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Bell speaking into a prototype model of the telephone

The modern telephone is the culmination of work done by many individuals. Alexander Graham Bell was the first to patent the telephone, an "apparatus for transmitting vocal or other sounds telegraphically", after experimenting with many primitive sound transmitters and receivers. However, the history of the invention of the telephone is a confusing collection of claims and counterclaims, made no less confusing by the many lawsuits which attempted to resolve the patent claims of several individuals.


Non-electric "telephones"

According to a letter in the Peking Gazette, a Chinese inventor created a speech transmitting device in 968, which probably transported sound through speaking tubes, or pipes. Speaking tubes remained common and can still be found today in a variety of locations, including ships.

The string or "lover's" telephone has also been known for centuries. Comprising two diaphragms connected by a taut string or wire, sound waves are carried as vibrations along the string or wire from one diaphragm to the other. The classic example is the tin can telephone, a children's toy made by connecting the two ends of a string to the bottoms of two metal cans, paper cups or similar items.

Make and break transmitters and electro-magnetic receivers


Innocenzo Manzetti

Innocenzo Manzetti mooted the idea of a telephone as early as 1844, and may have made one in 1864, as an enhancement to an automaton built by him in 1849.

Charles Bourseul

In 1854 in the magazine L'Illustration (Paris) Charles Bourseul, a French telegraphist, published a plan for conveying sounds and even speech by electricity.[1] Bourseul's ideas were also published in Didaskalia (Frankfurt am Main) on September 28, 1854: "Suppose", he explained, “that a man speaks near a movable disc sufficiently flexible to lose none of the vibrations of the voice; that this disc alternately makes and breaks the currents from a battery: you may have at a distance another disc which will simultaneously execute the same vibrations.... It is certain that, in a more or less distant future, speech will be transmitted by electricity. I have made experiments in this direction; they are delicate and demand time and patience, but the approximations obtained promise a favourable result.”

Johann Philipp Reis

In 1860 Johann Philipp Reis produced a device which could transmit musical notes, and even a lisping sentence or two. The first sentence spoken on it was "Das Pferd frisst keinen Gurkensalat" (the horse doesn't eat cucumber salad). See Reis' telephone for a detailed description. The Reis transmitter was a make-break transmitter. That is, a needle attached to a diaphragm was alternately pressed against, and released from a contact as the sound moved the diaphragm. This make-or-break signaling was able to transmit tones, and some vowels, but since it did not follow the analog shape of the sound wave (the contact was pure digital, on or off) it could not transmit consonants, or complex sounds. The Reis transmitter was very difficult to operate, since the relative position of the needle and the contact were critical to the device's operation at all. This can be called a "telephone", since it did transmit sounds over distance, but is hardly a telephone in the modern sense, as it failed to transmit a good copy of any supplied sound. Reis' invention is best known then as the "musical telephone". Prior to 1947, the Reis device was tested by the British company Standard Telephones and Cables (STC). The results also confirmed it could faintly transmit and receive speech. At the time STC was bidding for a contract with Alexander Graham Bell's American Telephone and Telegraph Company, and the results were covered up by STC's chairman Sir Frank Gill to maintain Bell's reputation.

Antonio Meucci

An early version of a voice communicating device was invented around 1854 by Antonio Meucci, who called it a teletrofono (telectrophone). Pre-1875 evidence is lacking that it was an electromagnetic telephone.

The first American demonstration of Meucci's invention took place in Staten Island, New York in 1854. In 1860, a description of it was reportedly published in an Italian-language New York newspaper, although no known copy of that newspaper issue or article survived to the present day. Meucci claimed to have invented a paired electro-magnetic transmitter and receiver, where the motion of a diaphragm modulated a signal in a coil by moving an electromagnet, although this was not mentioned in his 1871 U.S. patent caveat. A further discrepancy observed was that the device described in the 1871 caveat employed only a single conduction wire, with the telephone's transmitter-receivers being insulated from a 'ground return' path.

Meucci was also later credited with the early invention of inductive loading of telephone wires to increase long-distance signals. Unfortunately, serious burns from an accident, a lack of English, and poor business abilities resulted in Meucci failing to develop his inventions commercially in America. Meucci demonstrated some sort of instrument in 1849 in Havana, Cuba, but the evidence is unclear if this was an electric telephone or a variant of a string telephone that used wire. Meucci has been further credited with invention of an anti-sidetone circuit. However, examination showed that his solution to sidetone was to maintain two separate telephone circuits, and thus use twice as many transmission wires. The anti-sidetone circuit later introduced by Bell Telephone instead cancelled sidetone through a feedback process.

