Alexander Graham Bell was a noteworthy scientist, innovator and inventor. Along with his invention of the telephone, he has made a valuable contribution to the field of hydrofoils and aeronautics. This article gives an overview of his illustrious work and the inspiring journey of his life.
Born on March 3, 1847 in Edinburgh, Scotland, Alexander showed a flair for art, poetry, and music since his childhood years. He was a student of the Royal High School, from which he dropped out. However, he continued pursuing his interest in science. At the age of ten, Alexander adopted ‘Graham’ as his middle name.
Since an early age, Alexander was experimental. At the age of twelve, he came up with a dehusking machine that used nailbrushes and rotating paddles. This was Bell’s first invention.
Elocution skills ran in Bell’s family. His father and grandfather were elocutionists. Alexander took keen interest in his father’s work related to the fields of elocution and visible speech. He soon became a part of his father’s demonstrations of deciphering symbols in different languages.
Alexander Bell received great encouragement from his father to continue with his experiments on speech. He deduced that if vowel sounds could be produced through electrical means, so could consonants and articulate speech.
In 1865, the Bell family moved to London after which Alexander focused on his experiments with electricity. He also helped his father with Visible Speech demonstrations. Alexander soon began to work at the Hull’s private school for the deaf, where he taught two students.
In 1870, the Bells moved to Ontario and started staying with Reverend Thomas Henderson, their family friend. They later purchased a property and began to stay in their own house. Alexander set up a small workshop near his new residence to continue with his experiments on human voice.
Alexander Bell was instrumental in translating the unwritten vocabulary of the Mohawk language into visible speech symbols. This work earned him the title of Honorary Chief. In 1871, he traveled to Boston to give a demonstration of visible speech to the instructors at the Horace Mann School for the Deaf. He was later invited to conduct the same demonstration for the instructors at the American Asylum for Deaf-mutes in Hartford and the Clarke School for the Deaf in Northampton.
In 1872, Alexander Bell established a school for deaf pupils in Boston. He called it ‘Vocal Physiology and Mechanics of Speech’. He also worked as a private tutor, thus helping many deaf and dumb students to cope with their disabilities. Helen Keller was one of his most famous students.
Alexander Graham Bell and one of his financial supporters, Anthony Pollok, sought guidance from Joseph Henry, a famous scientist, on the electrical multi reed apparatus that Bell wanted to use as a transmitter of human voice. In Bell’s idea of using electrical multi reeds for voice transmission, Henry saw the potential of it turning into a great invention.
Bell pursued his experiments with the electrical multi reeds with his newly hired assistant, Thomas Watson. On June 2, 1875, Watson happened to pluck a reed from the apparatus and the overtones of the reed could be heard at the other end of the wire. This accidental plucking of a reed revealed the key to transmit voice over wire and the invention of the telephone was on its way! Bell soon devised the telephone and started concentrating on improving it.
Did You Know?
A small plaque on this building’s exterior notes Alexander Graham Bell’s first wireless communication in 1880, an important event in the history of telecommunications. In the experiment, a voice message was transmitted using a beam of light with the help of a Photophone invented by Bell.
By 1877, the Bell Telephone Company was established and within a decade, more than 150,000 people in the United States owned telephones.
On January 25, 1915, Bell made his first transcontinental call from New York City to San Francisco. Thomas Watson received this call, marking it as the first telephonic conversation ever held.
Some of Bell’s later inventions include, the metal detector and the hydrofoil. He received the Volta Prize for his invention of the telephone. He was one of the founders of the National Geographic Society and became its second President. In 1914, he became the proud winner of the AIEE’s Edison Medal for the invention of the telephone.
Alexander Graham Bell was struck by pernicious anemia, which became the cause of his death on August 2, 1922 at the age of 75. Upon his death, all the telephones across the United States stilled their ringing as a tribute to this great inventor.
The land of America has produced many inventors and scientists. The period between 19th and 20th century was that of speedy growth for scientific development. However, the foundation for development was laid prior to this period. The great scientists from America worked in various fields of science to make path-breaking discoveries and inventions. Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Alva Edison, George Washington Carver, Barbara McClintock, and many others brought glory to America by making valuable contributions in this field.
Scientists and Inventors from America
Short profiles of famous American scientists are presented in this article. The following content about renowned American scientists for kids should prove to be informative.
Born on 17th January, 1706, Benjamin Franklin mainly worked in the field of physics. His notable inventions include the bifocal lens, lightning rod, carriage odometer, Franklin Stove, and glass harmonica. One of the specialties of Franklin’s work was that he never patented the inventions. The principle of ‘conservation of charge’ was first discovered by Franklin. Electrical fluid, as it was referred to in those days, was classified in two categories i.e., vitreous and resinous. Franklin had claimed that these weren’t two different types but the same entity under different pressures.
He was not only one of the famous American inventors, but also was a successful businessman. Born on 11th February, 1847, Thomas Alva Edison came from Milan, Ohio. The electric bulb is one of his most notable inventions. Other inventions include the motion picture camera and phonograph. Improvements made in the incandescent light by Edison laid the foundation for inventing electric bulb. A system for distribution of electricity was patented by Edison in 1880. He earned large profits by first patenting the inventions, and then setting up mass production systems.
George Washington Carver
He was one of the most famous African-American scientists. He taught the farmers to make a variety of recipes from peanuts. George Washington Carver also made improvements in the preparation of various items including the edible ones. The list of these items is as follows: axle grease, adhesives, instant coffee, fuel briquettes, chili sauce, buttermilk, bleach, sidewalk, plastic, paper, metal polish, etc.
She was a specially distinguished cytogeneticist, and she won the Nobel Prize for ‘Physiology or Medicine’ in the year 1983. The technique developed by McClintock to visualize the corn chromosomes was one of her most notable works. The phenomenon of transposition was discovered by this scientist in the 40s and 50s decade. In this research work, the role of genes in exhibiting the physical characteristics was explained.
He was basically a chemist. However, he also worked as an educator and peace activist. He is amongst the most important scientists, and one of the first ones to work in the field of molecular biology and quantum chemistry. Linus Pauling is the only person along with Marie Curie to have won the Nobel Prize in two different fields (Chemistry and Peace). He developed interest in the study of quantum mechanics while being at the Oregon State University.
Basically a research chemist, Percy Lavon Julian is credited for his pioneering work in the field of medicinal drugs synthesis from plants. He also pioneered the large-scale industrial production of hormones like testosterone, progesterone, etc., from plant sterols. Sitosterol and stigmasterol were the ones that were used for this production. He was able to secure more than 130 patents in his lifetime.
The works of these above-mentioned famous scientists from USA should prove to be inspiring for all of us.