SCOTTISH HEROES: Alexander Graham Bell

In 1876 Alexander Graham Bell developed his first "electrical speech machine". He must have quickly realised the significance of his work, and the effect it would have on man's ability to communicate quickly and over great distances. But even he would be totally thunderstruck if he were to witness today the extent of the development his work pioneered. Without it we would not have the information superhighway and all the benefits that it brings.

Bell was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, on March 3, 1847. His father gained a world-wide reputation as an author of textbooks on speech therapy and had developed a technique, called Melville's Visible Speech, which helped the deaf in learning to speak. The family moved to Ontario, Canada, in 1870 and a year later Bell opened a school for teachers of the deaf in Boston.

His growing interest in electricity led to him attempting to send several telegraph messages over a single wire at the same time. This work led him into friendship with Thomas Watson and between them they experimented on the "harmonic telegraph". On the 3rd June, 1875 Watson heard for the first time voice sounds coming to him over the wire from Bell.

It was not until March, 1876, in a rented top floor flat in Boston, that the telephone carried its first intelligible sentence.

The financial security inventing and patenting the telephone brought to Bell allowed him to move onto developing other interests particularly in powered flight and in setting the world water speed record of 70.86 mph on his hydrofoil, the HD - 4. This was achieved on September 9, 1919.

In 1898 he accepted the presidency of the National Geographical Society. With this position came the responsibility of developing the society's magazine, which at the time was produced solely for and on behalf its members. He invited his future son in law, Gilbert Grosvenor, to edit the magazine. By 1910 The National Geographical Magazine had become the leader in its field.

Bell died at his estate in Baddeck, Nova Scotia, Canada, on August 2, 1922.

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