Alexander Graham was was a Scottish-born American scientist, inventor, and teacher of the deaf, whose development of the telephone and contributions to other inventions in aeronautics had profound effects on the shaping of modern society.
Bell was born on March 3, 1847, in Edinburgh and educated at the universities of Edinburgh and London. He immigrated to Canada in 1870 and to the U.S. in 1871. In the U.S. he began teaching deaf-mutes, publicizing the system called visible speech. The system, which was developed by his father, the Scottish educator Alexander Melville Bell (1819-1905), shows how the lips, tongue, and throat are used in the articulation of sound. In 1872 Bell founded a school for deaf-mutes in Boston. The school subsequently became part of Boston University, where Bell was appointed professor of vocal physiology. He became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1882.
In 1880 France bestowed on Bell the 50,000-franc Volta Prize for his invention.
With this money he founded the Volta Laboratory in Washington, D.C., where, in that same year, he and his associates invented the photophone, which transmits speech by light rays. Other inventions include the audiometer, which measures acuity in hearing; the induction balance, developed in 1881 and used to locate metal objects in human bodies; and the first wax recording cylinder, introduced in 1886. The cylinder, along with the flat wax disk, formed the basis of the modern phonograph. In addition, Bell was one of the cofounders of the National Geographic Society, and he served as its president from 1896 to 1904.
After 1895 Bell's interest turned mostly to aeronautics (see Aviation); many of his subsequent inventions were first tested near his summer home at Baddeck on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia. His study of flight began with the construction of large kites, and he eventually...