Last Reviewed and Updated on July 14, 2022
Alexander Graham Bell is one of the most important inventors of all time. Bell’s inventions and discoveries changed the way we communicate with each other, but he also made contributions in other areas such as medicine and aviation. Read through these facts about Alexander Graham Bell and learn more about his life and his work.
1. He was born as just Alexander Bell
He had two brothers, Melville James Bell and Edward Charles Bell. As he was the only one with just one name, Alexander, and not two like his brothers, he made a plea to his father to have a middle name too. For his 11th birthday, his father allowed him to adopt the middle name, Graham. And thus, he became Alexander Graham Bell.
2. His first invention was a very simple dehusking machine
He was best friends with his neighbor Ben Herdman. Herdman’s family operated a flour mill. When Bell was just 12 years old, he built a homemade device with rotating paddles and sets of nail brushes, a very simple dehusker that was used in the mill for years. As a thank, you, Herdman’s father gave the boys a small workshop where they could work on their inventions.
3. He was musically talented
He had a talent for art, poetry, and music. Bell mastered the piano without any formal training.
4. Both his mother and wife were deaf
His mother started to gradually lose her hearing when he was about 12 years old. He learned manual finger language so he could help her “hear” the conversations taking place in the family parlor. Her deafness affected him profoundly, and it led him to study acoustics.
Mabel Gardiner Hubbard was one of his deaf students. She gained his affection and would later marry him.
5. He didn’t do well in school; he left school at the age of 15
He received early schooling at home but was then enrolled at the Royal High School at an early age. Bell only completed the first four forms, with his school-record being an undistinguished one. He was absent often. Biology and science interested him, but other subjects didn’t spark his interest.
After leaving school, he went on to live with his grandfather, and there, his love for learning was born, and he soon continued with his formal education.
6. He worked with the deaf a lot
His father developed the visible speech system, a system of phonetic symbols that represented the position of speech organs in articulating sounds.
During his lifetime Alexander Graham Bell spent a lot of time working with the deaf and instructing teachers on the visible speech system his father developed.
He sought to integrate the deaf and hearing impaired with the hearing world. He believed speech therapy and lip-reading were better alternatives to sign language and thought that with enough resources, every deaf person would be able to master these skills.
7. He patented the telephone but might not be the first to invent it
It appears that many brilliant minds were working on their own to invent the telephone, which became apparent by the numerous court challenges to the patent. None of the claims were successful. But this doesn’t mean Bell was the only one who invented the telephone.
At about the same time Bell developed his acoustic telegraph, Elisha Gray thought of a way to transmit speech using a water transmitter.
Gray and Bell (well, his lawyer did) filed for the U.S. patent on the same day. There was some hot water involved, but ultimately Gray abandoned his caveat, and Bell’s patent was approved.
Another contender for the invention of the telephone is Antonio Meucci. He patented a telephonic device in 1871, but there was no mention of vocal sound in his application. Meucci couldn’t afford to pay the maintenance fee for his patent after 1874; it is possible Bell wouldn’t be able to patent his telephone if Meucci’s patent had been active.
This isn’t the only example of “great minds think alike” in history; it is entirely possible multiple people made the same discoveries at about the same time.
8. He also invented a metal detector
He invented one of the first, rather crude, metal detectors.
9. He designed an aircraft
He began his experiments to develop a motor-powered aircraft that could fly him and his wife. He made quite a few aircraft designs, some more successful than others.
10. Bell and his assistant Charles Summer Tainter invented a photophone
The last on this list of facts about Alexander Graham Bell is a really interesting one. A photophone is a telecommunication device allowing the transmission of speech through the beam of light. In short, a wireless phone. This was a significant invention, although it wasn’t really recognized then as it had its limits.