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Thumbnail of Alexander Graham Bell (source)
Alexander Graham Bell
(3 Mar 1847 - 2 Aug 1922)

Scottish-American inventor of the telephone (patented 7 Mar 1876), and cofounder of the Bell Telephone Company (1877).


Alexander Graham Bell
“Mr. Watson—Come here”

Illustrated Quote - Medium (500 x 250 px)

“Mr. Watson—Come here—I want to see you.”
— Alexander Graham Bell
Notebook entry (10 March 1876).

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Alexander Graham Bell made a written record of his experiment transmitting these now famous words. They were spoken on 10 Mar 1876, and two days later, he described his successful transmission of voice along wires, in the first volume of his notebooks about Experiments made by A. Graham Bell:

I then shouted into M [the mouthpiece] the following sentence: “Mr. Watson—Come here—I want to see you.” To my delight he came and declared that he had heard and understood what I said. I asked him to repeat the words. He answered

“You said—‘Mr. Watson—come here—I want to see you.’”

We then changed places and I listened at S [the reed receiver] while Mr. Watson read a few passages from a book into the mouth piece M. It was certainly the case that articulate sounds proceeded from S. The effect was loud but indistinct and muffled. If I had read beforehand the passage given by Mr. Watson I should have recognized every word. As it was I could not make out the sense—but an occasional word here and there was quite distinct. I made out “to” and “out” and “further”; and finally the sentence

“Mr. Bell do you understand what I say? Do—you—un—der—stand—what—I—say”

came quite clearly and intelligibly.

The notebooks show sketches of the variations of the experimental apparatus. It looked nothing like the devices you think of as a telephone. It had a liquid transmitter. Using the device Bell tested the day before, on 9 Mar 1876, he did not speak forward into a cone. He bent over and talked into a hole in an inverted box, with its face-down side covered by a diaphragm. Attached to that, a platinum needle vibrated in a glass bowl of water made more conductive with added sulphuric acid. 

Notebook sketch of liquid transmitter apparatus (9 Mar 1876)
Notebook sketch of apparatus (9 Mar 1876) (source)

The additional circuitry can be seen in Bell’s notebook sketches. A stationary electrode in the water was connected via a battery to the receiver (an electromagnetic coil with a thin reed, S, fastened over its pole), and the circuit was completed with a wire back to the needle on the membrane, m, of the mouthpiece, M. Vibrations in the water caused a small variation in current through it, which caused a slight matching vibration in the reed on the receiver coil.

Wires ran down the hall, to Mr. Watson with the receiver, in a room that had its door closed. Behind the closed door of his room at the other end of the hall, Bell shouted into his mouthpiece. The result that day was the sound heard from the receiver was no better than an “indistict mumbling,” but it did have the tantalizing characteristics of speech.

Notebook sketch of liquid transmitter apparatus (10 Mar 1876)
Notebook sketch of apparatus (10 Mar 1876) (source)

Success came when Bell used a refined model the next day, 10 Mar 1876. This time the box was replaced with a chamber that had a speaking tube mouthpiece. It worked, and the utterances quoted above became some of the most famous spoken words in history.

You didn’t know how primitive that first telephone apparatus was, did you? But it carried the first transmission of voice, and Bell greatly improved upon his concept in the years to come.

Text by Webmaster from notebook page images from Bell Papers at the Library of Congress as shown above with detail image from those pages


See also:

Nature bears long with those who wrong her. She is patient under abuse. But when abuse has gone too far, when the time of reckoning finally comes, she is equally slow to be appeased and to turn away her wrath. (1882) -- Nathaniel Egleston, who was writing then about deforestation, but speaks equally well about the danger of climate change today.
Carl Sagan Thumbnail Carl Sagan: In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) ...(more by Sagan)

Albert Einstein: I used to wonder how it comes about that the electron is negative. Negative-positive—these are perfectly symmetric in physics. There is no reason whatever to prefer one to the other. Then why is the electron negative? I thought about this for a long time and at last all I could think was “It won the fight!” ...(more by Einstein)

Richard Feynman: It is the facts that matter, not the proofs. Physics can progress without the proofs, but we can't go on without the facts ... if the facts are right, then the proofs are a matter of playing around with the algebra correctly. ...(more by Feynman)
Quotations by: • Albert Einstein • Isaac Newton • Lord Kelvin • Charles Darwin • Srinivasa Ramanujan • Carl Sagan • Florence Nightingale • Thomas Edison • Aristotle • Marie Curie • Benjamin Franklin • Winston Churchill • Galileo Galilei • Sigmund Freud • Robert Bunsen • Louis Pasteur • Theodore Roosevelt • Abraham Lincoln • Ronald Reagan • Leonardo DaVinci • Michio Kaku • Karl Popper • Johann Goethe • Robert Oppenheimer • Charles Kettering  ... (more people)

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by Ian Ellis
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