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Facts About Alexander Graham Bell and the Telephone

Updated on June 18, 2017
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Amanda is a retired educator with many years of experience teaching children of all ages and abilities in a wide range of contexts.

Portrait of Alexander Graham Bell

Portrait of Alexander Graham Bell, inventor of the telephone.
Portrait of Alexander Graham Bell, inventor of the telephone. | Source

Alexander Graham Bell Biography

It was in Edinburgh, Scotland on March 3, 1847 that Alexander Graham Bell was born.

His father was Alexander Melville Bell and his mother was Eliza Grace Symonds Bell.

The young 'Aleck' as he was known, was the couple's second child and was given the name of his father and grandfather as was the tradition of the time.

Sadly, both of his two brothers died from the disease of tuberculosis which was a common cause of infant mortality (or child death) in those days.

Edinburgh, Scotland's capital city, was then widely known as 'The Athens of the North' because it was such a vibrant center of culture, education and learning. The truth is, it still is. Growing up in the city, the young Aleck was greatly influenced by the atmosphere of exploration and discovery in science and the arts.

He was also very much influenced by his grandfather after whom he had been named. His grandfather was a well-respected and admired teacher, a professor of elocution (the study of formal speaking and grammar).

Aleck's mother was deaf and yet, despite this disability, had become an accomplished pianist. Alexander Graham Bell would later attribute his determination to overcome difficulties and adopt a problem-solving approach to the influence of his mother.

The Bell Family at Home

Alexander's family at home in Scotland.
Alexander's family at home in Scotland. | Source

Alexander Graham Bell didn't go to school. He was educated at home by his mother. Together, they explored anything and everything that interested them, leading to the healthy development of wide-ranging interests and an insatiable curiosity about the world and its works in the young boy.

He did, later, go to a private school for one year in order to ready him for two years of more formal education at The Royal High School.

It was while he was at the High School, at the age of only twelve, that he made his first successful invention. He and a friend had been observing the operations of a flour mill and Aleck had been frustrated to note how difficult and long-winded the process of removing the husks from the grain was. Puzzling over the problem, he eventually developed a set of revolving paddles with rows of nails set into them which worked automatically to de-husk the wheat. It was a great success.

Alexander Graham Bell's Laboratory Notebook

Alexander Graham Bell's lab book open at the page in which he made notes about the first successful use of the telephone.
Alexander Graham Bell's lab book open at the page in which he made notes about the first successful use of the telephone. | Source

Alexander Graham Bell and the Study of Speech

When he reached the age of sixteen, Aleck started his early researches into 'speech mechanics.' Even at such a young age, he took up a post at the Weston House Academy, teaching both music and elocution.

He continued to promote the technique of Visible Speech, which was a method whereby the deaf could learn the physical position of the organs associated with speech, such as the lips, tongue, and palate, in order to generate the phonetic sounds by following a visual representation even if they could not themselves hear the result.

Eventually, in the year 1870, Aleck and his family emigrated across the ocean to start a new life in Canada.

Alexander Graham Bell in Boston

A markerBoston -
Boston, MA, USA
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Alexander moved with his family first to Canada and then to the USA, where he became the first Professor of Vocal Physiology at Boston University.

It was the following year that he moved to the United States to teach, delighting in the rich intellectual atmosphere of the city of Boston.

It was there, in 1872 that Alexander Graham Bell founded a training school, using the techniques he had developed, for teachers of deaf people. The school was eventually amalgamated with Boston University. At that point a professorship was created and Aleck became the first Professor of Vocal Physiology in 1873. In 1882, he became a fully fledged citizen of the USA.

From Telegraph to Telecommunications

Alexander Graham Bell's invention of the telephone ignited a revolution in communications that would reshape the world.

Before it, the telegraph and Morse Code were the latest thing, the most up-to-date technology.

Inspired by his work teaching speech to the deaf coupled with his technical understanding of the 'morse telegraph', Bell developed his first 'acoustic telegraph' later refined and renamed 'the telephone.'

Alexander Graham Bell's Achievement.

The idea of actually transmitting speech electronically over long distances had always been a concept that had fascinated Aleck. He had already given a lot of thought as to how it might be done, inspired by his investigations into the telegraph.

In 1875 he produced his first simple receiver which was capable of transforming electrical impulses into audible sound.

