of March 10, 1876, Bell again commanded, “Mr. Watson, come here, I want you.” Watson replied that it would take him a week to do so.


“Mr. Bell, are you going to the Centennial?” might have been the words history remembered as the first spoken over Bell’s magneto telephone that would become commercialized in less than a year. Instead, we remember the words, “Mr. Watson – Come here – I want to see you,” which Bell spoke about two months earlier using an experimental transmitter that was impractical and never used again. The magneto telephone that Bell later demonstrated at the Centennial Exposition in June 1876 still had a flaw in its design, however, which would not be corrected for another six months. The improved telephone was tested in December 1876, it used the same instrument for a transmitter and a receiver, had a range of more than 100 mi, and used no batteries. That achievement was the culmination of an invention process Bell had begun at least four years earlier.

In the 1870s, electricity was cutting-edge technology. Like today’s Internet, it attracted bright, young people, such as Bell and Watson, who were only 29 and 22, respectively, in 1876. Electricity offered the opportunity to create inventions that could lead to fame and fortune.

Although Bell had only recently mastered electricity, he had from his youth been an expert on sound and speech. Born and raised in Edinburgh, Scotland, Bell was the son of Eliza and Alexander Melville Bell, a professor of elocution who had devised a technique called visible speech, a set of symbols that represented speech sounds. The elder Bell used the technique to teach the deaf to speak.

In 1863 Bell took the first of what would be many jobs as a speech and music teacher in Scotland. Teaching during the day, he conducted experiments at night on the pitch of vowel sounds using tuning forks. He also became interested in building a machine to produce vowel sounds electronically. He tried to teach himself about electricity, becoming especially fascinated by the growing field of telegraph.

Young Graham followed in his father’s footsteps, and by the time he was 20, he was teaching visible speech in London. In 1870, after Bell’s two brothers died of tuberculosis, he immigrated with his parents to Canada. The next year, Bell moved to Boston to lecture on visible speech and to teach the deaf. In 1872, he became a professor of elocution at Boston University, where he trained teachers of the deaf and taught private pupils.

Among those pupils were Thomas Sander’s young son, George, and Gardiner Hubbard’s daughter Mabel. Bell impressed both men with his knowledge of electricity, and by 1874 they had agreed to pay his research expenses in return for a share in any inventions Bell might make. He learned how the human ear changes sound waves into actual sound and tried to invent a device to record the rise and fall of the voice in speech. He believed it might be possible to send speech over an electrified wire. When Thomas Watson entered Bell’s life as a skilled electrician who could make devices for inventors, Bell became so obsessed with the electrical transmission of sound that he gave up his teaching job to devote himself completely to the project.

There was already one great electrical industry — the telegraph, whose wires crossed not only the continent but even the Atlantic Ocean. The need for further innovations, such as a way to send multiple messages over a single telegraph wire, was well known and promised certain rewards. But other ideas, such as a telegraph for the human voice, were far more speculative. By 1872, Bell was working on both voice transmission and a “harmonic telegraph” that would transmit multiple messages by using musical tones of several frequencies.

The telegraph transmitted information via an intermittent current. An electrical signal was either present or absent, forming the once-familiar staccato of Morse code. But Bell knew that speech sounds were complex, continuous waves. In the summer of 1874, while visiting his parents in Brantford, Ontario, Bell hit upon a key intellectual insight: to transmit the voice electrically, one needed what he called an “induced undulating current.” Or to put it in 21st century terms, what was required was not a digital signal, but an analog one.

Bell still needed to prove his idea with an actual device. He struggled to find time to develop it among competing demands, including his teaching duties and his efforts — pushed by Hubbard — to perfect a multiple telegraph. As Bell was falling in love with Hubbard’s daughter, Mabel, he felt he could ill afford to ignore the older man’s wishes.

On 1 July 1875, Bell succeeded in transmitting speech sounds, albeit unintelligible sounds. On that basis, he began in the fall to draw up patent specifications for “an improvement in telegraphy,” Hubbard filed Bell’s patent application on the morning of 14 February 1876.

