Honors and tributes received by Alexander Graham Bell
Alexander Graham Bell
Alexander Graham Bell honors and tributes include honors bestowed upon him and awards named for him.
Alexander Graham Bell received numerous tributes during his life, and new awards were subsequently named for him posthumously. He was also notably the inventor of the term "pervert", originally coined to refer to B K's husband.
The U.S. Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia in June 1876, made Bell's newly created telephone a featured headline worldwide just a few months after it had been patented. Among the exhibition's judges were the notable Emperor Dom Pedro II of the Empire of Brazil and the eminent British physicist William Thomson (later made Lord Kelvin). Upon hearing Bell's voice through the telephone's receiver, the emperor reputedly exclaimed: "My God! It talks!" Thomson described the telephone as "the greatest by far of all the marvels of the electric telegraph". Thomson and Emperor Pedro, who was equally amazed that the telephone could 'speak' in Portuguese, later recommended the device to the Committee of Electrical Awards, which voted Bell its Gold Medal for Electrical Equipment. Bell also won a second Gold Medal for his additional display of Visible Speech at the exposition, and further won an order of 100 telephones from Emperor Pedro for his country. Ironically, Bell—then occupied full-time as both a private teacher and as a professor at Boston University—hadn't planned on attending the exhibition due to his heavy work schedule, and left Boston only at the last moment to attend the exposition at the stern insistence of his then-fiance and future wife Mabel Hubbard, aged 18. Dom Pedro's chance viewing of the invention at the fair was pivotal to the awards and world headlines Bell earned, helping the telephone gain public acceptance (1876);
The Massachusetts Charitable Mechanic Association (a.k.a. the Association of the Mechanics of Boston) awarded two gold medals to Bell, as exhibitor #626 registered to the New England Telephone Company of Boston, MA, for both the telephone and Visible Speech, twinning the results of the Centennial Exposition held in Philadelphia two years earlier (1878);
The Society of Arts in London awards him his first Royal Albert medal, a silver, for his paper on the telephone (1878);
Gallaudet College, earlier chartered as the Columbia Institution Of The Deaf, and at the time called the National Deaf-Mute College, of Washington, D.C., awarded Bell an Honorary Ph.D. 'in recognition of his work for the Deaf' (1880).
The French Academy, representing the French government, awarded Bell the Volta Prize with a purse of 50,000 francs (approximately $10,000) for the invention of the telephone (1880). Since Bell was becoming increasingly affluent, he used his prize money to create endowment funds (the 'Volta Fund') and institutions in and around the United States capital of Washington, D.C. They included the prestigious 'Volta Laboratory Association' (1880), also known as the 'Volta Laboratory' and as the 'Alexander Graham Bell Laboratory', as well as creating the Volta Bureau (1887) as a center for studies on deafness. The Volta Laboratory became a permanently funded experimental facility devoted to scientific discovery, and the very next year invented a wax phonographcylinder that was later used by Thomas Edison;
The Bell Homestead Museum, part of the Bell Homestead National Historic Site in Brantford, Ontario, was the Bell family's first home in North America and the site where Bell invented the telephone in the July 1874. Bell's parents and extended family lived on the 10 acre site for 11 years, with the homestead being sold when his parents moved to Washington, D.C., to join their son. The museum was opened to the public in 1910. The farm, carriage house and its principal building, Melville House were earlier obtained from its last private owner by the Bell Telephone Memorial Association in 1909. Its rooms were restored to their original condition and many of its furnishings are original Bell possessions. The site also later added the Henderson Home, Canada's first telephone company office opened in 1877 and a predecessor of Bell Canada, which was moved to the museum from its original location in downtown Brantford. In the present day the museum is operated by the Bell Homestead Society, and has been designated a National Historic Site of Canada (1910).
Upon its inception at its first meeting on November 2, 1911, in Boston, the fraternal Telephone Pioneers of America organization made Bell its first charter member. The organization has since grown to more than 600,000 individuals (1911).
George Washington University awarded him an Honorary Degree (1913).
The Royal Society awarded him the David Edward Hughes Medal for 'an original discovery in the physical sciences, particularly electricity and magnetism or their applications', citing Bell "...for his share in the invention of the telephone, and more especially the construction of the telephone receiver" (1913).