An American District Telegraph (ADT) laboratory reportedly lost some of Meucci's working models, his wife reportedly disposed of others and Meucci, who sometimes lived on public assistance, chose not to renew his 1871 teletrofono patent caveat after 1874.

Meucci was recognized for his pioneering work on the telephone by the United States House of Representatives in House Resolution 269, dated June 11, 2002. The resolution stated that "if Meucci had been able to pay the $10 fee to maintain the caveat after 1874, no patent could have been issued to Bell."

However, the resolution was a symbolic, non-binding statement without legal effect, and was promptly followed by a legislative motion mooting it, passed unanimously by Canada's 37th Parliament, which declared that Alexander Graham Bell was the inventor of the telephone. Additionally, many others disagreed with the Congressional resolution, some of whom provided criticisms of both its accuracy and intent. Other critics have also pointed to the dubiousness of poverty preventing Meucci from renewing his 'teletrofono' patent caveat, or filing for a regular patent, since he applied for, and received, four separate patents, plus one additional patent caveat, between 1871 and 1876, the year Bell received the telephone patent.

Chronology of Meucci's invention

An Italian researcher in telecommunications, Basilio Catania, and the Italian Society of Electrotechnics, "Federazione Italiana di Elettrotecnica", have devoted a Museum to Antonio Meucci, constructing a chronology of his invention of the telephone and tracing the history of the two legal trials involving Meucci and Alexander Graham Bell[2][3]. Both claim that Meucci was the real inventor of the telephone, but base their argument on the reconstructed, rather than contemporary, evidence. What follows, if not otherwise stated, is a résumé of their historic reconstruction.[4]

  • In 1834 Meucci constructed a kind of acoustic telephone as a way to communicate between the stage and control room at the theatre "Teatro della Pergola" in Florence. This telephone is constructed on the model of pipe-telephones on ships and is still working.[5]
  • In 1848 Meucci developed a popular method of using electric shocks to treat rheumatism. He used to give his patients two conductors linked to 60 Bunsen batteries and ending with a cork. He also kept two conductors linked to the same Bunsen batteries. He used to sit in his laboratory, while the Bunsen batteries were placed in a second room and his patients in a third room. In 1849 while providing a treatment to a patient with a 114V electrical discharge, in his laboratory Meucci heard his patient's scream through the piece of copper wire that was between them, from the conductors he was keeping near his ear. His intuition was that the "tongue" of copper wire was vibrating just like a leave of an electroscope; which means that there was an electrostatic effect. In order to continue the experiment without hurting his patient, Meucci covered the copper wire with a piece of paper. Through this device he heard inarticulated human voice. He called this device "telegrafo parlante" (litt. "talking telegraph").[6]
  • On the basis of this prototype, Meucci worked on more than 30 kinds of sound transmitting devices inspired by the telegraph model as did other pioneers of the telephone, such as Charles Bourseul, Philipp Reis, Innocenzo Manzetti and others. Meucci later claimed that he did not think about transmitting voice by using the principle of the telegraph "make-and-break" method, but he looked for a "continuous" solution that did not interrupt the electric current.
  • In 1856 Meucci later claimed that he constructed the first electromagnetic telephone, made of an electromagnet with a nucleus in the shape of a horseshoe bat, a diaphragm of animal skin, stiffened with potassium dichromate and keeping a metal disk stuck in the middle. The instrument was hosted in a cylindrical carton box.[7] He said he constructed this as a way to connect his second-floor bedroom to his basement laboratory, and thus communicate with his wife who was an invalid.
  • Meucci separated the two directions of transmission in order to eliminate the so-called "local effect", adopting what we would call today a 4-wire-circuit. He constructed a simple calling system with a telegraphic manipulator which short-circuited the instrument of the calling person, producing in the instrument of the called person a succession of impulses (clicks), much more intense than those of normal conversation. As he was aware that his device required a bigger band than a telegraph, he found some means to avoid the so-called "skin effect" through superficial treatment of the conductor or by acting on the material (copper instead of iron). He successfully used an insulated copper plait, thus anticipating the litz wire used by Nikola Tesla in RF coils.
  • In 1864 Meucci later claimed that he realized his "best device", using an iron diaphragm with optimized thickness and tightly clamped along its rim. The instrument was housed in a shaving-soap box, whose cover clamped the diaphragm.
  • In August 1870, Meucci later claimed that he obtained transmission of articulate human voice at a mile distance by using as a conductor a copper plait insulated by cotton. He called his device "teletrofono". According to an Affidavit of lawyer Michael Lemmi drawings and notes by Antonio Meucci dated September 27, 1870 show coils of wire on long distance telephone lines. The painting made by Nestore Corradi it:Nestore Corradi in 1858 mentions the sentence "Electric current from the inductor pipe"

