50 Interesting Facts About Alexander Graham Bell

Last updated on March 19th, 2023

Alexander Graham Bell is best known for his role in the invention of the telephone, but he was a pioneer in many other fields as well. For example, his genius helped him develop a device that aided in finding icebergs as well as an audiometer, which was used to detect problems with hearing. His ideas also paved the way for metal detectors, airplanes and so much more. Bell’s home even highlighted his capabilities, boasting a creation that is comparable to what we know today as air conditioning. Here are 50 interesting facts about Alexander Graham Bell.

1. Alexander Graham Bell was not originally from America. He was actually born in Edinburgh, Scotland.

2. Bell’s zodiac sign was a Pisces. He was born on March 3 in the year 1847 and named simply Alexander Bell.

3. His mother, Eliza Grace Symonds, was deaf due to the effects of a childhood illness. In order to communicate with her, Bell had to speak up with his mouth pressed up against her forehead. This allowed her to feel the vibrations from his voice and decipher what he was trying to communicate.

4. He was the third Alexander Bell in his family. His father was named Alexander Melville Bell and his grandfather was just Alexander Bell. Both men worked as speech therapists.

5. Bell was initially home-schooled by his father. Eventually, he began attending school in Scotland and later in London. For college, he returned to Scotland where he attended the University of Edinburgh.

Living statue - Alexander Graham Bell
Living statue – Alexander Graham Bell at international festival of living statues in Bucharest, Romania. Facts about Alexander Graham Bell. Photo © Lenutaidi

6. Although he was named after his grandfather and given no middle name at the time of his birth, Bell yearned for more. On his eleventh birthday, he asked his parents for a middle name and he was gifted one – thus making him Alexander Graham Bell.

7. That same year, Bell created a machine to clean wheat after he saw firsthand what it was like for a human to do it. He claimed the task was both difficult and boring, and stated that a machine could alleviate the workload.

8. Bell’s wheat-cleaning machine was beloved and continued to be used at the mill for many years.

9. Bell learned both Greek and Latin at the early age of 16.

10. By the time he was 23, Bell had witnessed the death of both of his younger brothers, who lost their lives to tuberculosis. He was his parents’ only surviving child.

Alexander Graham Bell home where he invented the telephone.
The house in Brantford, Canada, where Alexander Graham Bell lived with his parents as a young man, where he perfected the design of the telephone, is now a museum. Photo © Spiroview Inc.

11. His parents feared for his health and convinced themselves if they left Scotland, Bell would have a better chance at survival. His father had been to Canada before and in 1870, he decided his family would immigrate there.

12. Bell did not come to the United States until 1871, when he moved to pursue his career in teaching at the Boston School for the Deaf.

13. He briefly lived in Brentford where he was taught the Mohawk language. After being the first person to put it in writing, the Mohawk people decided to crown him an Honorary Chief.

14. At the age of 25, Bell opened his own school in Boston. It was called the School of Vocal Physiology and Mechanics of Speech.

15. By 1873, he was teaching vocal physiology at Boston University.

Alexander Graham Bell, his wife Mabel Gardiner Hubbard, and their daughters
Alexander Graham Bell, his wife Mabel Gardiner Hubbard, and their daughters Elsie (left) and Marian ca. 1885

16. This is where Bell met Mabel Hubbard, the woman who would one day become his wife. Hubbard was 10 years younger than Bell and had gone deaf after enduring scarlet fever as a child.

17. Bell also taught at the Boston School for Deaf Mutes, the Clarke School for the Deaf in Massachusetts and the American School for the Deaf in Connecticut.

18. In 1882, Bell became an official United States citizen.

19. In 1887, Helen Keller’s father, Captain Arthur Keller, sought out Bell to help his blind and mute six-year-old daughter. Bell directed him to Boston’s Perkins School for the Blind where he met Anne Sullivan, who would work miracles as Helen’s tutor. Helen would later dedicate her autobiography to Bell, stating that he opened the door that allowed her to “pass from darkness into light”. They remained friends for the duration of Bell’s life.