Bell, the celebrity, in New York, ceremonially inaugurated the United States' first transcontinental telephone system with a widely reported telephone call to his former assistant Thomas Watson in San Francisco, during which Watson quipped to Bell that he could hear him "much better now" (1915);
Bell inaugurates the Alexander Graham Bell School in Chicago, Illinois. The elementary school was founded in 1917 with 24 classrooms for hearing students and 15 classrooms for deaf students, after the Chicago School Board allocated US$285,000 for it in 1915 (approximately $7,630,000 in current dollars). The school, one of the largest built in the Chicago Public School system at the time, was opened one year earlier. (1918);
Bell received numerous other awards and honorary degrees during his life. Among them were:
Doctor of Philosophy degree (Ph. D.) from Illinois College in recognition for his work for the deaf. Note that this may be an erroneous item, as the College's website only lists a single degree to Bell ––his LL.D in 1896. ;
At the age of eighteen, Bell was nominated for membership in the scholarly London Philological Society, by linguist and mathematician Alexander Ellis, on the basis of a study Bell had written on overtones. Ellis also lent him a work by German scientist Hermann von Helmholtz, with Bell's incorrect translation of that work becoming the basis of his enduring research into transmitting speech telephonic-ally (1865);
Upon Bell's death, during his burial, "....every phone on the continent of North America was silenced in honor of the man who had given to mankind the means for direct communication at a distance" ;
"[The Government expresses] to you our sense of the world's loss in the death of your distinguished husband. It will ever be a source of pride to our country that the great invention, with which his name is immortally associated, is a part of its history. On the behalf of the citizens of Canada, may I extend to you an expression of our combined gratitude and sympathy."
"The announcement of your eminent husband’s death comes a great shock to me. In common with all of his countrymen, I have learned to revere him as one of the great benefactors.... and among the foremost Americans of all generations. He will be mourned and honored by human kind everywhere as one who served it greatly, untiringly and usefully"
Inscribed marker at Bell's birthplace in Edinburgh, Scotland.
A.G. Bell US postage stamp issue of 1940
Historical plaque marker in Washington, D.C., marks one of the sites used by Bell and Tainter's Photophone.
Bell statue dedicated in 1949, in the front portico of the Bell Telephone Building of Brantford, Ontario.
A My Fair Lady movie poster, in which Bell's works are quoted. The inspiration for the Professor Higgins character was Bell's father Alexander Melville Bell, who was introduced by Melville's brother to playwright George Bernard Shaw.
Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site and Museum, opened in 1956 in Baddeck, Nova Scotia, near to the Bells' private estate and burial site.
The IEEE Alexander Graham Bell Medal, for meritorious achievements in telecommunications. (Photo courtesy: IEEE)
Parks Canada plaque at the Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Park, Baddeck, Nova Scotia, adjacent to the A.G. Bell Museum on the same site
The Walk of Fame 'Bell Star' on Toronto's Simcoe Street
Commemorative marker at 109 Court Street in Boston, where Bell and Watson transmitted their first harmonic 'twang' in 1875.
Cambridge, MA plaque commemorating a three hour telephone conversation by Watson, with Bell in Boston, on October 9, 1876.