Aleck finally created a machine that could both transmit and receive sound and the patent for this remarkable and world-changing invention was registered by him in 1876.

Unlike many new inventions, the telephone was adopted quickly. After only a year the very first telephone exchange had been constructed in Connecticut, and the Bell Telephone Company was founded. In consequence of the rapid spread of telephonic communications, Alexander Graham Bell soon became a very wealthy man.

Bell was awarded a number of prestigious prizes and went on to further develop experiments in many fields. He continued to develop technologies to help deaf people.

He also founded The National Geographic Society and was one of the first presidents and editors of the magazine.

He passed away peacefully in spring of 1922.

The Morse Telegraph

The 'Morse Telegraph' was the most advanced method of long distance communication before Alexander Graham Bell invented his 'acoustic telegraph' or telephone.
The 'Morse Telegraph' was the most advanced method of long distance communication before Alexander Graham Bell invented his 'acoustic telegraph' or telephone. | Source

The First Telephone

The first transmitting telephone that Alexander Graham Bell made would hardly be recognized today for what it was.

It was made of a double electromagnet with a membrane stretched in front of it, rather like the skin of a drum. In the center of the membrane was positioned a strip of iron. There was a mouthpiece that was shaped like a funnel, similar to those used in old gramophones. When words were spoken into this horn, it would cause a series of vibrations in the membrane which would be transferred to the iron and generate oscillating electrical currents. These would then be passed down the wire.

The receiver at the other end of the wire was a metal disc at the end of a tube which attached to another electromagnet. The incoming electromagnetic impulses caused the disc to vibrate, making sound waves that corresponded to the speaker's voice.

Bell worked quickly after this initial experiment, to refine the design and improve the functionality of his telephone, which he had called 'the acoustic telegraph.'

Alexander Graham Bell in a Nutshell

What
Where
When
Born
Edinburgh, Scotland
1847
First Invention: corn de-husker
Edinburgh, Scotland
1859
Taught Elocution at Weston House Academy
Edinburgh, Scotland
1863+
Moves to London
London, UK
1865
Teacher to the deaf
Boston School for Deaf Mutes
1871
The first telephone call
Bell's Lab
1876
Bell Patented his Telephone
US Patent Office
1876
Died
Nova Scotia, Canada
1922

Bell's Acoustic Telegraph - the First Telephone

The 'acoustic telegraph' invented by Alexander Graham Bell and the precursor to the modern telecommunications revolution.
The 'acoustic telegraph' invented by Alexander Graham Bell and the precursor to the modern telecommunications revolution. | Source

The First Telephone Call

The very first telephone call ever transmitted was made, not surprisingly, by Alexander Graham Bell himself.

Bell had an assistant, his electrical mechanic, whose name was Thomas Watson. To try out the new machine, he sent Watson out of the workshop to a nearby room where he had set up a receiver.

He called and when Watson answered he said simply, "Mr. Watson? Come here, I want to see you!"

It would be many years later and after much development of the instrument that he would make the first public demonstration of a long distance call between New York and Chicago.

The First Long Distance Telephone Call

In 1892, Alexander Graham Bell made the first long distance call using his new device, making contact between New York and Chicago.
In 1892, Alexander Graham Bell made the first long distance call using his new device, making contact between New York and Chicago. | Source

Find Out More About Alexander Graham Bell

This article gives you the basic facts about Alexander Graham Bell but as you can imagine, there is much more to his life and work that you can still discover.

I hope you enjoy finding out more about Alexander Graham Bell.

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A Revolution in Communications

There is no doubt that the ability to communicate instantly across vast distances - even from distant space - has revolutionized our world and was one of the key inventions which ushered in all the wonders of the modern world.

Next time your ringtone sounds in your pocket, remember Alexander Graham Bell.

And just before you ring off, take a moment to answer the poll!

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© 2013 Amanda Littlejohn

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    • stuff4kids profile image
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      Amanda Littlejohn 10 months ago

      Hi LIli,

      You're very welcome. I hope your class went well. Remember to make sure you credit the image you used to the author!

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      Lili 11 months ago

      Thank You for the picture I needed it for school in one of my classes.

    • stuff4kids profile image
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      Amanda Littlejohn 16 months ago

      Hi under cover spy!

