The Life of Alexander Graham Bell

Journey throughout his life.

Bell's "centennial " receiver of 1876

The Early Years:

Alexander Graham Bell was born in Edinburgh, Scotland on March 3, 1847.  He was the son of Alexander Melville Bell, a professor at Edinburgh University. He had two brothers, Melville and Edward.  His mother, Eliza Bell, had serious hearing and speech problems, but she home schooled her sons even with her difficulties.


Alexander was very smart. When he was only 11 he  went to Royal Edinburgh High School. He didn't like the school routine and left after two years.  His parents were not happy about this and he was sent to London to live with his grandfather who happened to be an expert in speech.  Alexander got along well with his grandfather and did better in his studies.  He learned a lot about speech production.

Alexander was doing so well that he became a teacher of music and elocution at Weston House Academy in Elgin, Scotland. He was only 16 years old. He was younger than some of his students! He also continued his studies in acoustics  and was fascinated by how the voice worked.

Past Jobs

At age 23, Alexander moved with his parents to Ontario, Canada in 1870. Then Alexander moved to Boston and got a job teaching at a school for children with hearing and speech difficulties.  He was a very successful and encouraging teacher. He taught his students with patience and he helped many children who were never expected to speak.

Bell became professor of vocal physiology in Boston and fell in love with one of his students ,Mabel Hubbard. Mabel had lost her hearing at age 4.  They married in 1877. Mabel's parents helped financially  support Bell while he worked to develop the telephone.  They hired him an assistant named Thomas Watson. Thomas Watson worked at William's electrical shop in Boston. Watson had good skills and knowledge in electric.

A Masterpiece in the Making:

Bell continued to teach students by day and experimented at night on the already existing "Telegraph" machine. The telegraph machine could only send messages one way, but Bell dreamed of sending messages over a wire at the same time. He experimented with the "Harmonic Telegraph" which sent messages along a wire from different sized vibrating strips called reeds.

Watson and Bell were working on the harmonic telegraph when a stuck reed changed everything! On June 2, 1875 Bell was working in the transmitter room with three sending reeds.  A single wire went into another room where Watson was with the three receiving reeds. One of the reeds got stuck. When Watson tried to get it free it began to vibrate enough to make a sound.  It was sound turning into electricity and then back to sound. This was the beginning of something great!

The Telephone:

Bell continued to perfect the telephone while he experimented with different transmitters, reeds and receivers. The "Centennial" was one of Bell's earliest models. On his 29th birthday - March 3, 1876-Bell received the patent for the telephone!  In 1877 the Bell Telephone Company was created. This is one of the most important and successful  inventions of all time. Can you imagine life today without a telephone?


Bell moved on to work on other inventions including what he called a "photophone." This used light instead of electricity to carry sound and was the idea behind modern day "fiber optics." He also became an expert in aviation and continued to help the deaf learn new speech techniques. He became a father figure to the world of science and received many awards and prizes.

Final Years:

Sadly, Alexander Graham Bell became suddenly ill at the age of 75. He died peacefully on August 2, 1922 leaving behind his wife and two daughters. During his funeral every phone in North America was silenced in his honor.


At age 11 a family friend named Alexander Graham came to visit Bell's family. Young Alexander then began to call himself Alexander "Graham" Bell.

Bell's first words ever spoken on the telephone were to his assistant Thomas Watson.  The words were "Mr. Watson, come here.  I want to see you."

By 1886 Bell had improved his design and 150,000 people owned telephones in the United States

There was big controversy going about who invented the telephone.  Some people say it was a man named Elisha Gray who invented it, but Alexander Graham Bell was just the first to arrive at the patent office.




Brodsky, Arthur R. "Bell, Alexander Graham." World Book Student. World Book, 2014. Web. 13  Apr. 2014.


Parker, Steve. Alexander Graham Bell and the Telephone. Great Britian: Belitha Press Limited. 1994. 32 pages

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