Library Articles

Alexander Graham Bell Born: March 3, 1847, Edinburgh, Scotland
Died: Aug. 2, 1922, Beinn Bhreagh, Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, Canada.


Alexander Graham Bell was a Scottish-born American audiologist best known as the inventor of the telephone (1876). In September 1875, Alexander Graham Bell began to write the specifications for the telephone. On March 7, 1876, the United States Patent Office granted to Bell Patent Number 174,465 covering "The method of, and apparatus for, transmitting vocal or other sounds telegraphically . . . by causing electrical undulations, similar in form to the vibrations of the air accompanying the said vocal or other sounds."

Within a year followed the commercial application and, a few months later, the first of hundreds of legal suits. Ironically, the telephone — until then all too often regarded as a joke and its creator-prophet as, at best, an eccentric — was the subject of the most involved patent litigation in history.

The two most celebrated of the early actions were the Dowd and Drawbaugh cases wherein the fledgling Bell Telephone Company successfully challenged two subsidiaries of the giant Western Union Telegraph Company for patent infringement. The charges and accusations were especially painful to Bell's Scottish integrity, but the outcome of all the litigation, which persisted throughout the life of his patents, was that Bell's claims were upheld as the first to conceive and apply the undulatory current.