He was born in Scotland in 1847. To those close to him, he was called Aleck. His father was a phonetician, and his father’s interest in how words are produced and received became his lifelong interest as well.
Aleck was filled with curiosity. He studied nature and conducted experiments at a young age. When he was 12, he invented a dehusking machine that his neighbor used in his flour mill.
He also had a talent for the creative arts. He mastered the piano with no training. He was also a ventriloquist. When his mother started losing her hearing, he learned to communicate with her using manual finger language. His father had developed visible speech to give those without hearing the ability to communicate. At the age of 16, he taught Latin and Greek at the academy where he was also a student.
When his father was invited to America to teach his visible speech methods, his father declined but asked that his son be given the position. Aleck taught the teachers but preferred to teach students directly. One of his students was Helen Keller. He also taught Mabel Hubbard, who would eventually become his wife.
Aleck continued to invent throughout his life. One of these inventions would become the basis for fiber-optic communications one-hundred years later. Other inventions included a metal detector, a hydrofoil watercraft, and early work in aeronautics.
But it was his fascination with the spoken word that he is best known for today. Alexander Graham Bell not only invented the telephone, but he created the Bell Telephone Company to bring the telephone to citizens worldwide.
Money was never that important to Aleck. When he married Mabel, he gave her virtually all of the shares in his company as a wedding gift. When he died, every phone in America went silent in tribute to him.
Hidden heroes pursue their interests for a variety of reasons: curiosity, financial gain, a quest to solve problems, the righting of wrongs, and others. For Alexander Graham Bell, it was some of the above, but he certainly was motivated by opening the world to those without hearing.
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“From my earliest childhood, my attention was specially directed to the subject of acoustics, and specially to the subject of speech, and I was urged by my father to study everything relating to these subjects, as they would have an important bearing upon what was to be my professional work.” – Alexander Graham Bell