His teaching
for the deaf

Telephone and
other inventions

1868 - 1876

Alexander Bell is initially attracted by the music. It is diverted some however with the profit of studies on phonetics, following the way of his father and probably touched by the problems of deafness from which his mother suffered. His family was associated with the teaching of elocution: his grandfather in London, his uncle in Dublin, and his father, Alexander Melville Bell, in Edinburgh, were all elocutionist teachers. The latter has published a variety of works on the subject, several of which are well known, especially his treatise on Visible Speech, which appeared in Edinburgh in 1868.

In May 1868, at the request of Miss Susanna E. Hull, (she has a school for deaf children in Kensington - London), Bell, then twenty-one years old, was sent by his father, Alexander Melville Bell to her school to adapt the Visible Speech and its teaching for work on deafness.


Bell au 'Pemberton Avenue School' pour les sourds - Boston
Library of Congress

He took advantage of his visit to London to study vocal anatomy at University College London, from 1868 to 1870.

In April 1871, Bell spent several weeks in Boston, United States, giving lectures to demonstrate the learning system sounds invented by his father ("Visible Speech").

In 1872, he taught at Clarke School in Boston, Massachuetts, he gives courses in Hartford, Connecticut, and then he opened his own school for training teachers of the deaf.

The school is then attached to Boston University, where Bell was appointed professor of vocal physiology in 1873.

His work also became more intensive, as he took a number of private pupils. One of these, five-year-old, born deaf, was son of Thomas Sanders a wealthy leather merchant of Haverhill, Massachusetts.

Bell had charge of the child's entire education for more than three years, 1873-76, living with him at the home of the grandmother in Salem.

Further, so remarkable was his teaching of the little Sanders boy that Thomas Sanders in generous gratitude offered to meet all the expenses of his experimenting and of securing patents for his inventions.
With Gardiner Greene Hubbard, anotable and an active friend of the education of the deaf, they enter into a formal partnership with Bell. Patent matters would be handled by Hubbard's patent attorney, Anthony Pollok.
During the years 1873-76, Bell was experimenting to invent a device that could translate sound vibrations into visible tracings (like phonautograph - On 25 March 1857, Léon Scott de Martinville received French patent #17,897/31,470 for the phonautograph)

He hoped with this instrument he could explain to his deaf pupils how to make their tone-vibrations correctly by comparing visual records of the sounds they made with standard records. Bell never brought his phonautograph to such a stage as to be of practical use for his purpose, but it was of value to him in his telephone experiments; from it he took the conception of the membrane element in the telephone.

August-September, 1890, Bell and his supporters form the American Association to Promote the Teaching of Speech to the Deaf.
Source :
Smithsonian Institution - Fitzgerald Canada - Parks Canada - AT&T -  National Geographic Magazine (Vol. XIV, No.6, June 1903) - Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site - Dictionary of American Biography Base Set. American Council of Learned Societies, 1928-1936.

Photos :
Library and Archives Canada - Library of Congress American Memory - Smithsonian Institution - National Geographic
His teaching
for the deaf

Telephone and
other inventions