20. Bell played a role in the creation of an electromagnetic machine, which was similar to a metal detector, in an attempt to locate bullets lodged in bodies. The device was tested on Civil War veterans. Bell used it to try and locate a bullet that was lodged in President James Garfield, but was only permitted to try it on the man’s right side. After the President passed away, the bullet was found on his left side.

21. Bell’s earliest recordings of sound were meant to help his students. Instead of capturing audible sound, these recordings picked up noises and changed them into lines that were then traced onto plates. Since his students were deaf, they learned to change their voices until the tracings mirrored the ones he created, which helped them learn to speak.

22. After reading a technical work written in German, Bell discovered a way for speech to be transmitted electrically. It was not until later on that he realized he had misunderstood what he read and accidentally stumbled upon the foundation for the telephone.

Copy of Graham Bell`s first telephone.
Copy of Graham Bell’s first telephone exhibited at the Manchester Museum of Science and Industry in the UK. Bell first transmitted sounds on a device like this in 1875. Facts about Alexander Graham Bell. Photo © Dvmsimages

23. Bell once stated that if he knew anything about electricity, it would have discouraged his invention of the telephone. After all, everyone “knew” that it was not possible to transmit a voice through a wire.

24. One day, as he worked to develop the telephone, Bell heard what sounded like a plucked spring through 60 feet of wire. The noise came from one of his students, Thomas A. Watson, who was attempting to reactivate a telegraph transmitter. This sparked the idea that Bell could in fact transmit a voice through a wire.

25. Bell submitted a patent application for his device on February 14, 1876. Hours later, an inventor named Elisha Gray submitted a caveat that stated he was working on an invention that was very similar. Gray lost and Bell received the patent on March 7.

26. After figuring out how to send simple current and patenting the idea, Bell transmitted speech on or around March 10, 1876.

27. The first words spoken on a telephone were from Bell himself, who said, “Mr. Watson, come here. I need you.”

28. Shortly thereafter, hundreds of lawsuits against Bell began to spring up. Only five of these went as far as the Supreme Court, but Bell’s claims were eventually upheld and he won every case. This would become one of the longest battles over a patent in United States history.

29. Originally, Bell and his investors tried to sell the patent to Western Union, who ran the nation’s telegraph wires. They asked for a mere $100,000. The company declined, stating their belief that the telephone was only a trend and would not make them any money.

30. In 1877, Bell and his investors became the Bell Telephone Company. Over the decades, the company has changed names numerous times. It is known today as AT&T.

31. If you had the chance to ask Bell why he invented the telephone, he would say that he invented it for his wife. This is because her father disapproved of their relationship due to Bell’s low income. As soon as the Bell Telephone Company was created, Bell married Hubbard and gifted her with the majority of his 1,507 shares in his company.

32. At Hubbard’s request, Bell was nicknamed Alec and he even answered to it.

Vintage 1960s telephone
Facts about Alexander Graham Bell. Photo © Wally Stemberger

33. Despite his popular creation, Bell disliked having a telephone located in his study. He admitted that it was much too distracting.

34. During the 1880s, Bell founded his Volta Laboratory, which he dedicated to the research and expansion of knowledge in relation to the deaf.

35. In his lab, Bell invented the photophone, which he considered to be even better than the telephone. The photophone sent a wireless voice message 200 meters away using light — an idea that would develop into fiber-optics one century later.

36. Bell also tried to impress magnetic fields in order to reproduce sound, but gave up on this idea when a workable prototype seemed unattainable. In the future, the principle that he pioneered would later become the computer floppy disc and the tape recorder.

37. The Volta Graphophone Company, the successor to the Volta Laboratory, evolved to become Columbia Records, who put out music by artists such as AC/DC, Beyonce, Bob Dylan, Pink Floyd and many others.

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