The Online Library of Knowledge

Famous inventors

Alexander Graham Bell

Alexander Graham BellAlexander Graham Bell Alexander Graham Bell (1847–1922) was a Scottish-American scientist and inventor of the telephone. Born in Edinburgh, Bell moved first to Canada, then to the US in 1871. He founded a school in Boston to train teachers of deaf children. Interested in ways of transmitting speech, in 1875 he invented a receiver that could turn electricity into sound, a device he patented the following year. In March 1876 Bell made the world’s first telephone call. His assistant, Tom Watson, in the next room, heard the words “Mr Watson, come here, I want to see you.” By August, an experiment in which sounds of people talking and singing 6 kilometres (4 miles) away were received along a telegraph line proved that the telephone could worked over long distances.

Bell making a telephone call, 1892Bell making a telephone call, 1892

First telephone

In Bell’s telephone, there was a steel strip that vibrated when someone spoke close to it. These vibrations could be sent along a wire with an electric current and make another strip vibrate, reproducing the original sounds. But these were not very clear: users had to shout to make themselves heard. This device both turned the sound of the user’s voice into an electrical signal, and an incoming signal into sound—which meant that the user could not talk and listen at the same time.

The bel and decibel (dB), units of measurement of the intensity of sound, are named after Alexander Graham Bell.

© 2020 Q-files Ltd. All rights reserved. Switch to Mobile