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Groundbreaking Inventions of the 19th Century



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Groundbreaking Inventions of the 19th Century

The greatest invention of the 19th Century can only be the telephone. I could discuss facts about the creation of the telephone being perfected from a Wolfgang Von Kempelen invention that used bellows and wire. I could also discuss the fact that Alexander Graham Bell and his brother Melville enhanced Von Kempelen invention by making a cast from a human skull and reconstructing lips, tongue, teeth, and pharynx using wire, rubber, tin and tubing. Alexander Graham Bell, who is the noted father of the creation of the telephone, would also be an interesting discussion, but I will do none of these. One of the groundbreaking inventions of the 19th century may not have come into existence until the 20th century if it had not been for two men, Alexander Melville Bell and Thomas Watson. They are who I want to briefly discuss.

Alexander Melville Bell was an elocutionist. For those who are not familiar with this term, an elocutionist is a person who studies formal speaking in pronunciation, grammar, style and tone. A. Melville Bell created his own alphabet called "visible speech" so he could communicate with deaf people. This visible speech, a subject so dear to A. Melville Bell that he wrote a book about it in the 1860's, reproduced all sounds of the human voice into symbols. It was A. Melville Bell who encouraged Alexander Graham Bell and his brother to recreate Von Kempelen's machine that imitated the human vocal tract, but tutored them on making the creation more sophisticated so that Graham and Melville Junior's device could make a few utterances, imitating the human voice. So the most groundbreaking invention of the 19th century may not have bee perfected for thirty or forty more years if not for A. Melville Bell's foray into elocution and orthoepy.

Alexander Graham Bell's notes pertaining to the first telephone call reflect he said, "Mr. Watson! Come here; I want to see you!" Thomas Watson remembers it differently. He remembers Graham saying, "Mr. Watson! I want you!" Since Thomas was not as educated as Graham and was just an electrician in a machine shop in Boston when Graham Bell hooked up with him, he probably doesn't clearly remember what was said on that first call. I'm sure he was more concerned about whether or not the electrical wiring was long enough, strong enough, or stretched just right. But he was a major player and if not for his knowledge on all things electrical, the existence of the telephone may not have appeared for several more years.

Giving Alexander Graham Bell the due he deserves, if he had not experimented with sounds and vibrations detected by the human ear, the idea of a telephone may never have moved forward. But, let's remember that his father, A. Melville Bell, taught him about sound, vibration and tone and his assistant, Thomas Watson, connected these sounds and vibrations to electricity. One of the groundbreaking inventions of the 19th century, the telephone, would not have been created without them.

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