Alexander Graham Bell was a Scottish-born American scientist and inventor, most famous for his pioneering work on the development of the telephone.
Bell was born on 3 March 1847 in Edinburgh and educated there and in London. His father and grandfather were both authorities on elocution and at the age of 16 Bell himself began researching the mechanics of speech.
In 1870, Bell emigrated with his family to Canada, and the following year he moved to the United States to teach. There he pioneered a system called visible speech, developed by his father, to teach deaf-mute children.
In 1872 Bell founded a school in Boston to train teachers of the deaf. The school subsequently became part of Boston University, where Bell was appointed professor of vocal physiology in 1873. He became a naturalised U.S. citizen in 1882.
Bell had long been fascinated by the idea of transmitting speech, and by 1875 had come up with a simple receiver that could turn electricity into sound. Others were working along the same lines, including an Italian-American Antonio Meucci, and debate continues as to who should be credited with inventing the telephone. However, Bell was granted a patent for the telephone on 7 March 1876 and it developed quickly.
Within a year the first telephone exchange was built in Connecticut and the Bell Telephone Company was created in 1877, with Bell the owner of a third of the shares, quickly making him a wealthy man.
In 1880, Bell was awarded the French Volta Prize for his invention and with the money, founded the Volta Laboratory in Washington, where he continued experiments in communication, in medical research, and in techniques for teaching speech to the deaf, working with Helen Keller among others. In 1885 he acquired land in Nova Scotia and established a summer home there where he continued experiments, particularly in the field of aviation.
In 1888, Bell was one of the founding members of the National Geographic Society, and served as its president from 1896 to 1904, also helping to establish its journal.
Bell died on 2 August 1922 at his home in Nova Scotia.