Timeline of Alexander Graham Bell: 1847 to 1922

1847 to 1868

Alexander Graham Bell
Alexander Graham Bell (1847-1922), Scottish-born American inventor. Bell, who patented the telephone in 1876, as a young man. Ann Ronan Pictures/Print Collector/Getty Images


March 3 Alexander Bell is born to Alexander Melville and Eliza Symonds Bell in Edinburgh, Scotland. He is the second of three sons; his siblings are Melville (b. 1845) and Edward (b. 1848).


Bell adopts the name Graham out of admiration for Alexander Graham, a family friend, and becomes known as Alexander Graham Bell.


October Alexander Graham Bell arrives in London to spend a year with his grandfather, Alexander Bell.


August Bell begins teaching music and elocution at Weston House Academy in Elgin, Scotland, and receives instruction in Latin and Greek for a year.


April Alexander Melville Bell develops Visible Speech, a kind of universal alphabet that reduces all sounds made by the human voice into a series of symbols.
Visible Speech Chart
Fall Alexander Graham Bell attends the University of Edinburgh.


Bell returns to Elgin to teach and experiments with vowel pitches and tuning forks.


Bell teaches at Somersetshire College in Bath.


May 17 Younger brother Edward Bell dies of tuberculosis at the age of 19.
Summer Alexander Melville Bell publishes his definitive work on Visible Speech, Visible Speech: The Science of Universal Alphabetics.


May 21 Alexander Graham Bell begins teaching speech to the deaf at Susanna Hull's school for deaf children in London.
Bell attends University College in London.


May 28 Older brother Melville Bell dies of tuberculosis at the age of 25.
July-August Alexander Graham Bell, his parents, and his sister-in-law, Carrie Bell, emigrate to Canada and settle in Brantford, Ontario.


April Moving to Boston, Alexander Graham Bell begins teaching at the Boston School for Deaf Mutes.


March-June Alexander Graham Bell teaches at the Clarke School for the Deaf in Boston and at the American Asylum for the Deaf in Hartford, Connecticut.

April 8 Alexander Graham Bell meets Boston attorney Gardiner Greene Hubbard, who will become one of his financial backers and his father-in-law.
Fall Alexander Graham Bell opens his School of Vocal Physiology in Boston and starts experimenting with the multiple telegraph. Brochure for Bell's School of Vocal Physiology


Boston University appoints Bell Professor of Vocal Physiology and Elocution at its School of Oratory. Mabel Hubbard, his future wife, becomes one of his private pupils.


Spring Alexander Graham Bell conducts acoustics experiments at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He and Clarence Blake, a Boston ear specialist, begin experimenting with the mechanics of the human ear and the phonautograph, a device that could translate sound vibrations into visible tracings.
Summer In Brantford, Ontario, Bell first conceives of the idea for the telephone. (Bell's original sketch of the telephone) Bell meets Thomas Watson, a young electrician who would become his assistant, at Charles Williams's electrician shop in Boston.


January Watson begins working with Bell more regularly.
February Thomas Sanders, a wealthy leather merchant whose deaf son studied with Bell, and Gardiner Greene Hubbard enter into a formal partnership with Bell in which they provide financial backing for his inventions.
March 1-2 Alexander Graham Bell visits noted scientist Joseph Henry at the Smithsonian Institution and explains to him his idea for the telephone. Henry recognizes the significance of Bell's work and offers him encouragement.
November 25 Mabel Hubbard and Bell become engaged to be married.


February 14 Bell's telephone patent application is filed at the United States Patent Office; Elisha Gray's attorney files a caveat for a telephone just a few hours later.
March 7 United States Patent No. 174,465 is officially issued for Bell's telephone.
March 10 Intelligible human speech is heard over the telephone for the first time when Bell calls to Watson, "Mr. Watson.Come here. I want to see you."
June 25 Bell demonstrates the telephone for Sir William Thomson (Baron Kelvin) and Emperor Pedro II of Brazil at the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia.


