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Alexander Graham Bell, Telephone Inventor
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Alexander Graham Bell sketching

Alexander Graham Bell sketching

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A page of early telephone sketches from Bell’s notebook
A page of early telephone sketches from Bell’s notebook

Telephone Inventor

Alexander Graham Bell’s idea for the telephone was sparked by his studies of the human ear.

Like his father, Bell worked as a speech therapist and taught deaf people. Both his mother and his wife Mabel were deaf.

In 1874 Bell built a phonautograph--a device that could draw the vibrations of a human voice--to teach his deaf students how to visualize sound. Constructed out of an actual human ear, Bell’s phonautograph led him to consider that voice sounds might be conveyed electrically.

For almost two years Bell and his assistant, Thomas Watson, an experienced electrician and model maker, worked on Bell’s ideas. Then on March 10, 1876, Watson stood in the bedroom of Bell’s Boston apartment holding a receiver to his ear. In the lab down the hall, Bell spoke into a transmitter: “Mr. Watson, come here, I want to see you.” Watson heard every word; it was the first intelligible communication by telephone.

Bell wrote, “This is a great day for me. I feel that I have at last struck the solution of a great problem--and the day is coming when...friends converse with each other without leaving home.”

“Wherever you may find the inventor, you may give him wealth or you may take from him all that he has; and he will go on inventing. He can no more help inventing than he can help thinking or breathing.”

Next: Bell's Invention of the Phonautograph›

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