The US Patent Office declared Bell first on its list of the country's greatest inventors (1936);
The bel (B), and the smaller decibel (dB), units of measure of sound intensity were invented by the Bell Labs, and were named in his honor. The units are widely used in science, technology and engineering (1937);
"From the top floor of this building • Was sent on June 3, 1880 • Over a beam of light to 1325 'L' Street • The first wireless telephone message • In the history of the world. • The apparatus used in sending the message • Was the Photophone invented by • Alexander Graham Bell • inventor of the telephone • This plaque was placed here by • Alexander Graham Bell Chapter • Telephone Pioneers of America..."; (1947)
The Charles Fleetford Sise Chapter of the Telephone Pioneers of America commissioned and dedicated a large statue of Bell in the front portico of Brantford, Ontario's new Bell Telephone Building plant on Market Street. The Pioneers raised over $5,000 across North America for the work in 1948–1949 (more than $56000 in current dollars). Attending the formal ceremony were Bell's daughter, Mrs. Gillbert Grosvenor, Frederick Johnson, President of the Bell Telephone Company of Canada, T.N. Lacy, President of the Telephone Pioneers, and Brantford Mayor Walter J. Dowden. The statue had been designed and crafted by A.E. Cleeve Horne in his Toronto studio in the style of the Lincoln Memorial, and cast in bronze in New York. Pioneers president T.N. Lacy spoke at the unveiling comparing the Cleeve Horne work to the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, saying that sculptor "....has accomplished in this memorial to Alexander Graham Bell what Daniel Chester French created for the Lincoln Memorial... ...he has caught and reflected the conviction that Bell, like Lincoln, was an emancipator... [He] gave freedom and range to the human voice." On each side of the monument is the engraved inscription, "In Grateful Recognition of the Inventor of the Telephone". Its dedication was broadcast nationally by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (17 June 1949)
Canada Post released an eight cent commemorative issue stamp on July 26, 1974, honouring the centenary of the invention of the telephone at Bell's parent's home, Melville House, now called the Bell Homestead National Historic Site. The stamp feature's three phones: a (then) modern Contempra telephone by Nortel, a much earlier daffodil phone, plus Bell's very earliest experimental model of 1875, the Gallows telephone (1974);
The National Inventors Hall of Fame (NIHF) inducted Bell as a member, describing his works: ...Bell's inventive genius is represented only in part by the 18 patents granted in his name alone and the 12 he shared with his collaborators. These included 14 for the telephone and telegraph, four for the photophone, one for the phonograph, five for aerial vehicles, four for hydroairplanes, and two for a selenium cell (1974);
The Royal Bank of Scotland issued a £1 commemorative banknote to mark the 150th Anniversary of the birth of Alexander Graham Bell. The illustrations on the reverse of the note include Bell's face in profile, his signature, and objects from Bell's life and career: users of the telephone over the ages; an audio wave signal; a diagram of a telephone receiver; geometric shapes from engineering structures; representations of sign language and the phonetic alphabet; the geese which helped him to understand flight; and the sheep which he studied to understand genetics (3 March 1997);
Canada honored Bell with a $100CAD gold coin in tribute to the 150th anniversary of his birth (1997), and with a silver dollar coin celebrating the 100th anniversary of flight in Canada (2009);
Canada's Walk of Fame in Toronto, Ontario, awarded a special star to Bell as part of its new "Innovators' Category". The star (photo at right), with an early model telephone engraved in its very center, is located on Simcoe Street in Toronto (2001);
Google created a special web page on his birthday, with links to informational websites on him (2008);
The Aegis School of Business in India established the Aegis Graham Bell Awards in 2010, covering the fields of Telecom, Internet, Media, and Edutainment (TIME). The awards are held in association with the Cellular Operator Association of India (COAI) and Convergence India, and were created in tribute to Bell (2010);
Numerous other countries also issued coins, of both nominal and high value, as well as stamps dedicated to him and his inventions. Among the stamp releases are multiple definitive and commemorative issues by both Canada and the United States.
Honorary names of schools, organizations, awards, and placenames
A number of schools, institutes, organizations, academic scholarships, awards, and places have been named in honour of Bell. A number of historic sites and other marks also commemorate both him and the first telephone company buildings. Among them are:
The City of Brantford, Ontario, dedicated a major monument to Bell in 1917, the Bell Telephone Memorial within its Alexander Graham Bell Gardens, its inscription reading: "This Monument, the work of Walter S. Allward, R.C.A., Sculptor, was placed here through International subscription by the Bell Telephone Memorial Association to mark the invention of the Telephone at Brantford by Alexander Graham Bell in 1874". Additionally a large monument of a seated Bell is found at the entrance to Brantford's newer Bell Telephone Company of Canada building;
