Alexander Graham Bell was an accomplished inventor, teacher, and scientist, whose work would go on to shape the world.
His relentless persistence was expressed in the famous quote, “When one door closes another door opens; but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the ones which open for us.”
Bell focused his uncanny natural ability to solve problems to create products and tools, with his most famous invention being the telephone; a device that would go on to change the world and eventually evolve into the smartphone that you have in your hands right now.
Today, we are going to take a brief look at the life and work of Alexander Graham Bell and showcase some of the scientist’s greatest inventions.
Problem Solving at An Early Age
Born on March 3, 1847, in Edinburgh, Scotland Bell was not the best student in the class. Yet both his peers, teachers, and parents acknowledged Bell’s impressive ability to solve problems. Just at the age of 12 years old, Bell invented a farming device to help a friend’s father more efficiently farm wheat.
Though Graham Bell is very well known for his years of invention and as of a scientist, Bell’s biggest passion was a teacher for the deaf, a career that followed in the footsteps of his father Alexander Melville Bell and his grandfather.
It is obvious that this strong desire for the deaf provided some spark and obsession with developing a device that could transmit a voice.
“Mr. Watson, come here. I want you.”
During his tenure as a teacher for the hearing impaired, a group of investors needed help creating the perfect harmonic telegraph. For the uninitiated, the harmonic telegraph was the name given to methods of multiplexing telegraph messages simultaneously over a single telegraph wire by using different audio frequencies or channels for each message.
For many people at the time, it was revolutionary changing the way people communicate, allowing them to send messages almost instantly over long distances. Yet, Bell had an itch to create something much more.
After talking with these same investors, Bell was able to convince them to allow him to also work on a new device, one that would give people the ability to transmit their voices to each other.
In short, by making a current of electricity vary in intensity as the air varies in density during the production of sound, Bell was able to transmit speech telegraphically.
By March 10, 1876, Bell was able to make the very first telephone call, transmitting transmitted sound on a beam of light instead of electrical wires, the forefather of the cordless phone and 80% of today's telephone systems that use fiber optics.
Who did he call? Alexander Graham Bell called his assistant uttering the famous words “Mr. Watson, come here. I want you.” Though it would be eventually challenged and fought hundreds of times over his life, Bell was awarded the patent for the telephone that same month.
Establishing the Bell Telephone Company in 1877, Bell’s telephone was a huge success. Similar to the way the iPhone changed the world, as was Bell’s creation of the phone. Just within 10 years, the telephone was in the homes of more than 100,000 people in the U.S.
Bell’s Other Great Contributions
Again, Bell’s obsession with sound extended out and beyond and manifested itself in his work. By 1886 Bell had patented and invented the graphophone, a device that recorded and playback sound; a device that was basically a more commercialized version of the phonograph created by the brilliant Thomas Edison.
Before the phonograph and the gramophone, music was simply a social event. For you to experience music, you would either need to go out to an event or simply learn how to play an instrument. Gramophones entered the living rooms of people allowing them to listen to their favorite music performances on demand.
The modern landscape of music even the vinyl record can trace its heritage all the way back to Alexander Graham Bell.
Interestingly in Bell’s attempt to perfect Edison’s phonograph, he invented the microphone, a device that would have a host of applications ranging from music to eventually broadcasting. The aim of creating a microphone was to allow users to speak in a normal voice rather than shouting to be heard on a call.
Bell’s work did not just stop there. Inspired and saddened by the assassination of U.S. president James A. Garfield in 1881, Bell created the electrical bullet probe, a device for surgical application but would become the forefather to the metal detector.
By 1907, Bell’s new interest in aviation sparked him to develop a host of flying machines including both the Silver Dart and the world’s fastest hydrofoil. Before his peaceful death in 1922, Bell helped launch Science Magazine, a publication still in circulation to this day, and helped shape National Geographic to what it is today.
What do you think of Alexander Graham Bell life and accomplishments?