Alexander Graham Bell

1847 - 1922

Alexander Graham Bell
©2022 Gazetteer for Scotland

Alexander Graham Bell

Inventor and entrepreneur. Born in Edinburgh, the son of a teacher, Bell was educated at the Royal High School in the city. Having emigrated for Canada and later the USA, Bell is credited with inventing the first practical telephone, which he patented in 1876. He realised the potential of his invention in terms of mass communication and through the formation of the Bell Telephone Company became a very wealthy man. This company grew into a telecommunications monopoly in North America. In 1984, it was broken up by the US Department of Justice into the national and international carrier AT&T, together with the seven 'baby bells'. Today AT&T provides services around the world, has annual revenues greater than $62 billion and 160,000 employees.

Bell spent much time researching improved methods of communication for the deaf, and married one of his deaf students in 1877. Bell also became interest in flight in his later years. He built the biplane which flew the first public flight in USA (1908), designed a hydrofoil which captured the world water speed record (1918) and invented a type of kite. He also designed the 'photophone' which could transmit speech using a light beam. Although not successful in itself, this device anticipated modern optical-fibre communications.

In 1897, Bell was appointed the second President of the National Geographic Society, and they continue to award a research medal named after him. He was granted the Freedom of the City of Edinburgh in 1920. He died at Beinn Bhreagh, his estate in Nova Scotia. His image appeared on a commemorative banknote issued by the Royal Bank of Scotland in 1997

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