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Masters of Space by Walter Kellogg Towers

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covered with soft ooze, and at a depth of about two thousand fathoms.
This seemed to the investigators to have been provided for the
especial purpose of receiving a submarine cable, so admirably was it
suited to this purpose. Morse was consulted, and assured Field that
the project was entirely feasible, and that a submarine cable once
laid between the continents could be operated successfully.

Field thereupon adopted the plans of Gisborne as the first step in the
larger undertaking. In 1855 an attempt was made to lay a cable across
the Gulf of St. Lawrence, but a storm arose, and the cable had to be
cut to save the ship from which it was being laid. Another attempt
was made the following summer with better equipment, and the cable was
successfully completed. Other parts of the line had been finished, the
telegraph now stretched a thousand miles toward England, and New York
was connected with St. John's.

Desiring more detailed information of the ocean-bed along the proposed
route, Field secured the assistance of the United States and British
governments. Lieutenant Berryman, U.S.N., in the _Arctic_, and
Lieutenant Dayman, R.N., in the _Cyclops_, made a careful survey.
Their soundings revealed a ridge near the Irish coast, but the slope
was gradual and the general conditions seemed especially favorable.

The preliminary work had been done by an American company with Field
at the head and Morse as electrician. Now Field went to England
to secure capital sufficient for the larger enterprise. With the
assistance of Mr. J.W. Brett he organized the Atlantic Telegraph
Company, Field himself supplying a quarter of the capital. Associated
with Field and Brett in the leadership of the enterprise was Charles
Tiltson Bright, a young Englishman who became engineer for the new

Besides the enormous engineering difficulties of producing a cable
long enough and strong enough, and laying it at the bottom of the
Atlantic, there were electrical problems involved far greater than
Morse seems to have realized. It had been discovered that the passage
of a current through a submarine cable is seriously retarded.
The retarding of the current as it passes through the water is a
difficulty that does not exist with the land telegraph stretched on
poles. Faraday had demonstrated that this retarding was caused by
induction between the electricity in the wire and the water about the
cable. The passage of the current through the wire induces currents in
the water, and these moving in the opposite direction act as a drag on
the passage of the message through the wire. What the effect of this
phenomenon would be on a cable long enough to cross the Atlantic wan
a serious problem that required deep study by the company's engineers.
It seemed entirely possible that the messages would move so slowly
that the operation of the cable, once it was laid, would not pay.

Faraday failed to give any definite information on the subject, but
Professor William Thomson worked out the law of retardation accurately
and furnished to the cable-builders the accurate information which
was required. Doctor Whitehouse, electrician for the Atlantic Company,
conducted some experiments of his own and questioned the accuracy of
Thomson's statements. Thomson maintained his position so ably, and
proved himself so thoroughly a master of the subject that Field and
his associates decided to enlist him in the enterprise. This addition
to the forces was one of the utmost importance. William Thomson,
later to become Lord Kelvin, was probably the ablest scientist of his
generation, and was destined to prove his great abilities in his early
work with the Atlantic cable.

William Thomson was born in Belfast, Ireland, in 1824. His father was
a teacher and took an especially keen interest in the affairs of his
boys because their mother had died while William was very young.
When William was eight years of age his father removed to Glasgow,
Scotland, where he had secured the chair of mathematics in Glasgow
University. His early education he secured from his father, and this
training, coupled with his natural brilliancy, enabled him to develop
genuine precocity. At the age of eight he attended his father's
university lectures as a visitor, and it is reported that on one
occasion he answered his father's questions when all of the class had
failed. At the age of ten he entered the university, together with
his brother James, who was but two years older. The brothers displayed
marked interest in science and invention, eagerly pursued their
studies in these branches, and performed many electrical experiments

[Illustration: CYRUS W. FIELD]


James took the degrees B.A. and M.A. in successive years. Though
William also passed the examinations, he did not take the degrees,
because he had decided to go to Cambridge, and it was thought best
that he take all his degrees from that great school. In writing to
his older brother at this time, William was accustomed to sign himself
"B.A.T.A.I.A.P.," which signified "B.A. to all intents and purposes."
After finishing their work at Glasgow the boys traveled extensively on
the Continent.

At seventeen William entered St. Peter's College, Cambridge University,
taking courses in advanced mathematics and continuing to distinguish
himself. He took an active part in the life of the university, making
something of a record us an athlete, winning the silver sculls, and
rowing on a 'varsity crew which took the measure of Oxford in the
great annual boat-race. He also interested himself in literature and
music, but his real passion was science. Already he had written many
learned essays on mathematical electricity and was accomplishing
valuable research work. On the completion of his work at Cambridge he
secured a fellowship which brought him an income of a thousand dollars
a year and enabled him to pursue his studies in Paris.

When he was but twenty-two years of age he was made professor of
natural philosophy at the University of Glasgow. Though young,
he proved entirely successful, and wan immensely popular with his
students. At that time the university had no experimental laboratory,
and Professor Thomson and his pupils performed their experiments
in the professor's room and in an abandoned coal-cellar, slowly
developing a laboratory for themselves. His development continued
until, when at the age of thirty-three he was called upon to assist
with the work of laying an Atlantic cable, he was possessed of
scientific attainments which made him invaluable among the cable



Making the Cable--The First Attempt at Laying--Another Effort
Checked by Storm--The Cable Laid at Last--Messages Cross the
Ocean--The Cable Fails--Professor Thomson's Inventions and
Discoveries--Their Part in Designing and Constructing an Improved
Cable and Apparatus.

Field and his business associates were extremely anxious that the
cable be laid with all possible speed, and little time was allowed the
engineers and electricians for experimentation. The work of building
the cable was begun early in 1857 by two English firms. It consisted
of seven copper wires covered with gutta-percha and wound with tarred
hemp. Over this were wound heavy iron wires to give protection and
added strength. The whole weighed about a ton to the mile, and was
both strong and flexible. The distance from the west coast of Ireland
to Newfoundland being 1,640 nautical miles, it was decided to supply
2,500 miles of cable, an extra length being, of course, necessary
to allow for the inequalities at the bottom of the sea, and the
possibility of accident.

The British and American governments had already provided subsidies,
and they now supplied war-ships for use in the work of laying the
cable. The _Agamemnon_, one of the largest of England's war-ships, and
the _Niagara_, giant of the United States Navy, were to do the actual
work of cable-laying, the cable being divided between them. They were
accompanied by the United States frigate _Susquehanna_ and the
British war-ships _Leopard_ and _Cyclops_. In August of 1857 the fleet
assembled on the Irish coast for the start, and the American sailors
landed the end of the cable amid great ceremony.