The above information was published in the Scientific American Supplement No. 520, December 19, 1885, based on reconstructions produced in 1885, for which there was no contemporary pre-1875 evidence. Meucci's 1871 caveat did not mention any of the telephone features later credited to him by his lawyer, and which were published in that Scientific American Supplement, a major reason for the loss of the 'Bell v. Globe and Meucci' patent infringement court case, which was decided against him.[8] See Antonio Meucci –The caveat, for the full printed text of his 1871 teletrofono patent caveat.

Cromwell Varley

Around 1870 Mr. C. F. Varley, F.R.S., a well-known English electrician, patented a number of variations on the audio telegraph based on Reis' work. He never claimed or produced a device capable of transmitting speech, only pure tones.

Poul la Cour

Around 1874 Poul la Cour, a Danish inventor, experimented with audio telegraphs on a telegraph line between Copenhagen and Fredericia in Jutland. His experiment used a vibrating tuning-fork to interrupt the line current, which, after traversing the line passed through an electromagnet that acted upon the tines of another tuning-fork, making it resonate at the same pitch of the transmitting fork. Moreover, the hums were also recorded on paper by turning the electromagnetic receiver into a relay, which actuated a Morse code printer by means of a local battery. Again, la Cour made no claims of transmitting voice, only pure tones.

Daniel Drawbaugh

Daniel Drawbaugh, a bearded rustic tinkerer from Pennsylvania, claimed to have invented a telephone using a teacup as transmitter as early as 1867, and to have applied for a patent about 1880, but his case was dismissed in the 1880-88 legal challenge to Bell (see The Telephone Cases), and also in 1896.

Electro-magnetic transmitters and receivers

Elisha Gray

Main article: Elisha Gray, See also: Elisha Gray and Alexander Bell telephone controversy

Elisha Gray, of Chicago also devised a tone telegraph of this kind about the same time as La Cour. In Gray's tone telegraph, several vibrating steel reeds tuned to different frequencies interrupted the current, which at the other end of the line passed through electromagnets and vibrated matching tuned steel reeds near the electromagnet poles. Gray's 'harmonic telegraph,' with vibrating reeds, was used by the Western Union Telegraph Company. Since more than one set of vibration frequencies — that is to say, more than one musical tone — can be sent over the same wire simultaneously, the harmonic telegraph can be utilised as a 'multiplex' or many-ply telegraph, conveying several messages through the same wire at the same time; and these can either be read by the operator by the sound, or a permanent record can be made by the marks drawn on a ribbon of travelling paper by a Morse recorder. On 27 July 1875, Gray was granted U.S. patent 166,096 for "Electric Telegraph for Transmitting Musical Tones" (the harmonic telegraph).

On 14 February 1876, Gray filed a patent caveat for a telephone on the very same day in 1876 as did Bell's lawyer. The water transmitter described in Gray's caveat was strikingly similar to the experimental telephone transmitter tested by Bell on March 10, 1876, a fact which raised questions about whether Bell (who knew of Gray) was inspired by Gray's design or vice versa. Although Bell did not use Gray's water transmitter in later telephones, evidence suggests that Bell's lawyers may have obtained an unfair advantage over Gray.[9][10]

Alexander Graham Bell

Bell's March 10, 1876 laboratory notebook entry describing his first successful experiment with the telephone.

Alexander Graham Bell of Scotland is commonly credited as the inventor of the first practical telephone. The classic story of his crying out "Watson, come here! I want to see you!" is a well known part of American history[11]. But Alexander Graham Bell was also an astute and articulate business man with influential and wealthy friends.