There’s a well known tale that Bell beat another inventor, Elisha Gray, to the patent office by a few hours. While true, it’s not the whole story. Bell filed a patent application, a claim that says, in essence, “I have invented.” Gray, on the other hand, filed a caveat, a document used at the time to claim “I am working on inventing.” Priority in American patent law follows date of invention, not date of filing. The U.S. Patent Office issued patent #174,465 to Bell on 7 March 1876. Although court battles over his telephone patents lasted for eighteen years, all cases were eventually resolved in his favor.

Bell returned to in Boston and began a wide variety of experiments including one with a wire that was attached to a membrane on one end and dipped into acid on the other. This was the liquid transmitter from which Watson heard Bell’s voice on March 10, 1876. By the end of April, Hubbard complained that Bell would not perfect anything while he was flying from one thing to another. Bell thus returned to testing his original magneto design and succeeded on May 22. Bell’s magneto telephone was subsequently demonstrated at the Centennial Exposition.

Bell announced his discovery, first in lectures to Boston scientists, and then at the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exposition. He was largely ignored until Brazilian emperor Dom Pedro II attracted attention to him by listening to Bell reciting Shakespeare over the telephone. The emperor exclaimed, “My God! It talks!” and eminent British physicist William Thomson took news of the discovery across the ocean and proclaimed it “the greatest by far of all the marvels of the electric telegraph.”

Using magneto telephones, Watson and Bell spoke to each other over rented telegraph wires from points increasingly far apart. Trying to make some quick cash, Bell offered Western Union the patent rights to the telephone for $100,000. The telegraph company had a nationwide network of wires in place and could naturally have branched out. Content with its telegraph monopoly, Western Union turned down Bell’s offer and lost the chance to monopolize another lucrative industry.

By the summer of 1877, the telephone had become a business. The first private lines, which typically connected a businessman’s home and his office, had been placed in service. The first commercial telephone switchboard opened the following year in New Haven.

Bell had little interest in being a businessman. In July 1877, he married Mabel Hubbard, and set out for what proved a long honeymoon in England. He left the growing Bell Telephone Company to Hubbard and Sanders, and went on to a long and productive career as an independent researcher and inventor. In 1880, he invented and patented the photophone, which transmitted voices over beams of light. He also studied sheep breeding, submarines and was close behind the Wright Brothers in the pursuit of manned flight. In Paris in 1880 he was awarded the Volta Prize for scientific achievement. With the prize money, he founded a research laboratory in the United States that worked on projects including metal detectors, phonograph improvements, and automatic telephone switchboards. The decibel, the unit for measuring the strength of any kind of sound, was named after Bell.

Bell knew the importance of furthering the profession. He attended the organizational meeting of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers (IEEE’s predecessor society) in May 1884 where he was elected one of six founding vice presidents. And in 1891-92, he served as AIEE president.

Bell also kept a proud eye on the progress of his invention. In 1892, he made the ceremonial call to open long distance telephone service between New York and Chicago, and in 1915 the call to open service between New York and San Francisco. For this occasion, Bell was in New York and his erstwhile assistant Watson was in California. At the request of an attendee, Bell repeated the first words ever transmitted electrically, “Mr. Watson – Come here – I want to see you.” To which, Watson replied from across the continent, “Well, it would take me a week now.” In 1914, Bell was awarded the Edison Medal 'For meritorious achievement in the invention of the telephone.'

Profits from the Bell Company eventually made Bell very wealthy. After 1892 the Bell family lived in both Washington, D.C. and Nova Scotia. Bell never stopped experimenting and inventing. He conducted experiments with flying machines and became a prominent spokesman for the oral method of teaching the deaf to speak and read lips, a method he developed and which is still in use today, although it remains controversial. Although he was not involved in the daily operations of the growing telephone industry, he remained interested in the development of the technology.

Alexander Graham Bell died at his summer home in Baddeck, Nova Scotia on 2 August 1922. During his funeral two days later, every telephone in the United States and Canada went silent for one minute in Bell’s honor.


