Was Bell’s only major invention the telephone? Learn more about the other incredible Alexander Graham Bell inventions that affected everything from aviation to medicine.
For most people, Alexander Graham Bell’s name is synonymous with the telephone. But so many other Alexander Graham Bell inventions play a crucial part in our society as well.
A Foundation of Inspiration
Bell’s interest in the science of sound influenced many of his inventions. His grandfather and father were elocution experts. They earned a living helping people perfect spoken English.
Bell’s father, Melville Bell, attempted to create a complete phonetic alphabet, and then a comprehensive system of symbols, each associated with a particular English sound. He hoped to encompass all the sounds that humans were capable of producing.
Melville Bell frequently encouraged young Alexander Graham Bell to innovate and experiment. Melville undoubtedly nourished the spirit of innovation behind Alexander Graham Bell’s future inventions.
His interest in the deaf community was also fueled by compassion. His mother and wife were both deaf, and as such, he had a keen interest in inventions that empowered people who are deaf or hard of hearing.
A History of the 7 Best Alexander Graham Bell Inventions
When it comes to the history of Alexander Graham Bell’s inventions, there are so many worth noting. So here are seven of the most epic Alexander Graham Bell inventions that changed the world as we know it today.
1. The Harmonic Telegraph
In 1871, Bell experimented with the multiple telegraph. Bell aimed to convey several notes at the same time at different pitches using a telegraph wire.
The wire included a series of metallic reeds that vibrated at altering frequencies. He placed the wire near an electromagnet with a coil fastened to the transmission line. Bell was inspired by the idea of sending human speech over the wire. It was then that his vision for the telephone was born.
2. The Telephone
The telephone is one of the most famed Alexander Graham Bell inventions in the world. Work on the telephone began in the summer of 1874. Bell had been studying the inner anatomy of the human ear. Inspired by his research, he had a new idea for transmitting sound. Along with machinist Thomas Watson, Bell created a receiver and transmitter that could relay sound.
By June of 1875, Bell managed to transmit a musical note across the device. He spent another year perfecting the telephone’s quality. By 1876, he demonstrated his telephone invention at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences convention in Boston. By 1877, the Bell Telephone Company was formed to commercialize the telephone.
3. The Audiometer
The audiometer is among the most essential Alexander Graham Bell inventions. The audiometer is a diagnostic device that uses a series of sounds to evaluate a person’s ability to hear.
Alexander Graham Bell patented his audiometer device in 1879. He tested it on hundreds of subjects, eventually perfecting it. Audiometers are still widely used to diagnose the deaf and hard of hearing. Modern audiometers use the same basic premise as the original.
4. The Metal Detector
Some Alexander Graham Bell inventions even managed to save lives. By the time President James A. Garfield was shot in 1881, Alexander Graham Bell had become famous for his invention of the telephone. Upon hearing the news of the President’s condition, Bell offered to help. He proposed inventing an instrument that could locate the bullet lodged in Garfield’s spine.
Bell was taken up on his offer. He came up with an instrument that used electromagnetic waves to detect metal. Though initial experiments worked well in Bell’s lab, at Garfield”s bedside, the springs in the mattress interfered with the electromagnetic waves, and the metal detector could not locate the bullet.. Garfield ultimately succumbed to the sepsis caused by unsanitary surgical practices.
But the metal detector would still become one of the most profound Alexander Graham Bell inventions. Heartened by his progress, Bell continued improving upon the metal detector.
By the end of the 19th century, the metal detector had become widely used in military hospitals. It succeeded in detecting the location of bullets and shrapnel in injured soldiers. Bell was awarded an honorary doctorate in medicine for his lifesaving medical invention.
5. The Vacuum Jacket
Other Alexander Graham Bell inventions proved to be beneficial in modern medicine. In 1881, Bell created a vacuum jacket, which was the precursor to the iron lung.
Sadly, the vacuum lung was inspired by the tragic loss of his son, Edward. Edward was born prematurely with underdeveloped lungs. He likely would have survived if the technology to aid respiration had existed.
Alexander Graham Bell’s vacuum jacket consisted of a suction pump that worked by forcing air in and out of an iron cylinder. Though Bell’s invention never saw commercial success, it was among many innovations that helped pave the way for the iron lung. The iron lung ultimately saved countless lives during the polio epidemics.
6. The Graphophone
The graphophone is another one of the most noteworthy Alexander Graham Bell inventions. In 1886, Bell patented the new and improved version of the phonograph, called the graphophone, which used a wax-coated cylinder in place of Edison’s tinfoil. These refinements allowed for lengthier and better-quality recordings. Later iterations of Bell’s graphophone gave rise to the vinyl records still in use today.
7. The Aileron
The Aileron is among Alexander Graham Bell’s most incredible inventions. The Wright Brothers’ flight in 1903 inspired scientists worldwide to explore the possibilities of human flight. Bell was no exception.
Bell was fascinated with flight and began important experiments with flying machines in 1889. He eventually observed that his “flying machines” lacked a means of horizontal stabilization. This problem would lead to one of the most distinguished Alexander Graham Bell inventions – the Aileron.
Built to solve the stabilization problem, the Aileron was a hinged flap affixed to an aircraft’s wing. It could be controlled by the pilot and allowed for horizontal maneuvering.
This technology ultimately allowed Alexander Graham Bell and his aeronautics cohort, the Aerial Experiment Association, to achieve the first successful manned flight of over 1 kilometer in a public demonstration. This feat catapulted flight into the public’s imagination globally.
The Aileron is still used on all aircraft today.
Alexander Graham Bell’s achievements across the sciences made him one of the most prolific scientists of his time. It seems impossible to overstate his impact. From telecommunications to aeronautics and medicine, Bell’s legacy continues to benefit society today.
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