As Professor of Vocal Physiology at Boston University, Bell was engaged in training teachers in the art of instructing deaf mutes how to speak, and experimented with the Leon Scott phonautograph in recording the vibrations of speech. This apparatus consists essentially of a thin membrane vibrated by the voice and carrying a light-weight stylus, which traces an undulatory line on a plate of smoked glass. The line is a graphic representation of the vibrations of the membrane and the waves of sound in the air.[12]

This background prepared Bell for work with spoken sound waves and electricity. He began his experiments in 1873-1874 with a harmonic telegraph, following the examples of Bourseul, Reis, Meucci, and Gray. Bell's designs employed various on-off-on-off make-break current-interrupters driven by vibrating steel reeds which sent interrupted current to a distant receiver electro-magnet that caused a second steel reed or tuning fork to vibrate.[13]

During a June 2, 1875 experiment by Bell and his assistant Watson, a receiver reed failed to respond to the intermittent current supplied by an electric battery. Bell told Watson, who was at the other end of the line, to pluck the reed, thinking it had stuck to the pole of the magnet. Mr. Watson complied, and to his astonishment Bell heard a reed at his end of the line vibrate and emit the same timbre of a plucked reed, although there was no interrupted on-off-on-off current from a transmitter to make it vibrate.[14] A few more experiments soon showed that his receiver reed had been set in vibration by the magneto-electric currents induced in the line by the motion of the distant receiver reed in the neighbourhood of its magnet. The battery current was not causing the vibration but was needed only to supply the magnetic field in which the reeds vibrated. Moreover, when Bell heard the rich overtones of the plucked reed, it occurred to him that since the circuit was never broken, all the complex vibrations of speech might be converted into undulating (alternating) currents, which in turn would reproduce the complex timbre, amplitude, and frequencies of speech at a distance.

After Bell and Watson discovered on June 2, 1875 that movements of the reed alone in a magnetic field could reproduce the frequencies and timbre of spoken sound waves, Bell reasoned by analogy with the mechanical phonautograph that a skin diaphragm would reproduce sounds like the human ear when connected to a steel or iron reed or hinged armature. On July 1, 1875, he instructed Watson to build a receiver consisting of a stretched diaphragm or drum of goldbeater's skin with an armature of magnetized iron attached to its middle, and free to vibrate in front of the pole of an electromagnet in circuit with the line. A second membrane-device was built for use as a transmitter.[15] This was the "gallows" phone. A few days later they were tried together, one at each end of the line, which ran from a room in the inventor's house in Boston to the cellar underneath. Bell, in the work room, held one instrument in his hands, while Watson in the cellar listened at the other. Bell spoke into his instrument, “Do you understand what I say?” and Mr. Watson answered “Yes”. However, the voice sounds were not distinct and the armature tended to stick to the electromagnet pole and tear the membrane.

Because of illness and other commitments, Bell made little or no telephone improvements or experiments for eight months until after his U.S. patent 174,465 was published.[15] On March 10, 1876, Bell tested Gray's water transmitter design only after Bell's patent was granted and only as a proof of concept scientific experiment[16] to prove to his own satisfaction that intelligible "articulate speech" (Bell's words) could be electrically transmitted.[17] After March 1876, Bell focused on improving the electromagnetic telephone and never used Gray's liquid transmitter in public demonstrations or commercial use.[18]

Bell's success

Alexander Graham Bell's telephone patent[19] drawing, 7 March 1876.

The first successful bi-directional transmission of clear speech by Bell and Watson was made on March 10, 1876 when Bell spoke into his device, “Mr. Watson, come here, I want to see you.” and Watson answered. Bell used Gray's liquid transmitter design[20] in his famous March 10, 1876 experiment, but Bell did not use a liquid transmitter again, because it was not practical for commercial products.

The first long distance telephone call was made on 10 August 1876 by Bell from the family homestead in Brantford, Ontario, to his assistant located in Paris, Ontario, some 10 miles (16 km) distant.

A finished instrument was then made, having a transmitter formed of a double electromagnet, in front of which a membrane, stretched on a ring, carried an oblong piece of soft iron cemented to its middle. A mouthpiece before the diaphragm directed the sounds upon it, and as it vibrated with them, the soft iron “armature” induced corresponding currents in the coils of the electromagnet. These currents after traversing the line were passed through the receiver, which consisted of a tubular electromagnet, having one end partially closed by a thin circular disc of soft iron fixed at one point to the end of the tube. This receiver bore a resemblance to a cylindrical metal box with thick sides, having a thin iron lid fastened to its mouth by a single screw. When the undulatory current passed through the coil of this magnet, the disc, or armature-lid, was put into vibration and sounds were emitted from it.

