Alexander Graham Bell

Alexander Graham Bell Biography - Overview

Alexander Graham Bell was born on March 3, 1847 in Edinburgh Scotland into a family entrenched in the study of elocution. His father "Melville" and grandfather were modern day speech therapists, helping people to speak proper English and correct stuttering problems. Melville Bell was also fascinated with phonetics and published a book on visual speech.

Young Alexander Graham Bell followed his fathers teachings of sign language but continued to push the boundaries and advocate for the deaf to be taught to read lips and speak their voice. He became a gifted teacher and mentored Helen Keller who was not only deaf but also blind.

Bell's mother and wife were both deaf and Bell devoted his life searching for solutions that would improve the lives of the deaf and hearing impaired at large. Without question he was a monumental success. But Bell had another calling, deeply passionate about the science of invention he spent his entire life at tug of war with his two great passions. Often going without sleep in pursuit of them equally.

Bell dove in as Inventor with the same vigor and enthusiasm as his teachings. In 1881 Bell worked tirelessly for days on a make-shift metal detector, in an attempt to locate a bullet lodged deep into the torso of the 20th U.S. President, James Garfield, but was not successful.  President Garfield had been shot by an assassin and later died from his wounds.

Alexander Graham Bell inventing the first telephone is probably what he is best known and remembered for. But Bell pioneered in other communication systems such as laser and fiber optics. And delved into vastly different areas like breeding and aeronautics. He had numerous patents, eighteen on his own and twelve with other colleagues.

Bell's innovations forever changed the course of History and as genius, new ideas continued to spark and flow right until the moment of his death, August 2, 1922, from diabetes complications.

Alexander Graham Bell Timeline

Born Alexander Bell on March 3rd in Edinburgh Scotland.

Alexander Bell adds the middle name Graham after a family friend.

Bell goes to England to visit his Grandfather.

Bell begins teaching music and elocution at Weston House Academy in Elgin, Scotland.

Bell begins college at Edinburgh.

Bell begins teaching at Somersetshire in Bath.

Bell's brother Edward dies of Tuberculosis at the young age of 19.
Bell's father publishes "Visual Speech: The Science of Universal Alaphabetics"

Bell begins teaching speech at Susanna Hull's school for the deaf in London.

Bell attends College in London

Bell's brother Melville dies of Tuberculosis at the age of 25.

The Bell Family moves to Canada.

Bell moves from Canada to the United States settling in Boston, Massachusetts to teach at the Boston school for the deaf.
Bell opens a new school of Vocal Physiology and begins experimentation to create a multiple telegraph. A telegraph that could send a single message to several people.

The Boston University appoints Bell Professor of Vocal Physiology and Elocution at its School of Oratory.

Bell meets Mabel Hubbard, a deaf student at the school. Hubbard is privately tudored by bell.

Bell conducts acoustics experiments at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He and Clarence Blake, a Boston ear specialist, begin experimenting with the mechanics of the human ear and the Phonautograph, a device that could translate sound vibrations into visible tracings.

Bell first conceives of the idea for the telephone while in Brantford, Ontario.

Bell a meets a gifted young electrician named Thomas Watson.

Bell and Watson begin working together on a more regular bases.

Bell gets support and financial investments for his inventions by Thomas Sanders and Gardiner Greene Hubbard

Bell meets with scientist Joseph Henry at the Smithsonian Institution to explain his idea for the telephone. Henry encourages Bell to continue the development of the telephone agreeing with the importance to society it would contribute.

Mabel Hubbard and Bell become engaged to be married.

Bell's telephone patent application is filed at the United States Patent Office; Elisha Gray's attorney files a caveat for a telephone just a few hours later.

Alexander Graham Bell becomes the inventor of the telephone when United States Patent No. 174,465 is officially issued for his telephone.

The first words spoken and understood over a telephone were Bell's: "Mr. Watson..Come here..I want to see you." 

Bell demonstrates the telephone at the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia.

Bell, Gardiner Greene Hubbard, Thomas Sanders, and Thomas Watson form the Bell Telephone Company.

Bell and Mabel Hubbard get married and go to London for a year long honeymoon.

Bell demonstrates the telephone for Queen Victoria

Daughter Elsie May Bell is born on May 8th.

