Inventing the Telephone

Alexander Graham Bell had an insatiable curiosity. While teaching the deaf at his School in Boston, he experimented with various devices to help his deaf students learn to speak, specifically through the process of graphically recording sound waves. This led to a means of transmitting several telegraph messages simultaneously over a single wire.

It was in 1874 that the concept for the telephone formed in his mind. As he later explained it, “If I could make a current of electricity vary in intensity precisely as the air varies in density during the production of sound, I should be able to transmit speech telegraphically.”

But it was his intimate knowledge of the anatomy of the human ear, hearing and speech that ultimately led to this world-changing invention.

“Mr. Watson, come here; I want you”

Two years later, he applied for a patent, which was granted on March 7, 1876. On March 10, the first coherent complete sentence—the famous “Mr. Watson, come here; I want you”—was transmitted in his laboratory.

In August 1876, Bell was able to conduct a demonstration of his telephone by using two telegraph offices that were five miles apart. Using only the existing telegraph lines, he was able to conduct the world’s first phone call in front of an audience of amazed onlookers. Later that year, Bell and his financial backers offered to sell the patent for the telephone to Western Union; however, they dismissed the telephone as a useless toy that would never amount to anything. That inspired Bell and his partners to keep the telephone patent for themselves, and the rest, as they say, is history.

The invention of the telephone ultimately provided the financial freedom to fully explore his vast and diverse interests, including aviation, hydrofoil technology, home air conditioning, green technologies (alternative and renewable energy, water conservation, climate warming, composting) to mention a few.

“While Bell seemed to understand the world-changing implications of his device (he predicted ‘telegraph wires will be lad on to house just like water or gas’), he considered the device a nuisance and refused to keep one in his study.” (Nicole Schmidt, The Story of Canada in 150 Objects, Canadian Geographic & The Walrus, 2017)