The work of cable-laying was begun by the _Niagara_, which steamed
slowly away, accompanied by the fleet. The great cable payed out
smoothly as the Irish coast was left behind and the frigate increased
her speed. The submarine hill with its dangerous slopes was safely
passed, and it was felt that the greatest danger was past. The
paying-out machinery seemed to be working perfectly. Telegraphic
communication was constantly maintained with the shore end. For six
days all went well and nearly four hundred miles of cable had been

With the cable dropping to the bottom two miles down it was found
that it was flowing out at the rate of six miles an hour while the
_Niagara_ was steaming but four. It was evident that the cable was
being wasted, and to prevent its running out too fast at this great
depth the brake controlling the flow of the cable was tightened. The
stern of the vessel rising suddenly on a wave, the strain proved too
great and the cable parted and was lost. Instant grief swept over
the ship and squadron, for the heart of every one was in the great
enterprise. It was felt that it would be useless to attempt to grapple
the cable at this great depth, and there seemed nothing to do but
abandon it and return.

The loss of the cable and of a year's time--since another attempt
could not be made until the next season--resulted in a total loss
to the company of half a million dollars. Public realization of the
magnitude of the task had been awakened by the failure of the first
expedition and Field found it far from easy to raise additional
capital. It was finally accomplished, however, and a new supply of
cable was constructed.

Professor Thomson had been studying the problems of submarine
telegraphy with growing enthusiasm, and had now arrived at the
conclusion that the conductivity of the cable depended very largely
upon the purity of the copper employed. He accordingly saw to it that
in the construction of the new section all the wires were carefully
tested and such as did not prove perfect were discarded. In the mean
time the engineers were busy improving the paying-out machinery. They
designed an automatic brake which would release the cable instantly
upon the strain becoming too great. It was thus hoped to avoid a
recurrence of the former accident. Chief-Engineer Bright also arranged
a trial trip for the purpose of drilling the staff in their various

The same vessels were provided to lay the cable on the second attempt
and the fleet sailed in June of 1858, this time without celebration or
public ceremony. On this occasion the recommendation of Chief-Engineer
Bright was followed, and it was arranged that the _Niagara_ and
_Agamemnon_ should meet in mid-ocean, there splice the cable together
and proceed in opposite directions, laying the cable simultaneously.
On this expedition Professor Thomson was to assume the real scientific
leadership, Professor Morse, though he retained his position with the
company, taking no active part.

The ships had not proceeded any great distance before they ran into a
terrible gale. The _Agamemnon_ had an especially difficult time of
it, her great load of cable overbalancing the ship and threatening
to break loose again and again and carry the great vessel and her
precious cargo to the bottom. The storm continued for over a week, and
when at last it had blown itself out the _Agamemnon_ resembled a wreck
and many of her crew had been seriously injured. But the cable
had been saved and the expedition was enabled to proceed to the
rendezvous. The _Niagara_, a larger ship, had weathered the storm
without mishap.

The splice was effected on Saturday, the 26th, but before three miles
had been laid the cable caught in the paying-out machinery on the
_Niagara_ and was broken off. Another splice was made that evening and
the ships started again. The two vessels kept in communication with
each other by telegraph as they proceeded, and anxious inquiries and
many tests marked the progress of the work. When fifty miles were
out, the cable parted again at some point between the vessels and they
again sought the rendezvous in mid-Atlantic. Sufficient cable still
remained and a third start was made. For a few days all went well and
some four hundred miles of cable had been laid with success as the
messages passing from ship to ship clearly demonstrated. Field,
Thomson, and Bright began to believe that their great enterprise was
to be crowned with success when the cable broke again, this time about
twenty feet astern of the _Agamemnon_. This time there was no apparent
reason for the mishap, the cable having parted without warning when
under no unusual strain.

The vessels returned to Queenstown, and Field and Thomson went to
London, where the directors of the company were assembled. Many were
in favor of abandoning the enterprise, selling the remaining cable
for what it would bring, and saving as much of their investment as
possible. But Field and Thomson were not of the sort who are easily
discouraged, and they managed to rouse fresh courage in their
associates. Yet another attempt was decided upon, and with replenished
stores the _Agamemnon_ and _Niagara_ once again proceeded to the

The fourth start was made on the 29th of July. On several occasions as
the work progressed communication failed, and Professor Thomson on
the _Agamemnon_ and the other electricians on the _Niagara_ spent many
anxious moments fearing that the line had again been severed. On each
occasion, however, the current resumed. It was afterward determined
that the difficulties were because of faulty batteries rather than
leaks in the cable. On both ships bad spots were found in the cable
as it was uncoiled and some quick work was necessary to repair them
before they dropped into the sea, since it was practically impossible
to stop the flow of the cable without breaking it. The _Niagara_
had some narrow escapes from icebergs, and the _Agamemnon_ had
difficulties with ships which passed too close and a whale which swam
close to the ship and grazed the precious cable. But this time there
was no break and the ships approached their respective destinations
with the cable still carrying messages between them. The _Niagara_
reached the Newfoundland coast on August 4th, and early the next
morning landed the cable in the cable-house at Trinity Bay. The
_Agamemnon_ reached the Irish coast but a few hours later, and her end
of the cable was landed on the afternoon of the same day.

The public, because of the repeated failures, had come to look upon
the cable project as a sort of gigantic wild-goose chase. The news
that a cable had at last been laid across the ocean was received with
incredulity. Becoming convinced at last, there was great rejoicing
in England and America. Queen Victoria sent to President Buchanan
a congratulatory message in which she expressed the hope "that the
electric cable which now connects Great Britain with the United
States will prove an additional link between the two nations, whose
friendship is founded upon their mutual interest and reciprocal
esteem." The President responded in similar vein, and expressed the
hope that the neutrality of the cable might be established.

Honors were showered upon the leaders in the enterprise. Charles
Bright, the chief engineer, was knighted, though he was then but
twenty-six years of age. Banquet after banquet was held in England at
which Bright and Thomson were the guests of honor. New York celebrated
in similar fashion. A grand salute of one hundred guns was fired, the
streets were decorated, and the city was illuminated at night.
The festivities rose to the highest pitch in September with Field
receiving the plaudits of all New York. Special services were held in
Trinity Church, and a great celebration was held in Crystal Palace.
The mayor presented to Field a golden casket, and the ceremony was
followed by a torchlight parade. That very day the last message went
over the wire.

The shock to the public was tremendous. Many insisted that the cable
had never been operated and that the entire affair was a hoax. This
was quickly disproved. Aside from the messages between Queen and
President many news messages had gone over the cable and it had proved
of great value to the British Government. The Indian mutiny had been
in progress and regiments in Canada had received orders by mail to
sail for India. News reached England that the mutiny was at an end,
and the cable enabled the Government to countermand the orders, thus
saving a quarter of a million dollars that would have been expended in
transporting the troops.

