Aug
18
2009

Who Invented the Telephone

The telephone, that dinosaur of 20th century technology that seems to be rapidly going out of favor as cellphones and the Internet take over, is also probably one of the most influential inventions of the post industrial age era.

For more than a hundred years business has depended on having access to phones, and it is no accident that the wealthiest of nations have very high telephone use across all parts of society.

In the mid 1800s telegraph services had expanded to most major cities in the US and Europe, and was considered the height of technological progress, in fact most commentators of the time wouldn’t have been able to see a use for telephones, and inventors of the era were usually discouraged from experimenting with useless techniques that weren’t needed.

alexander graham bell Who Invented the Telephone

Thankfully several of them chose to ignore the advice of their peers, namely Alexander Graham Bell, a man who started his career working with deaf people, partly trying to teach them to speak, and partly trying to invent technology that would let them hear. It was while researching hearing devices that Bell discovered it was possible to send a sound across a telegraph line instead of just a short or long tone.

From his experiments Bell realized it must be possible to send multiple tones thru a single telegraph line, and then managed to find investors who could see the value in owning technology that would allow telegraph lines to carry more traffic using different frequencies. Bell’s discovery, and employing Thomas Watson, an electrical engineer as his assistant, were pivotal in the invention of the telephone, the only thing missing was a decent microphone that would be capable of converting sound to a signal that could be transmitted across a telegraph line.

old telephone Who Invented the Telephone

On the 14th of February 1876 Bell’s lawyer presented his patent application to the USPO, but so too did another inventor Elisha Gray, who had been working on a similar idea, and whose idea was actually a bit more advanced than Bell’s. In fact Bell’s lawyer had been holding off on presenting Bell’s patent while it was registered in England, but when he found out from the patent office clerk that Gray had submitted his application, $100 was paid to the clerk to let the Bell’s lawyer see the patent application and delay Gray’s while changes were made and then Bell’s application submitted.

After, when the patent office examiner checked both applications and found them similar he demanded a demonstration from each applicant. Bell managed to demonstrate his telephone first even though he used the same technique mentioned in Gray’s patent application, and was declared the patent holder. Some people still believe that Grey was robbed of the title inventor of the telephone, but Bell’s supporters counter that Gray hadn’t even created a prototype when he applied for his patent yet Bell had already proved the technology.



About the Author:

Sam Reese is a web enthusiasts and blogger. He is a history student and loves to write and read histories of different things.

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