“Mr. Watson, come here. I want you. ” These famous words by Alexander Graham Bell were spoken twice – first when the first sentence on the telephone was transmitted, and second when the first transcontinental sentence was exchanged (Feinstein 76, 92). This great genius may be world-famous for his invention of the telephone, but he preferred to be known as something else – the teacher of the deaf (World Book 2001 240). Not only was this brilliant man the creator of the device that transmits speech but also an educator and a very curious human being who desired knowledge and continued to test new ideas throughout his long and productive life.
You can see how he changed and influenced the world through the years of his early life, his achievements, his miraculous telephone and its impact on the world, and his other creative inventions. Bell was born on March 3, 1847 in Edinburgh, Scotland (Foster). He was named after his grandfather, Alexander Bell and got his middle name, Graham from a family friend. His father, who was also named Alexander, taught deaf-mutes on how to speak, whereas his mother Elisa was a painter (World Book 2001 240).
He was a talented musician, and could play by ear from the years of his childhood which resulted in him receiving a musical education (World Book 2001 240). Bell enrolled as a student teacher in West Howe – which was a boys’ school near Edinburgh – and taught music and speech in exchange for being tutored in other subjects (World Book 2001 240). He eventually started his own school for deaf teachers in 1872, which was one achievement of his in the line of many, although his most important one was the telephone. Ever since he was young, he had a fervent interest in human voice and an ambition for fame and fortune.
From the time when Samuel Morse invented the telegraph, Bell was determined to create a new and improved version. In other words, he wanted to be able to transmit human speech. He worked with his partner, Thomas Watson, whom he met at an electrical instrument-making workshop, because he lacked necessary parts (World Book 2001 241). Together, they worked on the creation of the telephone – using a wire, a transmitter, and a receiver. On March 1876, Bell was adjusting the transmitter in the lab of his apartment. Watson was in another room adjusting the receiver, and the door between them was shut.
Bell accidentally spilled battery acid on himself, and said those famous words – “Mr. Watson, come here. I want you,” which Watson heard in the other room through the receiver (Creating America 588). Life flew by for Alexander and Thomas after that. The first telephone patent was issued on March 7, 1876 (World Book 2001 241). The French government awarded Bell the Volta Prize of 50,000 francs, and he used that money to set up more labs, which also meant that he accumulated teams of bright engineers to pursue new ideas (World Book 2001 241, Bellis).
Before they knew it, telephones were widely used in the United States. In 1880, more than 50,000 telephones had been sold. A year later, that number changed to 132,000 (Feinstein 89). In 1915, the first transcontinental phone call took place between Bell – who was in New York City, and Watson – who was on the other side of the country, in San Francisco (Feinstein 92). Because this took place, it opened up a whole new level of possibility for Americans. If we could get a telephone call across the country, then why not across the whole world?
Today, telephones are widely used, and we all have Bell to thank – although not only for this one task. Some more accomplishments of his were when he was elected the first president of the National Geographic Society, and also when he founded the Journal of Science (Ament). Although these achievements may be big, they were not as great as the invention of the telephone. As a result, Bell created the “Bell Telephone Company” in 1885, which also led to the creation of the “American Telephone & Telegraph Company” (AT&T), which still exists today. (Feinstein 89).
The invention resulted in Alexander demonstrating his telephone at the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia in 1876, and also for Queen Victoria at the Royal Palace (Feinstein 79, 82). Several major scientists at the time saw his exposition, and declared “Here is the greatest marvel ever achieved in electrical science,” (Creating America 588). Two days after the exhibition, he married Mabel Hubbard and had two daughters – Elsie and Marian (Feinstein 84). They sailed to England and introduced the telephone to the British. The telephone changed the whole world to an unimaginable extent, and it all started with an accident in his lab.
Although this creation was one of Bell’s more successful inventions, he also had many that were not as well-known, but were developed with such cleverness that it plainly shows his creativity and hobby for experimentation. Alexander always strived for more knowledge, which meant that he experimented whenever possible. In 1880, he invented the photophone, which transmitted sound over a beam of light (Feinstein 99). He also devised a kite capable of carrying a person, and a “hydrodome,” which was the fastest boat in the world for several years, travelling at an average speed of 70 mph (Ament).
Another one of his well-known inventions was a metal detector, which came in useful when President James Garfield was shot. On July 2, 1881, doctors probed the President’s body with bare and unwashed hands, hoping to find the bullet. They were unsuccessful and called Bell, expecting him to use his metal detector. When Bell first invented this device, he tested it on Civil War veterans who still had bullets in them, and was successful for every single person. When it came to the president, however, it did not work.
Garfield eventually died from blood poisoning from the doctors’ filthy hands. After his death, Bell found out that his metal detector was fine, but the springs in the President’s bed had interfered with the functioning of the machine. Many newspapers incorrectly blamed him for the president’s death, but those close to him knew that he had tried his best, and that the death was not his fault in any way (Feinstein 103, 106). Inventing the telephone alone would’ve earned Bell lifelong fame and respect, but he continued to create or improve devices to make the world a better place.
Forty-one years later Bell himself passed away. On August 2, 1922, Pernicious Anemia, a blood disease, sadly claimed his life at the age of 75 (Bellis). He is remembered for being the inventor of the telephone, and making the world a smaller place, because friends and family were now just a phone call away. To honor his death, the millions of telephone lines served by the Bell Telephone System in USA and Canada went silent for a whole minute, letting the people remember who invented it and how it dramatically changed the world (Ament).
To this very day we can see how Alexander Graham Bell changed each and every one of our lives, and made the world what it is through the years of his early life, his accomplishments, his extraordinary telephone and its impact on the world, and his other astounding creations. He followed his dreams and desires, and told us all to “Leave the beaten track occasionally and dive into the woods. Every time you do so you will be certain to find something that you have never seen before. ” ~Alexander Graham Bell (Feinstein 5).
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