The engineers to whom the operations of the cable had been intrusted
had decided that very high voltages were necessary to its successful
operation. They had accordingly installed huge induction coils and
sent currents of two thousand volts over the line. Even this voltage
had failed to operate the Morse instruments, the drag by induction
proving too great. The strain of this high voltage had a very serious
effect upon the insulation. Abandoning the Morse instruments and
the high voltage, recourse was then had to Professor Thomson's
instruments, which proved entirely effective with ordinary battery

Because of the effect of induction the current is much delayed
in traveling through a long submarine cable and arrives in waves.
Professor Thomson devised his mirror galvanometer to meet this
difficulty. This device consists of a large coil of very fine wire, in
the center of which, in a small air-chamber, is a tiny mirror. Mounted
on the back of the mirror are very small magnets. The mirror is
suspended by a fiber of the finest silk. Thus the weakest of currents
coming in over the wire serve to deflect the mirror, and a beam
of light being directed upon the mirror and reflected by it upon a
screen, the slightest movement of the mirror is made visible. If the
mirror swings too far its action is deadened by compressing the air in
the chamber. The instrument is one of the greatest delicacy. Such
was the greatest contribution of Professor Thomson to submarine
telegraphy. Without it the cable could not have been operated even
for a short period. Had it been used from the first the line would not
have been ruined and might have been used for a considerable period.

Professor Thomson together with Engineer Bright made a careful
investigation of the causes of failure. The professor pointed out
that had the mirror galvanometer been used with a moderate current the
cable could have been continued in successful operation. Ha continued
to improve this apparatus and at the same time busied himself with
a recording instrument to be used for cable work. Both Thomson and
Bright had recommended a larger and stronger cable, and other failures
in cable-laying in the Red Sea and elsewhere in the next few years
bore out their contentions. But with each failure new experience was
gained and methods were perfected. Professor Thomson continued his
work with the utmost diligence and continued to add to the fund of
scientific knowledge on the subject. So it was that he was prepared to
take his place as scientific leader of the next great effort.



Field Raises New Capital--The _Great Eastern_ Secured and
Equipped--Staff Organized with Professor Thomson as Scientific
Director--Cable Parts and is Lost--Field Perseveres--The Cable
Recovered--The Continents Linked at Last--A Commercial
Success--Public Jubilation--Modern Cables.

The early 'sixties were trying years for the cable pioneers. It
required all of Field's splendid genius and energy to keep the project
alive. In the face of repeated failures, and doubt as to whether
messages could be sent rapidly enough to make any cable a commercial
success, it was extremely difficult to raise fresh capital. America
continued to evince interest in the cable, but with, the Civil War in
progress it was not easy to raise funds. But no discouragement could
deter Field. Though he suffered severely from seasickness, he crossed
the Atlantic sixty-four times in behalf of the great enterprise which
he had begun.

It was necessary to raise three million dollars to provide a cable of
the improved type decided upon and to install it properly. The English
firm of Glass, Eliot & Company, which was to manufacture the cable,
took a very large part of the stock. The new cable was designed in
accordance with the principles enunciated by Professor Thomson. The
conductor consisted of seven wires of pure copper, weighing three
hundred pounds to the mile. This copper core was covered with
Chatterton's compound, which served as water-proofing. This was
surrounded by four layers of gutta-percha, cemented together by the
compound, and about this hemp was wound. The outer layer consisted
of eighteen steel wires wound spirally, each being covered with a
wrapping of hemp impregnated with a preservative solution. The new
cable was twice as heavy as the old and more than twice as strong, a
great advance having been made in the methods of manufacturing steel

It was decided that the cable should, be laid by one vessel, instead
of endeavoring to work from two as in the past. Happily, a boat was
available which was fitted to carry this enormous burden. This was
the _Great Eastern_, a mammoth vessel far in advance of her time.
This great ship of 22,500 tons had been completed in 1857, but had not
proved a commercial success. The docks of that day were not adequate,
the harbors were not deep enough, and the cargoes were insufficient.
She had long lain idle when she was secured by the cable company and
fitted out for the purpose of laying the cable, which was the first
useful work which had been found for the great ship. The 2,300 miles
of heavy cable was coiled into the hull and paying-out machinery was
installed upon the decks. Huge quantities of coal and other supplies
were added.

Capt. James Anderson of the Cunard Line was placed in command of the
ship for the expedition, with Captain Moriarty, R.N., as navigating
officer. Professor Thomson and Mr. C.F. Varley represented the
Atlantic Telegraph Company as electricians and scientific advisers.
Mr. Samuel Canning was engineer in charge for the contractors. Mr.
Field was also on board.

It was on July 23, 1865, that the expedition started from the Irish
coast, where the eastern end of the cable had been landed. Less than a
hundred miles of cable had been laid when the electricians discovered
a fault in the cable. The _Great Eastern_ was stopped, the course was
retraced, and the cable picked up until the fault was reached. It was
found that a piece of iron wire had in some way pierced the cable
so that the insulation was ruined. This was repaired and the work of
laying was again commenced. Five days later, when some seven hundred
miles of cable had been laid, communication was again interrupted, and
once again they turned back, laboriously lifting the heavy cable from
the depths, searching for the break. Again a wire was found thrust
through the cable, and this occasioned no little worry, as it was
feared that this was being done maliciously.

It was on August 2d that the next fault was discovered. Nearly
two-thirds of the cable was now in place and the depth was here over
one mile. Raising the cable was particularly difficult, and just at
this juncture the _Great Eastern's_ machinery broke down, leaving her
without power and at the mercy of the waves. Subjected to an enormous
strain, the precious cable parted and was lost. Despite the great
depth, efforts were made to grapple the lost cable. Twice the cable
was hooked, but on both occasions the rope parted and after days of
tedious work the supply of rope was exhausted and it was necessary
to return to England. Still another cable expedition had ended in

Field, the indomitable, began all over again, raising additional funds
for a new start. The _Great Eastern_ had proved entirely satisfactory,
and it was hoped that with improvements in the grappling-gear the
cable might be recovered. The old company gave way before a new
organization known as the Anglo-American Telegraph Company. It was
decided to lay an entirely new cable, and then to endeavor to complete
the one partially laid in 1865.

With no services other than private prayers at the station on the
Irish shore, the _Great Eastern_ steamed away for the new effort on
July 13, 1866. This time the principal difficulties arose within the
ship. Twice the cable became tangled in the tanks and it was necessary
to stop the ship while the mass was straightened out. Most of the
time the "coffee-mill," as the seamen called the paying-out machinery,
ground steadily away and the cable sank into the sea. As the work
progressed Field and Thomson, who had suffered so many failures in
their great enterprise, watched with increasing anxiety. They were
almost afraid to hope that the good fortune would continue.

Just two weeks after the Irish coast had been left behind the _Great
Eastern_ approached Newfoundland just as the shadows of night were
added to those of a thick fog. On the next morning, July 28th, she
steamed into Trinity Bay, where flags were flying in the little town
in honor of the great accomplishment. Amid salutes and cheers
the cable was landed and communication between the continents was
established. Almost the first news that came over the wire was that of
the signing of the treaty of peace which ended the war between Prussia
and Austria.