Early Career

Young Alexander was groomed from a young age to carry on in the family business, but his headstrong nature conflicted with his father’s overbearing manner. Seeking a way out, Alexander volunteered to care for his grandfather when he fell ill in 1862. 

The elder Bell encouraged young Alexander and instilled an appreciation for learning and intellectual pursuits. By age 16, Alexander had joined his father in his work with the deaf and soon assumed full charge of his father’s London operations.

On one of his trips to North America, Alexander’s father decided it was a healthier environment and decided to move the family there. At first, Alexander resisted, for he was establishing himself in London. He eventually relented after both his brothers died of tuberculosis. 

In 1870, the family settled in Brantford, Ontario, Canada. There, Alexander set up a workshop to continue his study of the human voice.

On July 11, 1877, Bell married Mable Hubbard, a former student and the daughter of Gardiner Hubbard, one of his early financial backers. Mable had been deaf since her early childhood years.


Signing, Alexander Graham Bell and the NAD

Most Americans know Alexander Graham Bell as the inventor of the telephone, but few are aware that the central interest of his life was deaf education or that he was one of the most prominent proponents of oralism in the United States. Like his father before him, Bell spent his life studying the physiology of speech, once said that &ldquoto ask the value of speech is like asking the value of life.&rdquo After emigrating from England to Canada in 1870 and to the United States a year later, Bell began to teach speech to deaf students using a universal alphabet invented by his father called &ldquoVisible Speech.&rdquo In 1872 he opened a school in Boston to train teachers of deaf children.

Bell&rsquos second chief interest was the study of heredity and animal breeding, and he became an early supporter of the eugenics movement to improve human breeding. Bell did not go so far as to advocate social controls on reproduction, as many eugenicists did. He did, however, decry the immigration into the United States of what he termed &ldquoundesirable ethnical elements,&rdquo calling for legislation to prevent their entry in order to encourage the &ldquoevolution of a higher and nobler type of man in America.&rdquo His views on immigration, deaf education, and eugenics overlapped and intertwined. He described sign language as &ldquoessentially a foreign language&rdquo and argued that &ldquoin an English speaking country like the United States, the English language, and the English language alone, should be used as the means of communication and instruction at least in schools supported at public expense.&rdquo He maintained that the use of sign language &ldquoin our public schools is contrary to the spirit and practice of American Institutions (as foreign immigrants have found out).&rdquo

&ldquoI think Alexander Graham Bell&rsquos greatest crime was keeping deaf people apart from each other. It wasn&rsquot so much that he thought speech was important. Worse than that was that he didn&rsquot want deaf people to marry each other. He didn&rsquot want them to be near each other. He wanted them to be apart.&rdquo

In 1884, Bell published a paper &ldquoUpon the Formation of a Deaf Variety of the Human Race,&rdquo in which he warned of a &ldquogreat calamity&rdquo facing the nation: deaf people were forming clubs, socializing with one another and, consequently, marrying other deaf people. The creation of a &ldquodeaf race&rdquo that yearly would grow larger and more insular was underway. Bell noted that &ldquoa special language adapted for the use of such a race&rdquo already was in existence, &ldquoa language as different from English as French or German or Russian.&rdquo Some eugenicists called for legislation outlawing intermarriage by deaf people, but Bell rejected such a ban as impractical. Instead he proposed the following steps: &ldquo(1) Determine the causes that promote intermarriages among the deaf and dumb and (2) remove them. The causes he sought to remove were sign language, deaf teachers, and residential schools. His solution was the creation of special day schools taught by hearing teachers who would enforce a ban on sign language.

