“Hello? It’s me.” No, not Adele—it’s just the inventor of the telephone, Alexander Graham Bell, on the line, here to give you 12 quick facts about himself.
1. He was the only surviving child.
Scottish-born Alexander Graham Bell was the middle child of three boys. His two brothers passed away from tuberculosis when he was in his 20s.
2. Alexander was homeschooled.
He then attended Royal High School and later the University of Edinburgh, where his father was a professor of speech elocution.
3. Alexander invented his first tool at 12 years old.
The tool could quickly remove husks from wheat. He made it with rotating paddles and nail brushes. This helped make the farming process more efficient.
4. He opened a school in the U.S.
In 1871, he moved to the United States. He opened a school in Boston a year later called the School of Vocal Physiology and Mechanics of Speech. The school helped deaf people learn to speak.
5. He was a professor at Boston University.
When he was 26, Alexander became Professor of Vocal Physiology and Elocution at Boston University. He taught there even though he never finished his college degree.
6. Alexander began working on the harmonic telegraph in 1871.
He became obsessed with learning how to transmit sound—particularly the human voice—over wires. He worked with a partner, Thomas Watson, to develop a receiver to help achieve this feat.
7. By 1876 he was granted the patent for the telephone.
There is some debate over who should get credit for the telephone. Multiple people worked on similar ideas at the same time. Supposedly, Bell raced to the patent office to be sure that he was the one who would get credit.
8. Bell’s first production of intelligible speech was to his assistant, Thomas Watson.
He summoned him saying, “Mr. Watson, come here, I want to see you.”
9. Gardiner Hubbard backed Bell’s work.
Alexander’s investors wanted to back his harmonic telegraph invention. In exchange for financial support, Bell agreed to spend the majority of his time on the telegraph. The agreement still allowed him the freedom to explore the invention of the telephone.
10. Bell married one of his students.
Alexander married Mabel Hubbard on July 11, 1877. She was one of his deaf students, who he met while teaching at Boston University. They went on to have a family of four children, although two of their sons died as babies.
11. Alexander was independently wealthy from the telephone.
He would have earned even more if he had not sold off his stock shares in the Bell Telephone Company.
12. He lost interest in telephony fairly quickly.
Despite dedicating most of his life to telephones and his inventions, he lost interest in telephony in the early 1880s. His role in the field was minimal over the next few years.
Bell was instrumental to the development of modern communication. I wonder what he would think about smartphones?