      You're welcome. I'm glad you found this article on the biography of the great inventor Alexander Graham Bell was useful for you.

      :)

    • stuff4kids profile image
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      Amanda Littlejohn 16 months ago

      Hi dude!

      You're welcome. :)

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      under cover spy 17 months ago

      This is the best page I've ever found facts on. I could not find any thing else and this was going to be the last site I was going to look at. It was a miracle I found something. Thank you stuff for kids. :^)

    • profile image

      dude 17 months ago

      thanks

    • stuff4kids profile image
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      Amanda Littlejohn 2 years ago

      Hi Judy!

      Thank you for your kind comment and thanks for reading - I am glad that you enjoyed reading about Alexander Graham Bell.

      Bless you :)

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      Judy Smolin 2 years ago

      This is a great article. Thanks for posting.

    • stuff4kids profile image
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      Amanda Littlejohn 2 years ago

      Thank you, Romanian.

    • Romanian profile image

      Nicu 2 years ago from Oradea, Romania

      This is a great and easy to read article about Bell and the first phone. Good work!

    • profile image

      Idk 3 years ago

      Hello.

    • stuff4kids profile image
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      Amanda Littlejohn 3 years ago

      Thank you so much, Alexanderium! I'm delighted that you enjoyed it.

      :)

    • Alexanderium profile image

      Khaled Alayesh 3 years ago

      that was very enriching. Thank you.

    • stuff4kids profile image
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      Amanda Littlejohn 4 years ago

      Thanks n and bob2!

      :)

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      bob2 4 years ago

      This is awesome!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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      4 years ago

      i like it

    • stuff4kids profile image
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      Amanda Littlejohn 4 years ago

      Hi cece!

      Thanks for your comment. "Bless you" is a thing my grandmother always used to say to everyone all the time, as a greeting, like saying 'hi' and 'bye' and to show goodwill. I kind of picked it up from her and use it like that. It's a bit of a habit now, I guess!

      Bell was a great inventor, yes, I agree!

      Bless you! Lol :)

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      cece 4 years ago

      why do you keep on saying bless yu?

      and i think bell was very great at inventing things, who else?

    • stuff4kids profile image
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      Amanda Littlejohn 4 years ago

      Hi unknown spy,

      Yes, I agree that we should be very grateful for this contribution to modern communications.

      Thanks for your comment.

      Bless you :)

    • unknown spy profile image

      IAmForbidden 4 years ago from Neverland - where children never grow up.

      we should be really thankful to this great inventor for the most amazing inventions ever

    • stuff4kids profile image
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      Amanda Littlejohn 4 years ago

      Hi Jackie,

      Yes the telephone is amazing isn't it? Thank you for the comment.

      Bless :)

    • stuff4kids profile image
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      Amanda Littlejohn 4 years ago

      Thanks, Vellur!

      Bless you :)

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      Jackie Lynnley 4 years ago from The Beautiful South

      Wow, and you know the telephone still amazes me! How can you talk on a wire? lol Now it doesn't even have that. Very interesting hub; and useful. ^

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 4 years ago from Dubai

      Great hub and insight into the life of a great inventor. Useful and informative. Voted up.

    • stuff4kids profile image
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      Amanda Littlejohn 4 years ago

      Thank you, pstraubie48!

      Oh I'm glad that your love of history is rekindled as I do think that it is so important, especially in our evermore fragmented world, to keep a good overview of our place on the timeline of life. And of course, to celebrate the great achievements and the understand how we have come to live in the world we live in today.

      Thanks again for the angels and bless you :)

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 4 years ago from sunny Florida

      Great hub. I learned so much. What I knew of Bell was only the tip of the iceberg. Learning about our history has been reawakened within me by reading so many interesting informative articles here on HP. thanks for sharing Sending Angels your way :) ps

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      Amanda Littlejohn 4 years ago

      Thank you, Joseph!

      Bless you :)

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      Joseph Grant 4 years ago

      Great Hub! Very informative.

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      Amanda Littlejohn 4 years ago

      Thank you billybuc! It's so kind of you to read this and i'm happy you learned something new here.

      I'm doing a few of these because I really enjoy them and I hope they can be useful and interesting to others, too.

      Thanks for your comment again. Bless you :)

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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Great information and yes, I learned several new things from this hub.