February 11, 2007

Biography of Alexander Graham Bell gives delightful glimpse into his life Date published: 2/11/2007                                                                          

in Edinburgh and his
young manhood in Canada to his adult life in Boston and Washington, Alexander Graham Bell’s role in the exciting era of invention and discovery are truly brought to life in Charlotte Gray’s book.

Bell is portrayed as a brilliant inventor, often working through the night when excited about his research; an obsessive-compulsive who strangely lacked the drive to market what he invented and the discipline to finish much of what he began; and a man passionately in love with his wife.

Bell, whose mother and wife were both deaf, had a lifelong interest in how people hear. Prior to his invention of the telephone he was sought after as a teacher of the deaf, instructing young Helen Keller, with whom he formed a close friendship that lasted until his death.

Gray highlights the intense and brutal competition among America’s brightest minds during the golden age of invention. Inventing something was only the first step. Obtaining a patent could be
a greater challenge, and Bell endured a protracted and ugly legal battle to secure rights to the telephone.

Bell’s critics claimed he had stumbled into inventing the telephone, reinforcing Bell’s fear that he would be known as a “one-shot” inventor. This was far from the truth. Among his numerous experiments and inventions were a forerunner of the iron lung, methods to desalinate seawater, use of solar energy, hydrofoils and speedboats. Bell and his associates even raced the Wright brothers
to be first in powered flight.

Mabel Bell nearly steals the show from her husband. She was 15 years younger than Alec, and deaf from a childhood disease. Her father sought out the famous Dr. Bell to teach his daughter. Gray paints a charming picture of a loving marriage between Alec and Mabel.

Despite the age difference, she was always the steady and mature partner, with a clear head for business. Alec recognized this from the beginning, taking the extraordinary step of giving her all but 10 of his more than 1,500 shares in the Bell Telephone Co. as a wedding gift.

Mabel’s father, Bell’s business partner, refused to let the couple marry until Alec could financially support her. This motivated Bell to complete his research and acquire a patent.

Mabel was an excellent lip reader. On the couple’s evening walks she would chatter away, then they would pause under a streetlight so Alec could respond and she could “read” what he said.

Gray tells the engaging story of this larger-than-life genius, blending science, history and a beautiful love story.

Peggy Carlson is a news writer and
book reviewer with The Free Lance-Star.

Email: pcarlson@freelancestar.com


Categories: Deaf History
  1. Jake
    February 11, 2007 at 7:38 pm

    Wow! Good Deaf History

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