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He founded the Aerial Experiment Association in The first telephone had two parts: a transmitter and a receiver. The transmitter comprised three parts—a drumlike device a cylinder with a covered end , a needle, and a battery. The covered end of the drumlike device was attached to the needle.
The needle was connected by wire to the battery, and the battery was connected by wire to a receiver. When Bell spoke into the open end of the drumlike device, his voice made the paper and needle vibrate. The vibrations were then converted into an electric current which traveled along the wire to the receiver.
At age 11 he entered the Royal High School at Edinburgh , but he did not enjoy the compulsory curriculum, and he left school at age 15 without graduating. In the family moved to London. Alexander passed the entrance examinations for University College London in June and matriculated there in the autumn. Mabel had become deaf at age five as a result of a near-fatal bout of scarlet fever.
Bell began working with her in , when she was 15 years old. Despite a year age difference, they fell in love and were married on July 11, They had four children, Elsie — , Marian — , and two sons who died in infancy. In Joseph Stearns had invented the duplex, a system that transmitted two messages simultaneously over a single wire.
Inventors then sought methods that could send more than four; some, including Bell and his great rival Elisha Gray , developed designs capable of subdividing a telegraph line into 10 or more channels. These so-called harmonic telegraphs used reeds or tuning forks that responded to specific acoustic frequencies. They worked well in the laboratory but proved unreliable in service. A group of investors led by Gardiner Hubbard wanted to establish a federally chartered telegraph company to compete with Western Union by contracting with the Post Office to send low-cost telegrams.
Bell, however, was more interested in transmitting the human voice.
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Finally, he and Hubbard worked out an agreement that Bell would devote most of his time to the harmonic telegraph but would continue developing his telephone concept. From harmonic telegraphs transmitting musical tones, it was a short conceptual step for both Bell and Gray to transmit the human voice. Bell filed a patent describing his method of transmitting sounds on February 14, , just hours before Gray filed a caveat a statement of concept on a similar method. On March 7, , the Patent Office awarded Bell what is said to be one of the most valuable patents in history.
It is most likely that both Bell and Gray independently devised their telephone designs as an outgrowth of their work on harmonic telegraphy. However, the question of priority of invention between the two has been controversial from the very beginning. Despite having the patent, Bell did not have a fully functioning instrument. He first produced intelligible speech on March 10, , when he summoned his laboratory assistant, Thomas A. Watson—come here—I want to see you. In August of that year, he was on the receiving end of the first one-way long-distance call, transmitted from Brantford to nearby Paris, Ontario, over a telegraph wire.
Although his invention rendered him independently wealthy, he sold off most of his stock holdings in the company early and did not profit as much as he might have had he retained his shares. Thus, by the mids his role in the telephone industry was marginal. By that time, Bell had developed a growing interest in the technology of sound recording and playback. Although Edison had invented the phonograph in , he soon turned his attention to other technologies, especially electric power and lighting, and his machine, which recorded and reproduced sound on a rotating cylinder wrapped in tinfoil, remained an unreliable and cumbersome device.
In the French government awarded Bell the Volta Prize, given for achievement in electrical science. Bell used the prize money to set up his Volta Laboratory, an institution devoted to studying deafness and improving the lives of the deaf, in Washington, D. There he also devoted himself to improving the phonograph.
By Bell and his colleagues his cousin Chichester A. Bell and the inventor Charles Sumner Tainter had a design fit for commercial use that featured a removable cardboard cylinder coated with mineral wax. They called their device the Graphophone and applied for patents, which were granted in The group formed the Volta Graphophone Company to produce their invention. Then in they sold their patents to the American Graphophone Company, which later evolved into the Columbia Phonograph Company.
Bell used his proceeds from the sale to endow the Volta Laboratory. Bell undertook two other noteworthy research projects at the Volta Laboratory. In he began research on using light as a means to transmit sound. In British scientist Willoughby Smith discovered that the element selenium , a semiconductor , varied its electrical resistance with the intensity of incident light. Bell sought to use this property to develop the photophone, an invention he regarded as at least equal to his telephone. He was able to demonstrate that the photophone was technologically feasible , but it did not develop into a commercially viable product.
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Nevertheless, it contributed to research into the photovoltaic effect that had practical applications later in the 20th century. The origin of this effort was the shooting of U. President James A. Garfield in July Bell decided that a promising approach was to use an induction balance, a by-product of his research on canceling out electrical interference on telephone wires.
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Bell determined that a properly configured induction balance would emit a tone when a metal object was brought into proximity with it. Surgeons adopted it, and it was credited with saving lives during the Boer War — and World War I — In September the Bell family vacationed in Nova Scotia, Canada, and immediately fell in love with the climate and landscape.
During the s Bell shifted his attention to heavier-than-air flight. Starting in , inspired by the research of American scientist Samuel Pierpont Langley , he experimented with wing shapes and propeller blade designs. He continued his experiments even after Wilbur and Orville Wright made the first successful powered, controlled flight in In Bell founded the Aerial Experiment Association , which made significant progress in aircraft design and control and contributed to the career of pioneer aviator Glenn Hammond Curtiss.
Throughout his life, Bell sought to foster the advance of scientific knowledge. He supported the journal Science , which later became the official publication of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
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He was one of the founders of the National Geographic Society in and succeeded his father-in-law, Gardiner Hubbard, as president of the society between and Alexander Graham Bell is credited with the invention of the telephone. The year was and he was 29 years old. However Bell was not content with its success. He continued to test out new ideas throughout his life, exploring communications as well as many other scientific activities.
Alexander Graham Bell's father educated him at home in his early years. He left school at 15 and travelled to London to live with his grandfather for a year. Bell's grandfather, uncle and father were all elocutionists, studying speech for a living. It is therefore fitting that this is where Bell's interests would lie. The following year he attended Edinburgh University. In April he moved to Boston to take up a position as a teacher at the Boston School for the Deaf, established in The school still exists.
The installation of the first Atlantic telegraph cable in had caused great excitement in North America. Scientists and businessmen were starting to see opportunities opened by the advent of telegraphy. In , prompted to begin his own experiments, Bell tried to send multiple telegraph signals over a single wire.