Alexander Graham Bell was born at a time of great change in the technological world, in 1847 in Edinburgh, Scotland. He was born during the peak of the industrial revolution, when the world was changing in many ways from quicker ways of transportation to even a faster. With the invention of the telegraph, communication could happen instantaneously. With the advent of trains, and steamships, and factories luxuries were available to masses in a way that they were not before.
People were seeking out at that time new, better, and more efficient ways to do things. Alexander Graham Bell is mostly known for his invention (which is somewhat contested) of the telephone. While this certainly changed communication irrevocably, there was much more to the man and his contributions to society than just this. While the telegraph provided a way for people to communicate via professionals trained in Morse code, it was like receiving an instantaneous letter. Bell, like his father, had always had a profound interest in elocution, which is the skill of speaking clearly and expressively, clearing articulating each syllable (Pagliari, 2003).
Alexander solved a very large problem of communication, but it is also important to look at his other contributions to humanity and how he displayed a pioneering leadership in achieving them. His interest in speech led Bell to work as an educator with the deaf. At this time there was not as many public and medical services to aid deaf people as there are today. In his article on Personnel Today, Paul Pagliari writes, “Bell developed a passion for communication from a young age. He was to become an extraordinary man with a visionary understanding of its power and potential” (Pagliari, 2003).
Bell was educated in Scotland and London but came to the United States when he was in his twenties.
He grades were not great, but he did display an ability for problem solving. His early life was marred with death as was a large problem in the UK at the time. In 1867 his brother died of tuberculosis and Bell became ill himself in 1879. His father on trips to America had found it to be a healthier environment and decided to relocate there, a move that initially Bell fought.
It was in the United States where he worked that caused him to be remembered to this day. Pigliari mentions that like other great men, luck was also something that helped Bell achieve what he did. Originally, he did not set off to invent the telephone, but only a multiple telegraph that would be able to send several Morse code messages at the same time. While researching that concept, he stumbled upon the discovery that speech could be replicated via sound waves in a continuous undulating current, which is essentially the key principle behind the telephone. At this time he was only twenty-nine years old.
In his personal life, from losses of family due to tuberculosis early on, his later life was equally marred with personal tragedies. Biographer David Lindsay writes though that these things did not prevent him from continuing to change the world. “He endured personal tragedies one after the other. Still, he seemed only to grow more enthusiastic about his pursuits” (Lindsay, 2013).
One of his later accomplishments was overseeing the first publication of the magazine National Geographic, which has in the last hundred years become an international iconic magazine that sets the bar for travel journalism. He also did worked on projects designed to increase the broadcasting range of equipment, and worked to desalinate water. During all of his, he continued what had become a childhood passion of working for and with the deaf (Lindsay, 2013).
References: Alexander Graham Bell. (2013). The Biography Channel website. Retrieved 09:39, Sep 06, 2013, from http://www.biography.com/people/alexander-graham-bell-9205497.
Alexander Graham Bell. (n.d.). Famous Biographies & TV Shows - Biography.com. Retrieved September 7, 2013, from http://www.biography.com/people/alexander-graham-bell- 9205497?page=3
BBC - History - Alexander Graham Bell. (n.d.). BBC - Homepage. Retrieved September 7, 2013, from http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/historic_figures/bell_alexander_graham.shtml
Lindsay, D. (n.d.). American Experience . Technology. The Telephone . People & Events | Alexander Graham Bell | PBS .PBS: Public Broadcasting Service. Retrieved September 7, 2013, from http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/telephone
O' Keefe, Jean Alexander Graham Bell
Resource Links, Feb, 1997, Vol.2(3), p.123-4