Thursday, March 3, 2022

Mar. 3: Alexander Graham Bell, Scottish-born American scientist


Alexander Graham Bell (1847-1922) Scottish-born scientist who became a "British-subject in Canada" from 1870-1882, then an American citizen in 1882. He is credited with patenting the first practical telephone, and he co-founded the American Telephone and Telegraph Company (AT&T) in 1885. Both his mother and wife were deaf, and his work on behalf of the deaf community is legendary: the telephone was almost a by-product of his research on hearing and speech, including hearing devices. (He considered his invention an intrusion on his real work as a scientist and refused to have a telephone in his study.) He was also the second president (for five years) of the National Geographic Society. But the story I like best about him is this: In his 20s, Bell found himself living across the river from the Six Nations Reserve for Native Americans (in Canada, "First Peoples") and learned the Mohawk language. He translated it into a system of phonetic symbols developed by his father (called "Visible Speech"), and was subsequently awarded the title of Honorary Chief, and so participated in a ceremony where he donned a Mohawk headdress and danced traditional dances.


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