Early in August the _Great Eastern_ again steamed away to search for
the cable broken the year before. Arriving on the spot, the grapples
were thrown out and the tedious work of dragging the sea-bottom was
begun. After many efforts the cable was finally secured and raised to
the surface. A new section was spliced on and the ship again turned
toward America. On September 7th the second cable was successfully
landed, and two wires were now in operation between the continents.
Thus was the great task doubly fulfilled. Once again there were public
celebrations in England and America. Field received the deserved
plaudits of his countrymen and Thomson was knighted in recognition of
his achievements.


The new cables proved a success and were kept in operation for many
years. Thomson's mirror receiver had been improved until it displayed
remarkable sensitiveness. Using the current from a battery placed in
a lady's thimble, a message was sent across the Atlantic through one
cable and back through the other. Professor Thomson was to give to
submarine telegraphy an even more remarkable instrument. The mirror
instrument did not give a permanent record of the messages. The
problem of devising a means of recording the messages delicate enough
so that it could be operated with rapidity by the faint currents
coming over a long cable was extremely difficult. But Thomson solved
it with his siphon recorder. In this a small coil is suspended between
the poles of a large magnet; the coil being free to turn upon its
axis. When the current from the cable passes through the coil it
moves, and so varies the position of the ink-siphon which is attached
to it. The friction of a pen on paper would have proved too great a
drag on so delicate an instrument, and so a tiny jet of ink from the
siphon was substituted. The ink is made to pass through the siphon
with sufficient force to mark down the message by a delightfully
ingenious method. Thomson simply arranged to electrify the ink, and
it rushes through the tiny opening on to the paper just as lightning
leaps from cloud to earth.

Professor, now Sir, Thomson continued to take an active part in the
work of designing and laying new cables. Not only did he contribute
the apparatus and the scientific information which made cables
possible, but he attained renown as a physicist and a scientist in
many other fields. In 1892 he was given the title of Lord Kelvin, and
it was by this name that he was known as the leading physicist of his
day. He survived until 1907.

To Cyrus W. Field must be assigned a very large share of the credit
for the establishment of telegraphic communication between the
continents. He gave his fortune and all of his tremendous energy and
ability to the enterprise and kept it alive through failure after
failure. He was a promoter of the highest type, the business man who
recognized a great human need and a great opportunity for service.
Without his efforts the scientific discoveries of Thomson could
scarcely have been put to practical use.

The success of the first cable inspired others. In 1869 a cable from
France to the United States was laid from the _Great Eastern_. In 1875
the Direct United States Cable Company laid another cable to England,
which was followed by another cable to France. One cable after another
was laid until there are now a score. This second great development in
communication served to bring the two continents much closer together
in business and in thought and has proved of untold benefit.



The Family's Interest in Speech Improvement--Early Life-Influence of
Sir Charles Wheatstone--He Comes to America--Visible Speech and the
Mohawks--The Boston School for Deaf Mutes--The Personality of Bell.

The men of the Bell family, for three generations, have interested
themselves in human speech. The grandfather, the father, and the
uncle of Alexander Graham Bell were all elocutionists of note. The
grandfather achieved fame in London; the uncle, in Dublin; and the
father, in Edinburgh. The father applied himself particularly to
devising means of instructing the deaf in speech. His book on _Visible
Speech_ explained his method of instructing deaf mutes in speech by
the aid of their sight, and of teaching them to understand the speech
of others by watching their lips as the words are spoken.

Alexander Graham Bell was born in Edinburgh in 1847, and received
his early education in the schools of that city. He later studied
at Warzburg, Germany, where he received the degree of Doctor of
Philosophy. He followed very naturally in the footsteps of his father,
taking an early interest in the study of speech. He was especially
anxious to aid his mother, who was deaf.

As a boy he exhibited a genius for invention, as well as for
acoustics. Much of this was duo to the wise encouragement of his
father. He himself has told of a boyhood invention.

My father once asked my brother Melville and myself to try to
make a speaking-machine, I don't suppose he thought we could
produce anything of value, in itself. But he knew we could not
even experiment and manufacture anything which even tried to
speak, without learning something of the voice and the
throat; and the mouth--all that wonderful mechanism of sound
production in which he was so interested.

So my brother and I went to work. We divided the task--he was
to make the lungs and the vocal cords, I was to make the mouth
and the tongue. He made a bellows for the lungs and a very
good vocal apparatus out of rubber. I procured a skull and
molded a tongue with rubber stuffed with cotton wool, and
supplied the soft parts of the throat with the same material
Then I arranged joints, so the jaw and the tongue could move.
It was a great day for us when we fitted the two parts of the
device together. Did it speak? It squeaked and squawked a
good deal, but it made a very passable imitation of
"Mam-ma--Mam-ma." It sounded very much like a baby. My father
wanted us to go on and try to get other sounds, but we were so
interested in what we had done we wanted to try it out. So we
proceeded to use it to make people think there was a baby in
the house, and when we made it cry "Mam-ma," and heard doors
opening and people coming, we were quite happy. What has
become of It? Well, that was across the ocean, in Scotland,
but I believe the mouth and tongue part that I made is in
Georgetown somewhere; I saw it not long ago.

The inventor tells of another boyhood invention that, though it had no
connection with sound or speech, shows his native ingenuity. Again we
will tell it in his own words.

I remember my first invention very well. There were several of
us boys, and we were fond of playing around a mill where they
ground wheat into flour. The miller's son was one of the
boys, and I am afraid he showed us how to be a good deal of a
nuisance to his father. One day the miller called us into the
mill and said, "Why don't you do something useful instead of
just playing all the time?" I wasn't afraid of the miller as
much as his son was, so I said, "Well, what can we do that
is useful?" He took up a handful of wheat, ran it over in his
hand and said: "Look at that! If you could manage to get the
husks off that wheat, that would be doing something useful!"

So I took some wheat home with me and experimented. I found
the husks came off without much difficulty. I tried brushing
them off and they came off beautifully. Then it occurred to me
that brushing was nothing but applying friction to them. If
I could brush the husks off, why couldn't the husks be rubbed

There was in the mill a machine--I don't know what it was
for--but it whirled its contents, whatever it was, around in
a drum. I thought, "Why wouldn't the husks come off if the raw
wheat was whirled around in that drum?" So back I went to the
miller and suggested the idea to him.

"Why," he said, "that's a good idea." So he called his foreman
and they tried it, and the husks came off beautifully, and
they've been taking husks off that way ever since. That was
my very first invention, and it led me to thinking for myself,
and really had quite an influence on my way and methods of

Up to his sixteenth year young Bell's reading consisted largely of
novels, poetry, and romantic tales of Scotch heroes. But in addition
he was picking up some knowledge of anatomy, music, electricity, and
telegraphy. When he was but sixteen years of age his father secured
for him a position as teacher of elocution and this necessarily turned
his thought into more serious channels. He now spent his leisure
studying sound. During this period he made several discoveries in
sound which were of some small importance.