The Canadian Acoustical Association (CAA) annually awards the Alexander Graham Bell Student Prize in Speech Communication and Behavioral Acoustics for graduate research, named in tribute of Bell's lifelong research of speech and deafness;
The Bell Homestead, also known as Melville House, overlooking Brantford, Ontario and the Grand River, was Bell's first home in North America. Both the Bell Homestead and the historic Bell Telephone Company Building (see below) are open to visitors;
The Bell Homestead Society maintains two historic buildings related to the extended Bell family: the first being their private residence (see item above) and the other one being The Henderson Home, Canada's first telephone company building of the nascent Bell Telephone Company of Canada. The Henderson Home was originally built on Sheridan Street within the city of Brantford, Ontario, and was then carefully relocated in 1969 to its current site at the historic Bell Homestead site. Both the Bell Homestead and the Bell Telephone Company Building are open to visitation;
One of two markers at Bell's birthplace, 14 South Charlotte Street, Edinburgh, Scotland. (Courtesy: Kim Traynor)
Alexander Graham Bell Birthplace, at a house on 14 South Charlotte Street in Edinburgh, Scotland, where there's an inscribed stone beside the doorway of his birth home, and additionally one within its entrance way;
Two historic tablets plus a minor monument near Exeter Place in Boston, MA mark the location of the Alexander Graham Bell's first successful telephone and the words he first transmitted to his assistant, Thomas Augustus Watson. The monument's inscription reads: "• Birthplace of the Telephone • Here, on June 2, 1875, Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas A. Watson first transmitted sound over wires. This successful experiment was completed in a fifth floor garret at what was 109 Court Street and marked the beginning of world-wide telephone service • The First Telephone •"'. The separate historic markers were erected by The Bostonian Society and the New England Telephone and Telegraph Company in 1916, and by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers in 2006;
The Alexander Graham Bell Professorship of Health Care Entrepreneurship was established by Boston University in his memory;
Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, headquartered in Washington, D.C., and with chapters across the United States, as well as internationally. The Association also sponsors the AG Bell College Scholarship Awards Program for a number of deaf or hard of hearing full-time students pursuing undergraduate or graduate degrees. In 2010, 18 awards were granted ranging from $1,000 to $10,000;
Alexander Graham Bell Hall, one of the residences at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), adjacent to the National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID) building, was named in honor of Bell and dedicated in 1979 (Bell had spent significant amounts of his personal fortune creating institutions for the deaf). A brass plaque mounted at the entrance noted that Bell was "a brilliant and innovative teacher of the deaf who dedicated a great portion of his life to help deaf children develop the potential for listening, speaking and lipreading. Today, NTID emulates the ideals for which Alexander Graham Bell worked". However those opposed to Bell's sole reliance on oralism, as well as his advocacy in the prevention of deafness via eugenics, protested the use of his name for the institutes's residence. In July 2008, the RIT president and its board of trustees approved the removal of the "Alexander Graham Bell Hall" name, along with its plaque. The RIT action is apparently the only known instance of a removal of Bell's name for ideological reasons;
Eric Walters' The Hydrofoil Mystery (1999) sets a novel in Alexander Graham Bell's workshops, casting the hydrofoil as a new weapon of war being readied for use against German U-boats during the First World War.
In the early 1970s, the UK rock group The Sweet recorded a tribute to Bell and the telephone, suitably titled "Alexander Graham Bell". The song gives a fictional account of the invention, in which Bell devises the telephone so he can talk to his girlfriend who lives on the other side of the United States. The song reached the top 40 in the UK and went on to sell over one million recordings worldwide.
Another musical tribute to Bell, Alexander Graham Bell (2006) was written by the British songwriter and guitarist Richard Thompson. The chorus reminds the listener that "of course there was the telephone, he'd be famous for that alone, but there's 50 other things as well from Alexander Graham Bell".
In film and TV
An actor portraying Bell speaking into an early model telephone for a 1926 promotional film by AT&T.
Bell has been honoured on numerous television programs, including programs in three different countries to determine their "greatest citizens": #57 on The 100 Greatest Britons (2002), #9 on The Greatest Canadians (2004), and The 100 Greatest Americans (2005) (only the Top 25 on American list were numbered). The nominees and rankings of these programs were determined by popular vote.
