Updated:
Original:
Year
1876
Month Day
March 10

Speech transmitted by telephone

On this day, the first discernible speech is transmitted over a telephone system when inventor Alexander Graham Bell summons his assistant in another room by saying, “Mr. Watson, come here; I want you.” Bell had received a comprehensive telephone patent just three days before.

Alexander Graham Bell, born in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1847, was the son of Alexander Melville Bell, a leading authority in public speaking and speech correction. The young Bell was trained to take over the family business, and while still a teenager he became a voice teacher and began to experiment in sound. In 1870, his family moved to Ontario, Canada, and in 1871 Bell went to Boston to demonstrate his father’s method of teaching speech to the deaf. The next year, he opened his own school in Boston for training teachers of the deaf and in 1873 became professor of vocal physiology at Boston University.

In his free time, Bell experimented with sound waves and became convinced that it would be possible to transmit speech over a telegraph-like system. He enlisted the aid of a gifted mechanic, Thomas Watson, and together the two spent countless nights trying to convert Bell’s ideas into practical form. In 1875, while working on his multiple harmonic telegraph, Bell developed the basic ideas for the telephone. He designed a device to transmit speech vibrations electrically between two receivers and in June 1875 tested his invention. No intelligible words were transmitted, but sounds resembling human speech were heard at the receiving end.

On February 14, 1876, he filed a U.S. patent application for his telephone. Just a few hours later, another American inventor, Elisha Gray, filed a caveat with the U.S. Patent Office about his intent to seek a similar patent on a telephone transmitter and receiver. Bell filed first, so on March 7 he was awarded U.S. patent 174,465, which granted him ownership over both his telephone instruments and the concept of a telephone system.

Three days later, on March 10, Bell successfully tested his telephone for the first time in his Boston home. In May, he publicly demonstrated the invention before the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in Boston, and in June at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. In October, he successfully tested his telephone over a two-mile distance between Boston and Cambridgeport.

Alexander Graham Bell continued his experiments in communication, inventing the photophone, which transmitted speech by light rays, and the graphophone, which recorded sound. He continued to work with the deaf, including the educator Helen Keller, and used the royalties from his inventions to finance several organizations dedicated to the oral education of the deaf. He later served as president of the National Geographic Society. Beginning in 1895, he experimented with the possibility of flight and built giant man-carrying kites and a hydrofoil craft. He died in 1922 at his summer home and laboratory on Cape Breton Island, Canada.

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us!

ALSO ON THIS DAY

The Firebombing of Tokyo continues

On March 10, 1945, 300 American bombers continue to drop almost 2,000 tons of incendiaries on Tokyo, Japan, in a mission that had begun the previous day. The attack destroyed large portions of the Japanese capital and killed 100,000 civilians. In the closing months of the war, ...read more

Rebellion in Tibet

On this day in 1959, Tibetans band together in revolt, surrounding the summer palace of the Dalai Lama in defiance of Chinese occupation forces. China’s occupation of Tibet began nearly a decade before, in October 1950, when troops from its People’s Liberation Army (PLA) invaded ...read more

Army captain charged with My Lai war crimes

The U.S. Army accuses Capt. Ernest Medina and four other soldiers of committing crimes at My Lai in March 1968. The charges ranged from premeditated murder to rape and the “maiming” of a suspect under interrogation. Medina was the company commander of Lt. William Calley and other ...read more

Cuba plays in World Baseball Classic

On March 10, 2006, the Cuban national baseball team plays Puerto Rico in the first round of the inaugural World Baseball Classic. While the Puerto Rican team was made up of major league All-Stars, the Cuban team was largely unknown to the world. Puerto Rico beat Cuba 12-2 that ...read more

Montana vigilantes hang Jack Slade

Local hell-raiser Jack Slade is hanged in one of the more troubling incidents of frontier vigilantism. Slade stood out even among the many rabble-rousers who inhabited the wild frontier-mining town of Virginia City, Montana. When he was sober, townspeople liked and respected ...read more

Strange death of Jan Masaryk

The communist-controlled government of Czechoslovakia reports that Foreign Minister Jan Masaryk has committed suicide. The story of the noncommunist Masaryk’s death was greeted with skepticism in the West. Masaryk was born in 1886, the son of Czechoslovakia’s first president. ...read more

Turkish troops begin evacuation of Baghdad

Less than two weeks after their victorious recapture of the strategically placed city of Kut-al-Amara on the Tigris River in Mesopotamia, British troops under the regional command of Sir Frederick Stanley Maude bear down on Baghdad, causing their Turkish opponents to begin a ...read more