When he was twenty-one years of age he went to London and there had
the good fortune to come to the attention of Charles Wheatstone
and Alex J. Ellis. Ellis was at that time president of the London
Philological Society, and had translated Helmholtz's _The Sensation
of Tone_ into English. He had made no little progress with sound, and
demonstrated to Bell the methods by which German scientists had caused
tuning-forks to vibrate by means of electro-magnets and had combined
the tones of several tuning-forks in an effort to reproduce the sound
of the human voice. Helmholtz had performed this experiment simply to
demonstrate the physical basis of sound, and seems to have had no idea
of its possible use in telephony.

That an electro-magnet could vibrate a tuning-fork and so produce
sound was an entirely new and fascinating idea to the youth. It
appealed to his imagination, quickened by his knowledge of speech.
"Why not an electrical telegraph?" he asked himself. His idea seems to
have been that the electric current could carry different notes over
the wire and reproduce them by means of the electro-magnet. Although
Bell did not know it, many others were struggling with the same
problem, the answer to which proved most elusive. It gave Bell a
starting-point, and the search for the telephone began.

Sir Charles Wheatstone was then England's leading man of science,
and so Bell sought his counsel. Wheatstone received the young man
and listened to his statement of his ideas and ambitions and gave
him every encouragement. He showed him a talking-machine which
had recently been invented by Baron de Kempelin, and gave him the
opportunity to study it closely. Thus Bell, the eager student, the
unknown youth of twenty-two, came under the influence of Wheatstone,
the famous scientist and inventor of sixty-seven. This influence
played a great part in shaping Bell's career, arousing as it did his
passion for science. This decided him to devote himself to the problem
of reproducing sounds by mechanical means. Thus a new improvement in
the means of human communication was being sought and another pioneer
of science was at work.

The death of the two brothers of the young scientist from
tuberculosis, and the physician's report that he himself was
threatened by the dread malady, forced a change in his plans and
withdrew him from an atmosphere which was so favorable to the
development of his great ideas. He was told that he must seek a new
climate and lead a more vigorous life in the open. Accompanied by his
father, he removed to America and at the age of twenty-six took up the
struggle for health in the little Canadian town of Brantford.

He occupied himself by teaching his father's system of visible speech
among the Mohawk Indians. In this work he met with no little success.
At the same time he was gaining in bodily vigor and throwing off the
tendency to consumption which had threatened his life. He did not
forget the great idea which filled his imagination and eagerly sought
the telephone with such crude means as were at hand. He succeeded in
designing a piano which, with the aid of the electric current, could
transmit its music over a wire and reproduce it.

While lecturing in Boston on his system of teaching visible speech,
the elder Bell received a request to locate in that city and take up
his work in its schools. He declined the offer, but recommended his
son as one entirely competent for the position. Alexander Graham
Bell received the offer, which he accepted, and he was soon at work
teaching the deaf mutes in the school which Boston had opened for
those thus afflicted. He met with the greatest success in his work,
and ere long achieved a national reputation. During the first year of
his work, 1871, he was the sensation of the educational world. Boston
University offered him a professorship, in which position he taught
others his system of teaching, with increased success.

The demand for his services led him to open a School of Vocal
Physiology. He had made some improvements in his father's system for
teaching the deaf and dumb to speak and to understand spoken words,
and displayed great ability as a teacher. His experiments with
telegraphy and telephony had been laid aside, and there seemed little
chance that he would turn from the work in which he was accomplishing
so much for so many sufferers, and which was bringing a comfortable
financial return, and again undertake the tedious work in search for a

Fortunately, Bell was to establish close relationships with those who
understood and appreciated his abilities and gave him encouragement
in his search for a new means of communication. Thomas Sanders, a
resident of Salem, had a five-year-old son named Georgie who was a
deaf mute. Mr. Sanders sought Bell's tutelage for his son, and it was
agreed that Bell should give Georgie private lessons for the sum of
three hundred and fifty dollars a year. It was also arranged that Bell
was to reside at the Sanders home in Salem. He made arrangements to
conduct his future experiments there.

Another pupil who came to him about this time was Mabel Hubbard, a
fifteen-year-old girl who had lost her hearing and consequently her
powers of speech, through an attack of scarlet fever when an infant.
She was a gentle and lovable girl, and Bell fell completely in love
with his pupil. Four years later he was to marry her and she was
to prove a large influence in helping him to success. She took the
liveliest interest in all of his experiments and encouraged him to new
endeavor after each failure. She kept his records and notes and wrote
his letters. Through her Bell secured the support of her father,
Gardiner G. Hubbard, who was widely known as one of Boston's ablest
lawyers. He was destined to become Bell's chief spokesman and

Hubbard first became aware of Bell's inventive genius when the latter
was calling one evening at the Hubbard home in Cambridge. Bell was
illustrating some mysteries of acoustics with the aid of the piano.
"Do you know," he remarked, "that if I sing the note G close to the
strings of the piano, the G string will answer me?"

This did not impress the lawyer, who asked its significance.

"It is a fact of tremendous importance," answered Bell. "It is
evidence that we may some day have a musical telegraph which will
enable us to send as many messages simultaneously over one wire as
there are notes on that piano."

From that time forward Hubbard took every occasion to encourage Bell
to carry forward his experiments in musical telegraphy.

As a young man Bell was tall and slender, with jet-black eyes and
hair, the latter being pushed back into a curly tangle. He was
sensitive and high-strung, very much the artist and the man of
science. His enthusiasms were intense, and, once his mind was filled
with an idea, he followed it devotedly. He was very little the
practical business man and paid scant attention to the small,
practical details of life. He was so interested in visible speech, and
so keenly alert to the pathos of the lives of the deaf mutes, that he
many times seriously considered giving over all experiments with the
musical telegraph and devoting his entire life and energies to the
amelioration of their condition.



The Cellar at Sanderses'--Experimental Beginnings--Magic Revived in
Salem Town--The Dead Man's Ear--The Right Path--Trouble and
Discouragement--The Trip to Washington--Professor Joseph Henry--The
Boston Workshop--The First Faint Twang of the Telephone--Early

Alexander Graham Bell had not resided at the Sanderses' home very long
before he had fitted the basement up as a workshop. For three years he
haunted it, spending all of his leisure time in his experiments. Here
he had his apparatus, and the basement was littered with a curious
combination of electrical and acoustical devices--magnets, batteries,
coils of wire, tuning-forks, speaking-trumpets, etc. Bell had a great
horror that his ideas might be stolen and was very nervous over any
possible intrusion into his precious workshop. Only the members of
the Sanders family were allowed to enter the basement. He was equally
cautious in purchasing supplies and equipment lest his very purchases
reveal the nature of his experiments. He would go to a half-dozen
different stores for as many articles. He usually selected the night
for his experiments, and pounded and scraped away indefatigably,
oblivious of the fact that the family, as well as himself, was sorely
in need of rest.

"Bell would often awaken me in the middle of the night," says Mr.
Sanders, "his black eyes blazing with excitement. Leaving me to go
down to the cellar, he would rush wildly to the barn and begin to send
me signals along his experimental wires. If I noticed any improvement
in his apparatus he would be delighted. He would leap and whirl around
in one of his 'war-dances,' and then go contentedly to bed. But if
the experiment was a failure he would go back to his work-bench to try
some different plan."