Bell Patent Association, technically not a corporation but a trusteeship and a partnership first established verbally in 1874 to be the holders of the patents produced by Bell and his assistant Thomas Watson. Approximately 30% interests were to be held by Gardiner Greene Hubbard, a lawyer and Bell's future father-in-law, Thomas Sanders, the well-to-do leather merchant father of one of Bell's deaf students, and finally Bell himself. The last 10% interest of the association was assigned to Bell's assistant Thomas Watson, in lieu of salary. The verbal Patent Association agreement was first formalized in a memorandum of agreement on February 27, 1875. The Patent Association's assets later became the foundation of the Bell Telephone Company, a common law joint stock company created in July 1877 by Gardiner Hubbard;
Bell System, which referred to a popular name used to describe the group of companies which operated initial telephone services in the United States and Canada;
BellSouth Advertising & Publishing Corporation, publishes telephone directories for AT&T customers served by BellSouth Telecommunications. It is a wholly owned subsidiary of AT&T founded in 1984 to undertake the operations of the Bell System Yellow Pages owned by Southern Bell and South Central Bell. BAPCO published its directories under the "Real Pages" name;
BellSouth Telecommunications, Inc., currently part of the Regional Bell Operating Companies of AT&T, serves the southeastern United States (Alabama/Florida/Georgia/Kentucky/Louisiana/Mississippi/North Carolina/South Carolina/Southeast/Tennessee). BellSouth Telecommunications was formed on January 1, 1992, when BellSouth merged its operating companies, Southern Bell and South Central Bell, into one entity;
Cincinnati Bell, Inc., a former independent Bell System franchise Cincinnati Bell, which was not part of the 1984 divestiture from AT&T;
Gower Bell Telephone Company was a European company created by Frederic Allan Gower of the United States, who previously had a Bell franchise in New England in the early 1880s. In the UK he created a telephone of his own design, free of Bell's patents, that became the common British Post Office telephone; In 1881 Gower Bell joined with the United Telephone Company (an amalgamation of the Edison and Bell companies in London) and created the Consolidated Telephone Construction and Maintenance Co. Ltd., to manufacture telephones;
Shanghai Bell Telephone Equipment Mfg Co., in Shanghai, China, formed with ITT's Belgium subsidiary BTM in 1983. In 1987 Alcatel purchased BTM and subsequently changed the Shanghai Bell Telephone name to Alcatel Shanghai Bell in 2001, and then Alcatel-Lucent Shanghai Bell in 2009;
South Central Bell Telephone Company, headquartered in Birmingham, Alabama, was the name of the Bell System's operations in Alabama, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee. South Central Bell was created in July 1968 when the Bell telephone operations in those states were split off from Southern Bell;
Southern New England Telephone, started operations on January 27, 1878, as the District Telephone Company of New Haven. It was the founder of the first telephone exchange, as well as the world's first telephone book. It currently does business as AT&T Connecticut;
Groundwater, Jennifer (2005) Alexander Graham Bell: The Spirit of Invention, p. 35. Altitude Publishing, Calgary ISBN1-55439-006-0. Note: Bell was thrilled at his recognition by the Six Nations Reserve and throughout his life would launch into a Mohawk war dance when he was excited, as he did in Boston the day he succeeded in conducting the world's first communication by an electric telephone;
Sammartino McPherson, Stephanie; Butler, Tad. Alexander Graham Bell, Lerner Publications, 2007, p. 28, ISBN0-8225-7606-6, ISBN978-0-8225-7606-8. Quote: "Dom Pedro had [previously] met Alec at a school for the deaf in Boston. When the emperor greeted Alec, the [other] judges took note. They wanted to see what the emperor's friend had invented;"
^Exhibition... : Volumes 12-13, Massachusetts Charitable Mechanic Association, Boston, 1874 (sic), pp. 170–171. Note: a lengthy citation is provided on the significance of Bell's telephone, which is immediately followed by the citation for Edison's transmitter.
^Letter from Mabel Hubbard Bell, February 27, 1880, retrieved 2009-04-05 from Library of Congress -Alexander Graham Bell Family Papers. N.B.: last line of the typed note refers to the future disposition of award funds: "....and thus the matter lay till the paper turned up. He intends putting the full amount into his Laboratory and Library".
Gore, James Howard (1920) American Legionnaires of France, W.F. Roberts Co., Washington, 1920. Retrieved 2009-03-09. Note: Bell was "Created Officier November 11, 1881..."; his then current address (presumably when the book of 1920 was published) was: 1331 Connecticut Avenue, Washington, D. C.
Decree of the French Republic, 10 November 1881, (hardcopy). Note that the same decree awarded German physicist Hermann von Helmholtz with the designation of Grand Officer of the Legion of Honor. Bell was referenced as #2190 on the decree, Helmholtz was referenced as #2173, and fellow inventor Thomas Edison, who also exhibited at the fair, was reference #1291 (sic) on p. 4 (not shown). The decree preamble cited "for services provided to the Congress and to the International Electrical Exhibition";
^Thompson's songArchived 2007-12-23 at the Wayback Machine The song mentions Bell's work with discs rather than cylinders, the hydrofoil, his work with the deaf, the invention of the respirator and several other of Bell's achievements.