National Treasure #17: Alexander Graham Bell

Tempted to select the telephone as a national treasure, I thought better of it. If Alexander Graham Bell hadn’t done his work, someone else would still have invented the telephone. But he got there first, in 1876.

Nor was he a one-hit wonder.

Bell spent the rest of his life in scientific research, both in person and by paying for the experiments of others. In the US he collaborated with S.P. Langley, builder of a steam-powered aircraft in the 1890s, and funded the early atomic experiments of A.M. Michelson. Bell himself worked on the photoelectric cell, the iron lung, desalination of seawater, and the phonograph, and attempted to breed a “super race” of sheep at Baddeck. – Canadian Encyclopedia

Super sheep?

Anyway, I wonder what Bell would think of our phones. I expect he’d be delighted with their capabilities. He might be less delighted with the change in everyday discourse.

Alexander Graham Bell's message to Mr. Watson in a text message.

We can start out reasonably politely . . .


Alexander Graham Bell's message to Mr. Watson in a text message.

But our patience quotient is pretty low . . .


This is one of a series on Canadian national treasures – my sesquicentennial project. They reflect people (living and dead), places and things that I think are worth celebrating about our country, and are done in no order of precedence.


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4 Responses to National Treasure #17: Alexander Graham Bell

  1. LOL.
    I was just thinking that with my age now, there are few names in the news that I cannot make a 6-degree of separation (some name dropping coming up): Alexander Graham Bell was a distant relative of mine, but much more important:
    Thirty-five years ago, a very sturdy step stool was made for us by a country chap. He bought the kitchen floorboards of one of Bell’s former houses. Kinda telescopes history for me. And keeps that Bell kitchen alive. What did he have for snacks I wonder? and what kind of step stool did HE use?

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Barbara – Yes, history is not that long ago, especially in Canada (my grandmother was a contemporary of the Famous Five, although I don’t think she knew any of them). And yes, those people were actual people who snacked and everything.

  2. Jim Taylor says:

    I can’t help wondering, what would life be like without the telephone? It is a most intrusive instrument; when it rings, or buzzes, or vibrates, or whatever, we instantly run to answer it regardless of what else we were doing. I remember one time when Joan and I — no, perhaps I won’t go there…. Without the telephone, though, we might send notes to each other. We might still have a Post Office. We might have diplomacy at international levels, instead of mud-slinging. We might talk to each other at the dinner table. Would life be that much worse?

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Jim T – Worse without the telephone? I dunno. Anyone who’s had to call 911 might think so. But I take your point about some of the consequences. I swear there’s nothing we invent to use that we don’t then go on to over-use.

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