This primitive telephone was rapidly improved, the double electromagnet being replaced by a single bar magnet having a small coil or bobbin of fine wire surrounding one pole, in front of which a thin disc of ferrotype was fixed in a circular mouthpiece, and served as a combined membrane and armature. On speaking into the mouthpiece, the iron diaphragm vibrated with the voice in the magnetic field of the pole, and thereby caused undulatory currents in the coil, which, after traveling through the wire to the distant receiver, were received in an identical apparatus. This form was patented January 30, 1877. The sounds were weak and could only be heard when the ear was close to the earphone/mouthpiece, but they were distinct.

Public demonstrations

Earliest public demonstration of Bell's telephone

In June 1876, Bell exhibited a telephone prototype at the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia, where it attracted the attention of Brazilian emperor Pedro II and physicist and engineer Sir William Thomson, the 1st Baron Kelvin (best known as "Lord Kelvin"). In August 1876 at a meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, Thomson revealed the telephone to the European public. In describing his visit to the Philadelphia Exhibition, Thomson said, 'I heard [through the telephone] passages taken at random from the New York newspapers: "s.s. Cox has arrived" (I failed to make out the s.s. Cox); "The City of New York", "Senator Morton", "The Senate has resolved to print a thousand extra copies", "The Americans in London have resolved to celebrate the coming Fourth of July!" All this my own ears heard spoken to me with unmistakable distinctness by the then circular disc armature of just such another little electro-magnet as this I hold in my hand.'

Later public demonstrations

The later telephone design was publicly exhibited on May 4, 1877 at a lecture given by Professor Bell in the Boston Music Hall. According to a report: Going to the small telephone box with its slender wire attachments, Mr. Bell coolly asked, as though addressing some one in an adjoining room, “Mr. Watson, are you ready!” Mr. Watson, five miles away in Somerville, promptly answered in the affirmative, and soon was heard a voice singing “America”. [...] Going to another instrument, connected by wire with Providence, forty-three miles distant, Mr. Bell listened a moment, and said, “Signor Brignolli, who is assisting at a concert in Providence Music Hall, will now sing for us.” In a moment the cadence of the tenor's voice rose and fell, the sound being faint, sometimes lost, and then again audible. Later, a cornet solo played in Somerville was very distinctly heard. Still later, a three-part song came over the wire from Somerville, and Mr. Bell told his audience “I will switch off the song from one part of the room to another, so that all can hear.” At a subsequent lecture in Salem, Massachusetts, communication was established with Boston, eighteen miles distant, and Mr. Watson at the latter place sang “Auld Lang Syne”, “The Star-Spangled Banner”, and “Hail Columbia”, while the audience at Salem joined in the chorus.

Summary of Bell's achievements

Bell did for the telephone what Henry Ford did for the automobile. Although not the first to experiment with telephonic devices, Bell and the companies founded in his name were the first to develop commercially practical telephones around which a successful business could be built and grow. Bell adopted carbon transmitters similar to Edison's transmitters and adapted telephone exchanges and switching plug boards developed for telegraphy. Watson and other Bell engineers invented numerous other improvements to telephony. Bell succeeded where others failed to assemble a commercially viable telephone system. It can be argued that Bell invented the telephone industry.

Variable resistance transmitters

Water microphone - Elisha Gray

Elisha Gray recognized the lack of fidelity of the make-break transmitter of Reis and Bourseul and reasoned by analogy with the lover's telegraph, that if the current could be made to more closely model the movements of the diaphragm, rather than simply opening and closing the circuit, greater fidelity might be achieved. Gray filed a patent caveat with the US patent office on February 14, 1876 for a liquid microphone. The device used a metal needle or rod that was placed — just barely — into a liquid conductor, such as a water/acid mixture. In response to the diaphragm's vibrations, the needle dipped more or less into the liquid, varying the electrical resistance and thus the current passing through the device and on to the receiver. Gray did not convert his caveat into a patent until after the caveat had expired and hence left the field open to Bell.

