Setting the Record Straight

Alexander Graham Bell devoted much of his lifetime and fortune to helping the deaf. But recently he has come under increasing attack by people who are misinformed about historical facts and the statements that Bell actually made. 

In her recently published first book, The Invention of Miracles, Katie Booth claims that Bell “wanted the deaf eradicated, their marriages to each other forbidden, their procreation ceased.” This is totally false. Her book is riddled with similar errors and distortions about Bell and the history of deaf education.

The purpose of this memo is to set the record straight regarding Bell’s lifetime of helping the deaf, and also contradict falsehoods regarding the invention of the telephone and other historical events described in Ms. Booth’s book.


More Facts About the Bell’s

Bibliography on Bell and the Teaching of the Deaf

Bibliography on Bell and the Teaching of the Deaf

Early Development of Teaching the Deaf by Oral and Manual Methods (18th and 19th Century) National Education Association of the United States, Proceedings of meeting held in the Senate chamber, Madison, Wis., Wednesday, July 16th, 1884: to consider the subject of deaf-mute instruction in relation to the work of the public schools.Washington: Gibson bros.. Contains a dispassionate and detailed review of the…

Bell Was a True Humanitarian, and Deserves Better Than Distortion and Fictionalizing.

Bell Was a True Humanitarian, and Deserves Better Than Distortion and Fictionalizing.

Bell deserves better than the Ms. Booth’s character assassination. He was a true humanitarian who organized protests against racial segregation, supported women’s suffrage, and gave talks about the threat of declining natural resources and global warming, that he called the “greenhouse effect” in 1911. Bell advocated for education reform, and was the largest financial back of Maria Montessori in North…

Bell Was Not a Loner and a Recluse

Bell Was Not a Loner and a Recluse

​Katie Booth has characterized Bell as a lonely recluse in her book and in interviews.  For example, say writes, “[Bell] believed that deafness was inherently lonely. But it was Bell to whom loneliness clung, even if his greatest effort was to lift it.”​This is a laughable characterization.  Bell traveled with an entourage and was surrounded by a large, adoring family,…

Antonio Meucci Was Not Even Close to Inventing a Telephone.

Antonio Meucci Was Not Even Close to Inventing a Telephone.

Katie Booth appears to believe the nonsensical idea that Antonio Meucci invented the telephone before Bell. But a drawing that Meucci did nine years after Bell received his patent shows his idea was to send the electrical current through the telephone users to the ground. ​Katie Booth repeats the silly idea that Italian-American Antonio Meucci may have invented the telephone…

Bell Was the Sole Inventor of the Telephone.

Bell Was the Sole Inventor of the Telephone.

In addition to her errors about Bell and the deaf, Ms. Booth gives a distorted and incomplete history of the invention of the telephone. She claims that Bell and Elisha Gray were neck and neck and that Bell may have stolen the idea from Gray. She focusses on the months of February and March 1876, while ignoring the nine years…

The Bogus Allegations that Bell Stole the Telephone Led to an Infamous Scandal.

The Bogus Allegations that Bell Stole the Telephone Led to an Infamous Scandal.

But the biggest scandal of the Cleveland Administration erupted when New York newspapers discovered Pan-Electric had bribed U.S. Attorney General Augustus Garland to work with them and bring the suit against Bell. Garland received $500,000 worth of shares in Pan-Electric, and Secretary of the Interior L.Q.L. Lamar and other key authorities also received shares. On page 150, Ms. Booth says…

Bell’s Involvement with Eugenics Has Been Mischaracterized. He Fought to Protect the Deaf and Later Disassociated from the “Eugenicist Cranks”.

Bell’s Involvement with Eugenics Has Been Mischaracterized. He Fought to Protect the Deaf and Later Disassociated from the “Eugenicist Cranks”.

Bell became interested in “eugenics” because of his interest in sheep breeding, with 26 years of experiments in Canada. Later he became interested in longevity as a genetic disposition in some communities. But he never advocated for eugenic legislation, or any of the terrible practices that sometimes occurred after his death in 1922. Bell did not agree with the idea…

Bell Did Not Want the Deaf Sterilized or “Eradicated.”

Bell Did Not Want the Deaf Sterilized or “Eradicated.”

Ms. Booth writes that “Bell didn’t just want my family’s language and culture to be obliterated – he wanted us as a people to be obliterated,” and he used “his place of power to advocate for ethnocide.” This appalling characterization is offensive and cannot be substantiated. There is no evidence anywhere that Bell ever advocated for forced sterilization of deaf…

Genetics Were Widely Misunderstood in the 19th Century.

Genetics Were Widely Misunderstood in the 19th Century.

Bell and every other scientist in the 19th Century had a poor understand of how genetics worked. Even the simplest mechanisms of genes were unknown until Mendel’s discoveries were published after 1900. Most scientists believed that traits such as deafness were hereditary and that the chances of children being born deaf were increased if their parents were both deaf.​In a…

Bell Opposed Marriage of the Deaf Less Than Most Educators in the 19th Century, Including the Faculty at What Is Now Gallaudet University

Bell Opposed Marriage of the Deaf Less Than Most Educators in the 19th Century, Including the Faculty at What Is Now Gallaudet University

Katie Booth claims that Bell wanted “their marriages to each other forbidden, their procreation ceased.” This is not true. Like nearly every other teacher of the deaf at the time, Bell did worry that if the deaf married only among themselves they would be more likely to have deaf children, as was the case at the famous Martha’s Vineyard population.…