July 9 Bell, Gardiner Greene Hubbard, Thomas Sanders, and Thomas Watson form the Bell Telephone Company.
July 11 Mabel Hubbard and Bell are married.
August 4 Bell and his wife leave for England and remain there for a year.


January 14 Alexander Graham Bell demonstrates the telephone for Queen Victoria.
May 8 Elsie May Bell, a daughter, is born.
September 12 Patent litigation involving the Bell Telephone Company against Western Union Telegraph Company and Elisha Gray begins.


February-March The Bell Telephone Company merges with the New England Telephone Company to become the National Bell Telephone Company.
November 10 Western Union and the National Bell Telephone Company reach a settlement.


The National Bell Telephone Company becomes the American Bell Telephone Company.
February 15 Marian (Daisy) Bell, a daughter, is born.
Bell and his young associate, Charles Sumner Tainter, invent the photophone, an apparatus that transmits sound through light.
Fall The French government awards the Volta Prize for scientific achievement in electricity to Alexander Graham Bell. He uses the prize money to set up the Volta Laboratory as a permanent, self-supporting experimental laboratory devoted to invention.


At the Volta Laboratory, Bell, his cousin, Chichester Bell, and Charles Sumner Tainter invent a wax cylinder for Thomas Edison's phonograph.
July-August When President Garfield is shot, Bell attempts unsuccessfully to locate the bullet inside his body by using an electromagnetic device called an induction balance ( metal detector).
August 15 Death in infancy of Bell's son, Edward (b. 1881).


November Bell is granted American citizenship.


At Scott Circle in Washington, D.C., Bell starts a day school for deaf children.
Alexander Graham Bell is elected to the National Academy of Sciences.
With Gardiner Greene Hubbard, Bell funds the publication of Science, a journal that would communicate new research to the American scientific community.
November 17 Death in infancy of Bell's son, Robert (b. 1883).


March 3 The American Telephone & Telegraph Company is formed to manage the expanding long-distance business of the American Bell Telephone Company.


Bell establishes the Volta Bureau as a center for studies on the deaf.
Summer Bell begins buying land on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia. There he eventually builds his summer home, Beinn Bhreagh.


February Bell meets six-year-old blind and deaf Helen Keller in Washington, D.C. He helps her family find a private teacher by recommending that her father seek help from Michael Anagnos, director of the Perkins Institution for the Blind.


August-September Alexander Graham Bell and his supporters form the American Association to Promote the Teaching of Speech to the Deaf.
December 27 Letter from Mark Twain to Gardiner G. Hubbard, " The Father-in-law of the Telephone"


October Alexander Graham Bell participates in the formal opening of long-distance telephone service between New York and Chicago. Photograph


Death of Gardiner Greene Hubbard; Alexander Graham Bell is elected President of the National Geographic Society in his stead.


Alexander Graham Bell is elected a Regent of the Smithsonian Institution.


December 30 Acquiring the American Bell Telephone Company's business and property, the American Telephone and Telegraph Company becomes the parent company of the Bell System.


October Elsie Bell marries Gilbert Grosvenor, the National Geographic Magazine editor.


Winter Bell invents the tetrahedral kite, whose shape of four triangular sides would prove to be light, strong, and rigid.


April Daisy Bell marries botanist David Fairchild.


October 1 Glenn Curtiss, Thomas Selfridge, Casey Baldwin, J.A.D. McCurdy, and Bell form the Aerial Experiment Association (AEA), which is funded by Mabel Hubbard Bell.


February 23 The AEA's Silver Dart makes the first flight of a heavier-than-air machine in Canada.


January 25 Alexander Graham Bell takes part in the formal opening of the transcontinental telephone line by talking on the telephone in New York to Watson in San Francisco. Invitation from Theodore Vail to Alexander Graham Bell


September 9 Bell and Casey Baldwin's HD-4, a hydrofoil craft, sets a world marine speed record.


August 2 Alexander Graham Bell dies and is buried at Beinn Bhreagh, Nova Scotia.