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Alexander Graham Bell

The man behind the telephone, Alexander Graham Bell became famous for his pioneering work. His invention came as a result of a lifelong fascination with speech, as his mother had impaired hearing. This also led to Bell founding a laboratory - funded by money he received for his invention – so that he could research ways of teaching deaf people how to speak.


Family background

Born on 3rd March 1847 in Edinburgh, Bell was educated for one year at a private school and spent two years at Royal High School in Edinburgh. However, he was mainly home-schooled by his mother, Eliza. She instilled a sense of curiosity and an ability to problem-solve in her son, as she became an accomplished pianist, despite being almost completely deaf.

Bell's father and grandfather were both authorities in the mechanics of the voice and elocution, which further sparked the youngster's interest in speech. At the age of 16, he joined his father to work with deaf people.


First telephone call

In July 1870, the family emigrated to Canada for the healthier climate and Bell set up a workshop to continue his research into speech. He then moved to Boston and obtained funding from local investors to continue his work.

In 1872, he also founded a school in Boston to train teachers to help deaf students. The school later joined forces with Boston University, where Bell became a professor of vocal physiology in 1873.

By 1875, Bell had invented a simple receiver that turned electricity into sound. He became interested in how to transmit the human voice over wires and joined forces with Thomas Watson, an electrician, to create an efficient partnership - Bell having the ideas and Watson the knowledge to put them into action.

The investors filed a patent on 7th March 1876 for the idea of a voice transmitting device - and on 10th March, Watson finally heard Bell’s voice through a wire for the first time, recognised as being the first ever telephone call.


Telephone company

The concept of the telephone spread quickly and the first telephone exchange was set up in Connecticut within 12 months, with the Bell Telephone Company being created in 1877. Bell owned one-third of the shares.

In 1880, he received the French Volta Prize for inventing the telephone and used the money to found the Volta Laboratory in Washington. He was able to carry on with his experiments in communication, medical research and teaching speech to deaf people. One of the people with whom he worked was Helen Keller, who went on to become a leading humanitarian, despite being both blind and deaf.

In 1885, Bell bought land in Nova Scotia and built a summer home there to continue his experiments.


Patent battles

Over a period of 18 years, the Bell Company faced more than 500 court challenges involving other people claiming to have invented the telephone but none succeeded. Despite the constant battles, the Bell Telephone Company grew and by 1886, more than 150,000 people in the US owned telephones. The device was improved after Thomas Edison invented a microphone, which meant users no longer had to shout into the telephone.

Bell co-founded the National Geographic Society in 1888, serving as its president from 1896 to 1904. In 1890, he set up the American Association to Promote Teaching of Speech to the Deaf. He died on 2nd August 1922 following a distinguished career and an invention that would see him remembered for all time.


Electrical matting

In the decades since the invention of the telephone, health and safety practices have advanced too. Rubber is known to have excellent electrical insulating properties and it can reduce or stop electric currents. Coruba's electrical rubber matting or switchboard matting is an invaluable addition in high voltage environments to protect workers from the risk of electric shocks. Ideal for switchboards, plant rooms and control rooms, our matting is recommended in places where employees handle live equipment. Please contact us for further details.

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