In common with other experimenters who were searching for the
telephone, Bell was experimenting with a sort of musical telegraph.
Eagerly and persistently he sought the means that would replace the
telegraph with its cumbersome signals by a new device which would
enable the human voice itself to be transmitted. The longer he worked
the greater did the difficulties appear. His work with the deaf and
dumb was alluring, and on many occasions he seriously considered
giving over his other experiments and devoting himself entirely to the
instruction of the deaf and dumb and to the development of his system
of making speech visible by making the sound-vibrations visible to the
eye. But as he mused over the difficulties in enabling a deaf mute to
achieve speech nothing else seemed impossible. "If I can make a deaf
mute talk," said Bell, "I can make iron talk."

One of his early ideas was to install a harp at one end of the wire
and a speaking-trumpet at the other. His plan was to transmit
the vibrations over the wire and have the voice reproduced by the
vibrations of the strings of the harp. By attaching a light pencil
or marker to a cord or membrane and causing the latter to vibrate by
talking against it, he could secure tracings of the sound-vibrations.
Different tracings were secured from different sounds. He thus sought
to teach the deaf to speak by sight.

At this time Bell enjoyed the friendship of Dr. Clarence J. Blake, an
eminent Boston aurist, who suggested that the experiments be conducted
with a human ear instead of with a mechanical apparatus in imitation
of the ear. Bell eagerly accepted the idea, and Doctor Blake provided
him with an ear and connecting organs cut from a dead man's head. Bell
soon had the ghastly specimen set up in his workshop. He moistened the
drum with glycerine and water and, substituting a stylus of hay for
the stapes bone, he obtained a wonderful series of curves which showed
the vibrations of the human voice as recorded by the ear. One can
scarce imagine a stranger picture than Bell must have presented in the
conduct of those experiments. We can almost see him with his face the
paler in contrast with his black hair and flashing black eyes as he
shouted and whispered by turns into the ghastly ear. Surely he must
have looked the madman, and it is perhaps fortunate that he was not
observed by impressionable members of the public else they would have
been convinced that the witches had again visited old Salem town to
ply their magic anew. But it was a new and very real and practical
sort of magic which was being worked there.

His experiments with the dead man's ear brought to Bell at least one
important idea. He noted that, though the ear-drum was thin and light,
it was capable of sending vibrations through the heavy bones that
lay back of it. And so he thought of using iron disks or membranes to
serve the purpose of the drum in the ear and arrange them so that
they would vibrate an iron rod. He thought of connecting two such
instruments with an electrified wire, one of which would receive the
sound-vibrations and the other of which would reproduce them after
they had been transmitted along the wire. At last the experimenter
was on the right track, with a conception of a practicable method of
transmitting sound. He now possessed a theoretical knowledge of what
the telephone he sought should be, but there yet remained before him
the enormous task of devising and constructing the apparatus which
would carry out the idea, and find the best way of utilizing the
electrical current for this work.

Bell was now at a critical point in his career and was confronted by
the same difficulty which assails so many inventors. In his constant
efforts to achieve a telephone he had entirely neglected his school of
vocal physiology, which was now abandoned. Georgie Sanders and
Mabel Hubbard were his only pupils. Though Sanders and Hubbard were
genuinely interested in Bell and his work, they felt that he was
impractical, and were especially convinced that his experiments with
the ear and its imitations were entirely useless. They believed that
the electrical telegraph alone presented possibilities, and they told
Bell that unless he would devote himself entirely to the improvement
of this instrument and cease wasting time and money over ear toys
that had no commercial value they would no longer give him financial
support. Hubbard went even further, and insisted that if Bell did not
abandon his foolish notions he could not marry his daughter.

Bell was almost without funds, his closest friends now seemed to turn
upon him, and altogether he was in a sorry plight. Of course Sanders
and Hubbard meant the best, yet in reality they were seeking to drive
their protege in exactly the wrong direction. As far back as 1860 a
German scientist named Philipp Reis produced a musical telephone
that even transmitted a few imperfect words. But it would not talk
successfully. Others had followed in his footsteps, using the musical
telephone to transmit messages with the Morse code by means of long
and short hums. Elisha Gray, of Chicago, also experimented with the
musical telegraph. At the transmitting end a vibrating steel tongue
served to interrupt the electric current which passed over the wire
in waves, and, passing through the coils of an electro-magnet at the
receiving end, caused another strip of steel located near the magnet
to vibrate and so produce a tone which varied with the current.

All of these developments depended upon the interruption of the
current by some kind of a vibrating contact. The limitations which
Sanders and Hubbard sought to impose upon Bell, had they been obeyed
to the letter, must have prevented his ultimate success. In a letter
to his mother at this time, he said:

I am now beginning to realize the cares and anxieties of being
an inventor. I have had to put off all pupils and classes, for
flesh and blood could not stand much longer such a strain as I
have had upon me.

But good fortune was destined to come to Bell along with the bad. On
an enforced trip to Washington to consult his patent attorney--a trip
he could scarce raise funds to make--Bell met Prof. Joseph Henry.
We have seen the part which this eminent scientist had played in the
development of the telegraph. Now he was destined to aid Bell, as he
had aided Morse a generation earlier. The two men spent a day over the
apparatus which Bell had with him. Though Professor Henry was fifty
years his senior and the leading scientist in America, the youth was
able to demonstrate that he had made a real discovery.

"You are in possession of the germ of a great invention," said
Henry, "and I would advise you to work at it until you have made it

"But," replied Bell, "I have not got the electrical knowledge that is

"Get it," was Henry's reply.

This proved just the stimulus Bell needed, and he returned to Boston
with a new determination to perfect his great idea.

Bell was no longer experimenting in the Sanderses' cellar, having
rented a room in Boston in which to carry on his work. He had also
secured the services of an assistant, one Thomas Watson, who received
nine dollars a week for his services in Bell's behalf. The funds
for this work were supplied by Sanders and Hubbard jointly, but they
insisted that Bell should continue his experiments with the musical
telegraph. Though he was convinced that the opportunities lay in the
field of telephony, Bell labored faithfully for regular periods with
the devices in which his patrons were interested. The remainder of his
time and energy he put upon the telephone. The basis of his telephone
was still the disk or diaphragm which would vibrate when the
sound-waves of the voice were thrown against it. Behind this
were mounted various kinds of electro-magnets in series with the
electrified wire over which the inventor hoped to send his messages.
For three years they labored with this apparatus, trying every
conceivable sort of disk. It is easy to pass over those three years,
filled as they were with unceasing toil and patient effort, because
they were drab years when little of interest occurred. But these were
the years when Bell and Watson were "going to school," learning how
to apply electricity to this new use, striving to make their apparatus
talk. How dreary and trying these years must have been for the
experimenters we may well imagine. It requires no slight force of will
to hold oneself to such a task in the face of failure after failure.

