We've Got History

Our school was named for Alexander Graham Bell, famous for inventing the telephone.

Bell was an eminent scientist, inventor, engineer and innovator. In one of those quirks of history, he didn't actually create the very first telephone, but instead became the first with his partner to make the first practical phone for regular use. He was also a smart businessman, and became the first to patent the device that revolutionized communication worldwide.

Bell grew up in Scotland in a family with a passion for communication. His grandfather was an actor and public speaker.

His father had keen interest in speech pathologies, and married a deaf woman, Eliza Grace Symonds, who was a painter. They had three sons, the middle child being Alexander, who adored his mother and was so inspired by her that he devotedmuch of his scientific creativity to working on machinery to communicate with the deaf to help others like her.

Alexander Graham Bell
Alexander Graham Bell: 1847-1922

His research on hearing and speech further led him to experiment with hearing devices. He became the first to patent the telephone in 1876.

As a child Alexander started reading and writing at a precociously young age. It was through use of his great speaking voice he forged a unique bond with his deaf mother. He found that he could communicate with her by speaking in low tones close to her forehead, and he guessed that she could "hear" him through the vibrations. This early insight would prove important as he developed more elaborate theories regarding the characteristics of sound waves.

By the time he was 16, he was teaching music and elocution at a boy's boarding school. He and his brothers, Melville and Edward, traveled throughout Scotland impressing audiences with demonstrations of their father's speaking techniques. He studied at the University of London, he continued to be focused on sound and how machines could be used to amplify it and transmitted it.

He met tragedy when both his brothers died of tuberculosis, then incurable.

Bell himself was battling the disease when, at age 23, he moved with his parents to Canada. In 1871, Bell started teaching in a school for the deaf in Boston. Attempting to teach deaf children to speak was considered revolutionary. One of his pupils was Mabel Hubbard, who he later married.

Since Samuel Morse completed his first telegraph line in 1843, telegraphy had blossomed into a full-fledged industry. This new industry meant nearly instantaneous communication between faraway points.

The chance meeting between Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Watson at the electrical machine shop of Charles Williams was one of the great moments in history. Recognized by his employer as being especially skilled, Watson was assigned to work with many new inventors -- including Bell. They collaborated on ways to refine Bell's voice telegraph device..

On March 10, 1876, as he and Watson test his finding, Bell knocked over what they were using as a transmitting liquid--battery acid. Some historians claim that Bell shouted, "Mr. Watson, come here. I want you!" Exactly what Bell shouted was not the point. What was important was that Watson heard Bell's voice through the wire.

Alexander Graham Bell promoted his new invention at the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia in 1876, a kind of world's fair. Brazilian Emperor Dom Pedro exclaimed, "My God, it talks," as Bell's great speaking voice delivered Shakespeare's "Hamlet" over the line. Bell became famous.

In 1878, Rutherford B. Hayes was the first US president to have a telephone installed in the White House. Bell had little interest in playing a day-to-day role in the workings of the company that bore his name. Barely in his thirties, rich and famous, Bell continued to pursue an active life of the mind. His post-telephone inventions included an electric probe used to locate bullets and other metal objects lodged in the body, and the vacuum jacket which, when placed around the chest, administered artificial respiration. Each of these inventions would later be refined and used by other inventors.

He was a student of nature's mysteries and became fascinated with the notion of motion--in the air and on the water. Working with partners, he experimented with manned kites and hydrofoils. Eager to infuse a love of science and the natural world in others, Bell lent considerable financial and editorial support to both Science magazine and National Geographic

Ironically, Bell's most famous invention proved a big intrusion on his scientific work. He refused to have a phone in his study, because of its constant interruption

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