|Alexander Graham Bell
was born on March 3, 1847 in Edinburgh, Scotland, the son of Alexander
Melville Bell and Eliza Grace Symonds, daughter of a surgeon in the
Royal Navy. His mother, who was a portrait painter and accomplished
musician, began to lose her hearing when Graham (a name that was used by
his family and close friends) was twelve. His father had a world
wide reputation as a teacher and author of textbooks on correct speech,
and as the inventor of "visible speech," a code of symbols which indicated
the position and action of the throat, tongue and lips in uttering various
sounds. Melville’s Visible Speech helped to guide the deaf in learning
to speak and Graham became an expert in its use for that purpose.
Graham and his two
brothers assisted Melville in public demonstrations in Visible Speech,
beginning in 1862. At the same time he enrolled as a student-teacher
at Weston House, a boys’ school near Edinburgh where he taught music and
speech in exchange for being a student of other subjects. A year
later he became a full-time teacher at the University of Edinburgh while
studying at the University of London.
In 1866 Bell carried
out a series of experiments to determine how vowel sounds are produced.
He combined the notes of electrically driven tuning forks to make vowel
sounds which gave him the idea of "telegraphing" speech. In 1870
his brothers died of tuberculosis and his family moved to Brantford, Ontario,
Canada to a healthier climate. A year later Graham moved to Boston
where he opened a school for teachers of the deaf and in 1872 became a
professor at Boston University.
Bell’s interest in
electricity continued and he attempted to send several telegraph messages
over a single wire at one time. Lacking the time and skill to make
the equipment for these experiments he enlisted the help of Thomas A. Watson
from a nearby electrical shop. The two became fast friends and worked
together on the tedious experimentation to produce sounds over the "harmonic
telegraph." It was on June 2, 1875, while Bell was at one end of
the line and Watson worked on the reeds of the telegraph in another room
that he heard the sound of a plucked reed coming to him over the wire.
The next day, after
much tinkering, the instrument transmitted the sound of Bell’s voice to
Watson. The instrument transmitted recognizable voice sound, not
words. Bell and Watson experimented all summer and in September,
1875, Bell began to write the specifications for his first telephone patent.
The patent was issued
on March 7, 1876. The telephone carried its first intelligible sentence
three days later in the rented top floor of a Boston boarding house at
109 Court Street, Boston.