Alexander Graham Bell: A Life
by James MacKay
Born in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1847, Alexander Graham Bell was raised in a warm and loving home filled with music, books, and unbounded intellectual ... Show synopsis Born in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1847, Alexander Graham Bell was raised in a warm and loving home filled with music, books, and unbounded intellectual curiosity. His father, Alexander Melville Bell, was one of the leading elocutionists of the nineteenth century and the inventor of Visible Speech, a system of symbols indicating the position of the vocal organs in speaking. His mother, Eliza, was severely hearing impaired. As a young man, Bell worked as an assistant to his father in London, where he was introduced to the man who patented the electric telegraph. Intrigued by the potential teaching power of such a device, Bell was soon tinkering with his own version of the machine. Bell first addressed the question of transmitting vibrations as a means of helping lipreaders. He built a crude electromagnetic transmitter to produce a sustained intermittent current of precise frequency. Painstakingly, by trial and error, Bell perfected the device, more a musical telegraph than a device capable of transmitting a vocal message. But this was the true beginning of the process that would lead to the telephone. The portrait of Alexander Graham Bell that emerges from this biography is of a man of probing intelligence and curiosity. His varied interests took in aviation, architectural engineering, animal husbandry, and genetics. His inventions included aircraft, the iron lung, a portable device for distilling seawater, and the hydrofoil. James Mackay reveals new information about the legendary inventor's formative years, offering insights into Bell's relationships with his family, his fascination with science, and the roots of his deep and unswerving altruism.