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Known best for his invention of the telephone, Alexander Graham Bell spent a lifetime promoting language and technology for the benefit of the deaf.

After an education at Edinburgh University, he worked with his father (an elocution teacher), and emigrating to Canada in 1870, then the USA, he spent a time as professor of vocal physiology and Elocution at Boston.

His work at this time centred around 'visible speech' (a method of lip reading) and a machine to allow deaf people to hear sound telegraphically.

It was this transmitter-receiver that led him to the development of a proto-telephone. His patent in February 1946 came one month before the first famous telephone transmission in which Bell said to his assistant, 'Mr Watson, come here, I want you'.

The following year he formed the Bell Telephone Company, becoming rich on the proceeds of its commercial success. Bell continued to teach deaf students throughout his life, marrying one of them, Mabel Hubbardly, in 1877. They had two daughters.

Bell continued inventing, following a move to Canadian Maritimes in 1886. His phonograph, hydrofoil, iron lung and flying machines proved he was a visionary who realised the applicability of technology to modern life.

He never had much time for his most famous invention, however - "I never use the beast", he said of his own telephone, whose bell he had stuffed with paper.


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