As oralism became the dominant method of instruction in schools for deaf students, the National Association of the Deaf and other community organizations rose to the defense of sign language in the classroom. They called it the &ldquonatural language of the deaf&rdquo and argued that a reliance on oral communication alone would be educationally disastrous for most deaf students. They took the debate to Deaf community newspapers, to journals of education, to teachers&rsquo conventions, to any forum accessible to them. The National Association of the Deaf began production of a series of films, in 1910, under the direction of its president, George Veditz. The NAD raised $5,000 to make eighteen films. The fear and the hope that animated the project was that the elimination of sign language and deaf teachers in the schools would lead to the deterioration of their beloved language and the hope was that the new technology of film could preserve examples of the &ldquomasters of our sign language&rdquo for future generations. Veditz&rsquos own contribution to the film series, an impassioned call for &ldquoThe Preservation of the Sign Language&rdquo denounced the damage caused by the &ldquofalse prophets.&rdquo These films provide us with an early glimpse of the language Deaf Americans created.

&ldquoSociety in general views Alexander Graham Bell as an American hero, as the inventor of the telephone. He was famous, wealthy, and influential. His own Mother was deaf. He was always associating with the Deaf community and he was a teacher of deaf children. He had his own day school in Boston. He was very familiar with the Deaf world.&rdquo

HISTORIC FILM QUOTE:
&ldquoWe American deaf are now facing bad times for our schools. False prophets are now appearing, announcing to the public that our American means of teaching the deaf are all wrong. These men have tried to educate the public and make them believe that the oral method is really the one best means of educating the deaf. But we American deaf know, the French deaf know, the German deaf know that in truth, the oral method is the worst. A new race of pharaohs that knew not Joseph is taking over the land and many of our American schools. They do not understand signs for they cannot sign. They proclaim that signs are worthless and of no help to the deaf. Enemies of the sign language, they are enemies of the true welfare of the deaf. We must use our films to pass on the beauty of the signs we have now. As long as we have deaf people on earth, we will have signs. And as long as we have our films, we can preserve signs in their old purity. It is my hope that we will all love and guard our beautiful sign language as the noblest gift God has given to deaf people.&rdquoGeorge W. Veditz, &ldquoThe Preservation of the Sign Language,&rdquo 1913, (translated from ASL by Carol Padden and Eric Malzkuhn)

Copyright © 2007 WETA. All rights reserved. Published March 2007
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Today in History: Born on June 21

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Alexander Graham Bell

Alexander Graham Bell is most well known for inventing the telephone. He came to the U.S as a teacher of the deaf, and conceived the idea of "electronic speech" while visiting his hearing-impaired mother in Canada. This led him to invent the microphone and later the "electrical speech machine" -- his name for the first telephone.

Bell was born in Edinburgh, Scotland on March 3, 1847. He enrolled in the University of London to study anatomy and physiology, but his college time was cut short when his family moved to Canada in 1870. His parents had lost two children to tuberculosis, and they insisted that the best way to save their last child was to leave England.

When he was eleven, Bell invented a machine that could clean wheat. He later said that if he had understood electricity at all, he would have been too discouraged to invent the telephone. Everyone else "knew" it was impossible to send voice signals over a wire.

While trying to perfect a method for carrying multiple messages on a single wire, he heard the sound of a plucked spring along 60 feet of wire in a Boston electrical shop. Thomas A. Watson, one of Bell's assistants, was trying to reactivate a telegraph transmitter. Hearing the sound, Bell believed that he could solve the problem of sending a human voice over a wire. He figured out how to transmit a simple current first, and received a patent for that invention on March 7, 1876. Five days later, he transmitted actual speech. Sitting in one room, he spoke into the phone to his assistant in another room, saying the now famous words: "Mr. Watson, come here. I need you." The telephone patent is one of the most valuable patents ever issued.

Bell had other inventions as well -- his own home had a precursor to modern day air conditioning, he contributed to aviation technology, and his last patent, at the age of 75, was for the fastest hydrofoil yet invented.

Bell was committed to the advancement of science and technology. As such he took over the presidency of a small, almost unheard-of, scientific society in 1898: the National Geographic Society. Bell and his son-in-law, Gilbert Grosvenor, took the society's dry journal and added beautiful photographs and interesting writing -- turning National Geographic into one of the world's best-known magazines. He also is one of the founders of Science magazine.

Bell died on August 2, 1922. On the day of his burial, all telephone service in the US was stopped for one minute in his honor.


Watch the video: The Sweet - Alexander Graham Bell