When Gray applied for a patent for the variable resistance telephone transmitter, the Patent Office determined "while Gray was undoubtedly the first to conceive of and disclose the [variable resistance] invention, as in his caveat of 14 February 1876, his failure to take any action amounting to completion until others had demonstrated the utility of the invention deprives him of the right to have it considered."[21]

Carbon microphone - Thomas Edison

Thomas Alva Edison took the next step in improving the telephone with his invention in 1878 of the carbon grain transmitter that provided a strong voice signal on the transmitting circuit that made long-distance calls practical. Edison discovered that carbon grains, squeezed between two metal plates, had a variable electrical resistance that was related to the pressure. Thus, the grains could vary their resistance as the plates moved in response to sound waves, and reproduce sound with good fidelity, without the weak signals associated with electro-magnetic transmitters.

The carbon microphone was further improved by Emile Berliner, Francis Blake, David E. Hughes, Henry Hunnings, and Anthony White. The carbon transmitter remained standard in telephony until the 1980s, and is still being produced.

Improvements to the early telephone

Additional inventions such as the call bell, central telephone exchange, common battery, ring tone, amplification, trunk lines, wireless phones, etc. were made by various engineers who made the telephone the useful and widespread apparatus it is now.

Telephone exchange - Tivadar Puskás

Tivadar Puskás was working on his idea for a telegraph exchange when Alexander Graham Bell received the first patent for the telephone. This caused Puskás to take a fresh look at his own work and he refocused on perfecting a design for a telephone exchange. Puskás got in touch with the American inventor Thomas Edison who liked the design. According to Edison, "Tivadar Puskas was the first person to suggest the idea of a telephone exchange". Puskás's idea finally became a reality in 1877 in Boston.[22][23][24][25][26] It was then that the Hungarian word "hallom" "I hear you" was used for the first time in a telephone conversation when, on hearing the voice of the person at the other end of the line, Puskás shouted "hallom". This cannot be confirmed by any original documents, however it has passed into Hungarian modern folklore. Hallom was shortened to Hello, an older greeting that can be traced back to the Old English verb hǽlan.


Bell has been widely recognized as the "inventor" of the telephone outside of Italy, where Meucci was championed as its inventor. In the United States, there are numerous reflections of Bell as a North American icon for inventing the telephone, and the matter was for a long time non-controversial. In June 2002, however, the United States House of Representatives passed a symbolic bill recognizing the contributions of Antonio Meucci "in the invention of the telephone" (not "for the invention of the telephone"), throwing the matter into some controversy. Ten days later the Canadian parliament countered with a symbolic motion conferring official recognition for the invention of the telephone to Bell.

Champions of Meucci, of Manzetti, and of Gray have each offered fairly precise tales of a contrivance whereby Bell actively stole the invention of the telephone from their specific inventor. In the 2002 congressional resolution, it was inaccurately noted that Bell worked in a laboratory in which Meucci's materials had been stored, and claimed that Bell must thus have had access to those materials. Manzetti claimed that Bell visited him and examined his device in 1865. And it is alleged that Bell bribed a patent examiner, Zenas Wilber, not only into processing his application before Gray's, but allowing a look at his rival's designs before final submission.

One of the valuable claims in Bell's 1876 U.S. Patent 174,465 was claim 4, a method of producing variable electrical current in a circuit by varying the resistance in the circuit. That feature was not shown in any of Bell's patent drawings, but was shown in Elisha Gray's drawings in his caveat filed the same day, 14 February 1876. A description of the variable resistance feature, consisting of seven sentences, was inserted into Bell's application. That it was inserted is not disputed. But when it was inserted is a controversial issue. Bell testified that he wrote the sentences containing the variable resistance feature before 18 January 1876 "almost at the last moment" before sending his draft application to his lawyers. A book by Evenson[27] argues that the seven sentences and claim 4 were inserted, without Bell's knowledge, just before Bell's application was hand carried to the Patent Office by one of Bell's lawyers on 14 February 1876.

Contrary to the popular story, Gray's caveat was taken to the US Patent Office a few hours before Bell's application. Gray's caveat was taken to the Patent Office in the morning of 14 February 1876 shortly after the Patent Office opened and remained near the bottom of the in-basket until that afternoon. Bell's application was filed shortly before noon on 14 February by Bell's lawyer who requested that the filing fee be entered immediately onto the cash receipts blotter and Bell's application was taken to the Examiner immediately. Late in the afternoon, Gray's caveat was entered on the cash blotter and was not taken to the Examiner until the following day. The fact that Bell's filing fee was recorded earlier than Gray's led to the myth that Bell had arrived at the Patent Office earlier.[28] Bell was in Boston on 14 February and did not know this happened until later. Gray later abandoned his caveat and that opened the door to Bell being granted US patent 174465 for the telephone on 7 March 1876.


