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Alexander Graham Bell's Birthday
March 3

By Sarah Lane
Jan 21, 2008, 03:35 PST

Alexander Graham Bell 1847-1922



Alexander Graham Bell 1847-1922


Born on March 3rd, 1847 in Edinburgh, Scotland, Alexander Bell eventually settled in Boston.  He graduated from high school at age 14 and was primarily self-taught.  He continued teaching others for the remainder of his life.  You probably are aware of the fact that he was the brain behind transmitting vocal messages by electricity.  You might not know that he taught the deaf how to talk.  Bell tutored private students including Helen Keller!  He also founded the American Association to Promote the Teaching of Speech to the Deaf.  He founded Science, the magazine, in 1880, and the National Geographic Society in 1888.  He was even president of the National Geographic Society from 1896 to 1904.


As far as inventing the telephone goes, Bell had to prove to everybody by doing demonstrations that his invention could actually work.  Finally on March 7th, 1876, he was granted a patent from the U.S. Patent Office for the ‘electronic speaking telephone.’  It was patent number 174,465.  In July of 1877, the Bell Telephone Company was formed.  They built the first long distance telephone line from Boston to New York.  Everyone wanted to be the one to invent this great device so Bell had to go to court many times to prove he came up with the idea first.  There were 587 lawsuits and five went to the Supreme Court.  He won every case.


Do you know what the very first sentence transmitted over a phone line was?  Three days after the patent went into effect, Bell’s assistant heard the words, “Mr. Watson, come here, I want you.”  He suddenly realized the invention worked.  When Alexander Graham Bell died on August 2, 1922, the entire nation stopped using the phone for a full minute of silence.  This was a special tribute to the man who made this form of communication possible.

Source:     PBS & The Gale Group


Additional Learning Links


American Memory Library of Congress

This is a collection of over 4,500 items including scientific notebooks, journals, blueprints, and photographs from the Alexander Graham Bell Family Papers.  Bell's life as teacher, inventor, and family man is described in his papers.

Source:              Made possible by AT&T Foundation, presented by the Library of Congress

Reading Level:   Hard


Biography Resource Center

For a detailed account of the many contributions Bell made as an inventor, this is the place to go.  Learn about the various associations he founded as well as his dedication to teaching the deaf.

Source:              The Gale Group

Reading Level:   Moderate


The Path to the Telephone

Learn the exact process by which Bell created the telephone.  Follow the inventions he created right up until the patent was in effect.  Read the introduction papers for dates and exact locations.

Source:              Michael Gorman

Reading Level:   Hard


Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf

Founded in 1890 by Bell, this association is mainly dedicated to children with hearing loss.  They also produce books, magazines, and a scholarly journal for anyone who is interested in learning more.

Source:              A G Bell

Reading Level:   Moderate

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