By June of 1875 Bell had completed a new Instrument. In this the
diaphragm was a piece of gold-beater's skin, which Bell had selected
as most closely resembling the drum in the human ear. This was
stretched tight to form a sort of drum, and an armature of magnetized
iron was fastened to its middle. Thus the bit of iron was free to
vibrate, and opposite it was an electro-magnet through which flowed
the current that passed over the line. This acted as the receiver. At
the other end of the wire was a sort of crude harmonica with a clock
spring, reed, and magnet. Bell and Watson had been working upon their
crude apparatus for months, and finally, on June 2d, sounds were
actually transmitted. Bell was afire with enthusiasm; the first great
step had been taken. The electric current had carried sound-vibrations
along the wire and had reproduced them. If this could be done a
telephone which would reproduce whole words and sentences could be


[Illustration: THOMAS A. WATSON]

So great was Bell's enthusiasm over this achievement that he succeeded
in convincing Sanders and Hubbard that his idea was practical, and
they at last agreed to finance him in his further experiments with the
telephone. A second membrane receiver was constructed, and for many
more weeks the experiments continued. It was found that sounds were
carried from instrument to instrument, but as a telephone they were
still far from perfection. It was not until March of 1876 that Bell,
speaking into the instrument in the workroom, was heard and understood
by Watson at the other instrument in the basement. The telephone had
carried and delivered an intelligible message.

The telephone which Bell had invented, and on which he received a
patent on his twenty-ninth birthday, consisted of two instruments
similar in principle to what we would now call receivers. If you will
experiment with the receiver of a modern telephone you will find
that it will transmit as well as receive sound. The heart of the
transmitter was an electro-magnet in front of which was a drum-like
membrane with a piece of iron cemented to its center opposite the
magnet. A mouthpiece was arranged to throw the sounds of the voice
against the diaphragm, and as the membrane vibrated the bit of iron
upon it--acting as an armature--induced currents corresponding to the
sound-waves, in the coils of the electro-magnet.

Passing over the line the current entered the coils of the tubular
electro-magnet in the receiver. A thin disk of soft iron was fastened
at the end of this. When the current-waves passed through the coils
of the magnet the iron disk was thrown into vibration, thus producing
sound. As it vibrated with the current produced by the iron on
the vibrating membrane in the transmitter acting as an armature,
transmitter and receiver vibrated in unison and so the same sound was
given off by the receiver and made audible to the human ear as was
thrown against the membrane of the transmitter by the voice.

The patent issued to Bell has been described as "the most valuable
single patent ever issued." Certainly it was destined to be of
tremendous service to civilization. It was so entirely new and
original that Bell found difficulty in finding terms in which to
describe his invention to the patent officials. He called it "an
improvement on the telegraph," in order that it might be identified as
an improvement in transmitting intelligence by electricity. In reality
the telephone was very far from being a telegraph or anything in the
nature of a telegraph.

As Bell himself stated, his success was in large part due to the fact
that he had approached the problem from the viewpoint of an expert
in sound rather than as an electrician. "Had I known more about
electricity and less about sound," he said, "I would never have
invented the telephone." As we have seen, those electricians who
worked from the viewpoint of the telegraph never got beyond the
limitations of the instrument and found that with it they could
transmit signals but not sounds. Bell, with his knowledge of the laws
of speech and sound, started with the principles of the
transmission of sound as a basis and set electricity to carrying the



Boll's Impromptu Trip to the Exposition--The Table Under the
Stairs--Indifference of the Judges--Enter Don Pedro, Emperor of
Brazil--Attention and Amazement--Skepticism of the Public--The Aid
of Gardiner Hubbard--Publicity Campaign.

The Philadelphia Centennial Exposition--America's first great
exposition--opened within a month after the completion of the first
telephone. The public knew nothing of the telephone, and before it
could be made a commercial success and placed in general service
the interest of investors and possible users had to be aroused.
The Centennial seemed to offer an unusual opportunity to place the
telephone before the public. But Bell, like Morse, had no money with
which to push his invention. Hubbard was one of the commissioners of
the exposition, and exerted his influence sufficiently so that a small
table was placed in an odd corner in the Department of Education for
the exhibition of the apparatus. The space assigned was a narrow strip
between the stairway and the wall.

But no provision was made to allow Bell himself to be present. The
young inventor was almost entirely without funds. Sanders and Hubbard
had paid nothing but his room rent and the cost of his experiments. He
had devoted himself to his inventions so entirely that he had lost all
of his professional income. So it was that he was forced to face
the prospect of staying in Boston and allowing this opportunity of
opportunities to pass unimproved. His fiancee, Miss Hubbard, expected
to attend the exposition, and had heard nothing of Bell's inability to
go. He went with her to the station, and as the train was leaving she
learned for the first time that he was not to accompany her. She burst
into tears at the disappointment. Seeing this, Bell dashed madly after
the train and succeeded in boarding it. Without money or baggage, he
nevertheless succeeded in arriving in Philadelphia.

Bell arrived at the exposition but a few days before the judges were
to make their tour of inspection. With considerable difficulty
Hubbard had secured their promise that they would stop and examine
the telephone. They seemed to regard it as a toy not worth their
attention, and the public generally had displayed no interest in the
device. When the day for the inspection arrived Bell waited eagerly.
As the day passed his hope began to fall, as there seemed little
possibility that the judges would reach his exhibit. The Western
Union's exhibit of recording telegraphs, the self-binding harvester,
the first electric light, Gray's musical telegraph, and other
prominently displayed wonders had occupied the attention of the
scientists. It was well past supper-time when they came to Bell's
table behind the stairs, and most of the judges were tired out and
loudly announced their intention of quitting then and there.

At this critical moment, while they were fingering Bell's apparatus
indifferently and preparing for their departure, a strange and
fortunate thing occurred. Followed by a group of brilliantly attired
courtiers, the Emperor of Brazil appeared. He rushed up to Bell
and greeted him with a warmth of affection that electrified the
indifferent judges. They watched the scene in astonishment, wondering
who this young Bell was that he could attract the attention and the
friendship of the Emperor. The Emperor had attended Bell's school for
deaf mutes in Boston when it was at the height of its success, and
had conceived a warm admiration for the young man and taken a
deep interest in his work. The Emperor was ready to examine Bell's
invention, though the judges were not. Bell showed him how to place
his ear to the receiver, and he then went to the transmitter which had
been placed at the other end of the wire strung along the room. The
Emperor waited expectantly, the judges watched curiously. Bell, at a
distance, spoke into the transmitter. In utter wonderment the Emperor
raised his head from the receiver. "My God," he cried, "it talks!"

Skepticism and indifference were at an end among the judges, and they
eagerly followed the example of the Emperor. Joseph Henry, the most
venerable savant of them all, took his place at the receiver. Though
his previous talk with Bell, when the telephone was no more than an
idea, should perhaps have prepared him, he showed equal astonishment,
and instantly expressed his admiration. Next followed Sir William
Thomson, the hero of the cable and England's greatest scientist. After
his return to England Thomson described his sensations.