  • US patent 161739 Transmitter and Receiver for Electric Telegraphs (tuned steel reeds) by Alexander Graham Bell (April 6, 1875)
  • US patent 174465 Telegraphy (Bell's first telephone patent) by Alexander Graham Bell (March 7, 1876)
  • US patent 178399 Telephonic Telegraphic Receiver (vibrating reed) by Alexander Graham Bell (June 6, 1876)
  • US patent 181553 Generating Electric Currents (magneto) by Alexander Graham Bell (August 29, 1876)
  • US patent 186787 Electric Telegraphy (permanent magnet receiver) by Alexander Graham Bell (January 15, 1877)
  • US patent 201488 Speaking Telephone (receiver designs) by Alexander Graham Bell (March 19, 1878)
  • US patent 213090 Electric Speaking Telephone (frictional transmitter) by Alexander Graham Bell (March 11, 1879)
  • US patent 220791 Telephone Circuit (twisted pairs of wire) by Alexander Graham Bell (October 21, 1879)
  • US patent 228507 Electric Telephone Transmitter (hollow ball transmitter) by Alexander Graham Bell (June 8, 1880)
  • US patent 230168 Circuit for Telephone by Alexander Graham Bell (July 20, 1880)
  • US patent 238833 Electric Call-Bell by Alexander Graham Bell (March 15, 1881)
  • US patent 241184 Telephonic Receiver (local battery circuit with coil) by Alexander Graham Bell (May 10, 1881)
  • US patent 244426 Telephone Circuit (cable of twisted pairs) by Alexander Graham Bell (July 19, 1881)
  • US patent 252576 Multiple Switch Board for Telephone Exchanges by Leroy Firman (Western Electric) (January 17, 1882)
  • US patent 474230 Speaking Telegraph (graphite transmitter) by Thomas Edison
  • US patent 203016 Speaking Telephone (carbon button transmitter) by Thomas Edison
  • US patent 222390 Carbon Telephone (carbon granules transmitter) by Thomas Edison
  • US patent 485311 Telephone (solid back carbon transmitter) by Anthony C. White (Bell engineer)
  • US patent 597062 Calling Device for Telephone Exchange (dial) by A. E. Keith (11 January 1898)
  • US patent 3449750 Duplex Radio Communication and Signalling Appartus by G. H. Sweigert
  • US patent 3663762 Cellular Mobile Communication System by Amos Edward Joel (Bell Labs)
  • US patent 3906166 Radio Telephone System (DynaTAC cell phone) by Martin Cooper et al. (Motorola)

See also


  1. ^ Coe, page 21.
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ Basilio Catania's reconstruction, in English
  5. ^ Picture of the acoustic telephone, page maintained by the Italian Society of Electrotechnics
  6. ^ Meucci's original drawings. Page maintained by the Italian Society of Electrotechnics
  7. ^ Meucci's original drawings. Page maintained by the Italian Society of Electrotechnics
  8. ^ Meucci's 1871 patent caveat, pages 16-18
  9. ^ Elisha Gray and Alexander Bell Controversy
  10. ^ Inventor's Digest, July/August 1998, p. 26-28
  11. ^ American Treasures of the Library of Congress ... Bell - Lab notebook
  12. ^ Robert Bruce (1990), pages 102-103, 110-113, 120-121
  13. ^ Robert Bruce (1990), pages 104-109
  14. ^ Robert Bruce (1990), pages 146-148
  15. ^ a b Robert Bruce (1990), page 149
  16. ^ Evenson, page 99.
  17. ^ Evenson, page 98.
  18. ^ Evenson, page 100.
  19. ^ US patent 174465 Alexander Graham Bell: „Improvement in Telegraphy“ filed on February 14, 1876, granted on March 7, 1876.
  20. ^ Shulman, pages 36-37. Bell's lab notes dated March 9, 1876 show a drawing of a person speaking face down into a liquid transmitter very similar to the liquid transmitter depicted as Fig. 3 in Gray's caveat.
  21. ^ Burton Baker, pages 90-91
  22. ^
  23. ^
  24. ^
  25. ^
  26. ^
  27. ^ Evenson, pages 64-69, 86-87, 110, 194-196
  28. ^ Evenson, pages 68-69


Further reading

External links


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