The Bell Telephone Company lawsuit against Western Union Telegraph Company and Elisha Gray begins.

The Bell Telephone Company is victorious and the Company becomes the National Bell Telephone Company.

Western Union and the National Bell Telephone Company reach a settlement.

The National Bell Telephone Company becomes the American Bell Telephone Company.

Daughter Marian "Daisy" Bell is born on February 15th.

Bell and his young associate, Charles Sumner Tainter, invent the photophone, an apparatus that transmits sound through light.

Bell is awarded the Volta Prize for scientific achievement in electricity by the French government.

Bell sets up the Volta Laboratory as an experimental laboratory used for the sole purpose of invention.

At the Volta Laboratory: Bell, his cousin, Chichester Bell, and Charles Sumner Tainter invent a wax cylinder for Thomas Edison's phonograph.

When President Garfield is shot, Bell attempts unsuccessfully to locate the bullet inside his body by using an electromagnetic device called an induction balance (x-ray machine).

Infant Son Edward dies on August 15th.

Bell becomes a United States Citizen.

Bell starts a day school for deaf children At Scott Circle in Washington, D.C.

Bell is elected to the National Academy of Sciences

Bell funds the publication of Science With Gardiner Greene Hubbard. The journal would communicate new research to the American scientific community.

Infant Son Robert dies on November 17th.

The American Telephone & Telegraph Company is formed to manage the expanding long-distance business of the American Bell Telephone Company.

Bell establishes the Volta Bureau as a center for studies on the deaf.

Bell begins buying land on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia. There he eventually builds his summer home, Beinn Bhreagh.

Bell meets six-year-old blind and deaf Helen Keller in Washington, D.C. and helps her family find a private teacher.

Bell and his supporters form the American Association to Promote the Teaching of Speech to the Deaf.

Bell participates in the formal opening of long-distance telephone service between New York and Chicago.

Gardiner Greene Hubbard dies. Bell is elected to take his place as President of the National Geographic Society.

Bell is elected a Regent of the Smithsonian Institution.

Acquiring the American Bell Telephone Company's business and property, the American Telephone and Telegraph Company becomes the parent company of the Bell System.

Daughter Elsie Bell marries Gilbert Grosvenor, the National Geographic Magazine editor.

Bell invents the tetrahedral kite, whose shape of four triangular sides would prove to be light, strong, and rigid.

Daughter Daisy Bell marries botanist David Fairchild.

Glenn Curtiss, Thomas Selfridge, Casey Baldwin, J.A.D. McCurdy, and Bell form the Aerial Experiment Association (AEA), which is funded by Mabel Hubbard Bell.

The AEA's Silver Dart makes the first flight of a heavier-than-air machine in Canada.

Bell takes part in the formal opening of the transcontinental telephone line by talking on the telephone in New York to Watson in San Francisco.

Bell and Casey Baldwin's HD-4, a hydrofoil craft, sets a world marine speed record.

Alexander Graham Bell dies August 2nd and is buried at Beinn Bhreagh, Nova Scotia.

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"The inventor looks upon the world and is not contented with things as they are. He wants to improve whatever he sees, he wants to benefit the world; he is haunted by an idea. The spirit of invention possesses him, seeking materialization."
~Alexander Graham Bell

Alexander Graham Bell Facts

  • BORN
    Alexander Bell on March 3, 1847

    Eliza Symonds Bell

    Alexander Melville Bell

    Melville James Bell (1845-1870)
    Edward Charles Bell (1848-1867)

    Mabel Gardiner Hubbard (1857-1923)

    Elise May Bell (1878-1964)
    Marian Hubbard "Daisy" Bell (1880-1962)
    Edward Bell (died in infancy)
    Robert Bell (died in infancy)

    -From Lisa May and Gilbert Hovery Grosvenor

    Melville Bell Grosvenor (1901-1982)
    Gertrude Hubbard Grosvenor (1903-1986)
    Mabel Harlakenden Grosvenor (1905-)
    Lilian Watersw Grosvenor (1907-1985)
    Alexander Graham Bell Grosvenor (1909-1915)
    Elsie Alexanra Carolyn Grosevenor (1818-1972)

    -From Daisy Bell and David Grndison Fairchild

    Alexander Graham Bell Fairchild (1906-1994)
    Barbara Lathrop Fairchild (1909-1998)