This month sees the 170th anniversary of the birth of one of the world’s greatest scientists and inventors in Edinburgh, Scotland – Alexander Graham Bell. He is of course known primarily for his patent of the first practical telephone, but his contribution to science goes far beyond that.
We here at Advanced Perimeter Systems love our history, especially when it relates to science and our home country Scotland. So we read up on Bell to learn more about his life and work and would like to share some of the fascinating things we discovered.
Bell’s love of science clearly took hold at an early age. At 12 years of age he came up with his first invention – a wheat dehusker. He was playing with a friend in a mill when he noticed the slow dehusking process. He went home and, using rotating paddles and nail brushes, he built a much faster device.
He was initially educated at home by his mother and he developed an unquenchable thirst for scientific research; his main bedtime reading was Encyclopædia Britannica!
Bell was fascinated by the application of electricity for the development of new devices. Reading that echoed strongly with Andy Moon our Technical Director who worked on the development of our electric security fence system 🙂
Bell’s primary interest was sound; he spent a lot of time working with the deaf and actually referred to himself as ‘a teacher of the deaf’. It was whilst working at a school for the deaf that he worked on a device that could transmit sound by electricity.
One thing that comes across strongly is that Bell worked in a suprising number of areas of science. These included:
- Magnetic fields – in particular their application to reproduce sound (forerunner of the tape recorder and hard disc drive).
- Hydrofoils – in the early 1900’s he collaborated on a hydrofoil watercraft project. The result was the Bell HD-4 which in September 1919 set a world marine speed record of 70.86 miles per hour (114.04 kilometres per hour). The record stood for 10 years.
- Aeronautics – Bell began experimenting as early as 1891 on the development of motor-powered, heavier-than-air aircraft.
- Solar energy – shortly before his death he spoke in an interview about the possibility of using solar panels for domestic heating.
Here are two wonderful photographs of Bell which reflect the fame he experienced even during his lifetime
By the end of his life Alexander Graham Bell held 18 patents in his own name and a further 12 with others on which he was a collaborator. A biographer described his work as “unfettered across the scientific landscape” such was his passion for science. The full detail of Bell’s legacy and honours is well worth reading and for anyone interested this Wikipedia page is one of the best.