Alexander graham bell

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NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES
OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

BIOGRAPHICAL MEMOIRS
VOLUME XXIII FIRST MEMOIR

BIOGRAPHICAL MEMOIR
OF

ALEXANDER GRAHAM BELL
1847-1922
BY

HAROLD S. OSBORNE
PRESENTED TO THE ACADEMY AT THE ANNUAL MEETING, 1943

It was the intention that this Biographical Memoir would be written jointly by the present author and the late Dr. Bancroft Gherardi. Thescope of the memoir and plan of work were laid out in cooperation with him, but Dr. Gherardi's untimely death prevented the proposed collaboration in writing the text. The author expresses his appreciation also of the help of members of the Bell family, particularly Dr. Gilbert Grosvenor, and of Mr. R. T. Barrett and Mr. A. M. Dowling of the American Telephone & Telegraph Company staff. Thecourtesy of these gentlemen has included, in addition to other help, making available to the author historic documents relating to the life of Alexander Graham Bell in the files of the National Geographic Society and in the Historical Museum of the American Telephone and Telegraph Company.

ALEXANDER GRAHAM BELL 1847-1922
BY HAROLD S. OSBORNE

Alexander Graham Bell—teacher, scientist, inventor,gentleman—was one whose life was devoted to the benefit of mankind with unusual success. Known throughout the world as the inventor of the telephone, he made also other inventions and scientific discoveries of first importance, greatly advanced the methods and practices for teaching the deaf and came to be admired and loved throughout the world for his accuracy of thought and expression, his rigidcode of honor, punctilious courtesy, and unfailing generosity in helping others. The invention of the telephone by Alexander Graham Bell was not an accident. It came as a logical result of years of intense application to the problem, guided by an intimate knowledge of speech obtained through his devotion to the problem of teaching the deaf to talk and backed by two generations of distinguishedactivity in the field of speech. Bell's grandfather, Alexander Bell (born at St. Andrews, Scotland, 1790, died at London, 1865) achieved distinction for his treatment of impediments of speech, also as a teacher of diction and author of books on the principles of correct speech and as a public reader of Shakespeare's plays. Young Alexander Graham Bell, at the age of 13, spent a year in London with hisgrandfather. He was already interested in speech through his father's prominence in this field, and this visit stimulated him to serious studies. Bell afterwards spoke of this year as the turning point of his life. Bell's father, Alexander Melville Bell (born in Edinburgh, Scotland, 1819, died at Washington, 1905), was for a time professional assistant to Alexander Bell, then he became lecturer onelocution in the University of Edinburgh. He developed "Visible Speech," a series of symbols indicating the anatomical positions which the speaking organs take in uttering different sounds. This won him great distinction and, with improvements made by Alexander Graham Bell, is still a basis for teaching the deaf to talk. On the death of his father in 1865, Melville Bell

NATIONAL ACADEMYBIOGRAPHICAL MEMOIRS

VOL. XXIII

moved to London, to take over his professional practice. He also became lecturer on elocution at University College and achieved distinction as a scientist, author and lecturer on both sides of the Atlantic. In 1844 he married Miss Eliza Grace Symonds, daughter of a surgeon of the Royal Navy, a talented musician. Alexander Graham Bell, the second of three sons ofMelville Bell, was born March 3, 1847, m Edinburgh. From his mother, he inherited musical talent and a keen musical ear. He took lessons on the piano at an early age and for some time intended to become a professional musician. His father's devotion to the scientific study of speech had an early impact on the boy. "From my earliest childhood," said Alexander Graham Bell, "my attention was...
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