"I heard," he said, "'To be or not to be ... there's the rub,'
through an electric wire; but, scorning monosyllables, the electric
articulation rose to higher flights, and gave me passages from the
New York newspapers. All this my own ears heard spoken to me with
unmistakable distinctness by the then circular-disk armature of just
such another little electro-magnet as this I hold in my hand."

Thomson pronounced Bell's telephone "the most wonderful thing he had
seen in America." The judges had forgotten that they were hungry and
tired, and remained grouped about the telephone, talking and listening
in turn until far into the evening. With the coming of the next
morning Bell's exhibit was moved from its obscure corner and given the
most prominent place that could be found. From that time forward it
was the wonder of the Centennial.





Boys were employed as operators at first, but they were not adapted to
the work so well as girls.]


LINE, OCTOBER 18, 1892]

Yet but a small part of the public could attend the exposition and
actually test the telephone for themselves. Many of these believed
that it was a hoax, and general skepticism still prevailed. Business
men, though they were convinced that the telephone would carry
spoken messages, nevertheless insisted that it presented no business
possibilities. Hubbard, however, had faith in the invention, and
as Bell was not a business man, he took upon himself the work of
promotion--the necessary, valuable work which must be accomplished
before any big idea or invention may be put at the service of the
public. Hubbard's first move was to plan a publicity campaign which
should bring the new invention favorably to the attention of all,
prove its claims, and silence the skeptics. They were too poor to
set up an experimental line of their own, and so telegraph lines were
borrowed for short periods wherever possible, demonstrations were
given and tests made. The assistance of the newspapers was invoked and
news stories of the tests did much to popularize the new idea.

An opportunity then came to Bell to lecture and demonstrate the
telephone before a scientific body in Essex. He secured the use of a
telegraph line and connected the hall with the laboratory in Boston.
The equipment consisted of old-fashioned box 'phones over a foot long
and eight inches square, built about an immense horseshoe magnet.
Watson was stationed in the Boston laboratory. Bell started his
lecture, with Watson constantly listening over the telephone. Bell
would stop from time to time and ask that the ability of the
telephone to transmit certain kinds of sounds be illustrated. Musical
instruments were played in Boston and heard in Essex; then Watson
talked, and finally he was instructed to sing. He insisted that he was
not a singer, but the voices of others less experienced in speaking
over the crude instruments often failed to carry sufficiently well
for demonstration purposes. So Watson sang, as best he could, "Yankee
Doodle," "Auld Lang Syne," and other favorites. After the lecture had
been completed members of the audience were invited to talk over the
telephone. A few of them mustered confidence to talk with Watson
in Boston, and the newspaper reporters carefully noted down all the
details of the conversation.

The lecture aroused so much interest that others were arranged. The
first one had been free, but admission was charged for the later
lectures and this income was the first revenue Bell had received for
his invention. The arrangements were generally the same for each of
the lectures about Boston. The names of Longfellow, of Holmes, and of
other famous American men of letters are found among the patrons of
some of the lectures in Boston. Bell desired to give lectures in New
York City, but was not certain that his apparatus would operate at
that distance over the lines available. The laboratory was on the
third floor of a rooming-house, and Watson shouted so loud in his
efforts to make his voice carry that the roomers complained. So he
took blankets and erected a sort of tent over the instruments to
muffle the sound. When the signal came from Bell that he was ready for
the test, Watson crawled into the tent and began his shoutings. The
day was a hot one, and by the time that the test had been completed
Watson was completely wilted. But the complaints of the roomers had
been avoided. For one of the New York demonstrations the services of
a negro singer with a rich barytone voice had been secured. Watson had
no little difficulty in rehearsing him for the part, as he objected to
placing his lips close to the transmitter. When the time for the test
arrived he persisted in backing away from the mouthpiece when he sang,
and, though Watson endeavored to hold the transmitter closer to him,
his efforts were of no avail. Finally Bell told Watson that as the
negro could not be heard he would have to sing himself. The girl
operator in the laboratory had assembled a number of her girl
friends to watch the test, and Watson, who did not consider himself
a vocalist, did not fancy the prospect. But there was no one else to
sing, the demonstration must proceed, and finally Watson struck up
"Yankee Doodle" in a quavering voice.

The negro looked on in disgust. "Is that what you wanted me to do,

"Yes," replied the embarrassed Watson.

"Well, boss, I couldn't sing like that."

The telegraph wires which were borrowed to demonstrate the utility of
the telephone proved far from perfect for the work at hand. Many of
the wires were rusted and the insulation was poor. The stations along
the line were likely to cut in their relays when the test was in
progress, and Bell's instruments were not arranged to overcome this
retardation. However, the lectures were a success from the popular
viewpoint. The public flocked to them and the fame of the telephone
grew. So many cities desired the lecture that it finally became
necessary for Bell to employ an assistant to give the lecture for him.
Frederick Gower, a Providence newspaper man, was selected for this
task, and soon mastered Bell's lecture. It was then possible to give
two lectures on the same evening, Bell delivering one, Gower the
other, and Watson handling the laboratory end for both.

Gower secured a contract for the exclusive use of the telephone in New
England, but failed to demonstrate much ability in establishing the
new device on a business basis. How little the possibilities of the
telephone were then appreciated we may understand from the fact that
Gower exchanged his immensely valuable New England rights for the
exclusive right to lecture on the telephone throughout the country.

The success of these lectures made it possible for Bell to marry, and
he started for England on a wedding-trip. The lectures also aroused
the necessary interest and made it possible to secure capital for the
establishment of telephone lines. It also determined Hubbard in his
plan of leasing the telephones instead of selling them. This was
especially important, as it made possible the uniformity of the
efficient Bell system of the present day.



The First Telephone Exchange--The Bell Telephone
Association--Theodore N. Vail--The Fight with the Western
Union--Edison and Blake Invent Transmitters--Last Effort of the
Western Union--Mushroom Companies and Would-be Inventors--The
Controversy with Gray--Dolbear's Claims--The Drawbaugh Case--On a
Firm Footing.

Through public interest had been aroused in the telephone, it was
still very far from being at the service of the nation. The telephone
increases in usefulness just in proportion to the number of your
acquaintances and business associates who have telephones in their
homes or offices. Instruments had to be manufactured on a commercial
scale, telephone systems had to be built up. While the struggles of
the inventor who seeks to apply a new idea are often romantic, the
efforts of the business executives who place the invention, once it
is achieved, at the service of people everywhere, are not less
praiseworthy and interesting.

A very few telephones had been leased to those who desired to
establish private lines, but it was not until May of 1877 that the
first telephone system was established with an exchange by means of
which those having telephones might talk with one another. There was a
burglar-alarm system in Boston which had wires running from six banks
to a central station. The owner of this suggested that telephones be
installed in the banks using the burglar-alarm wires. Hubbard gladly
loaned the instruments for the purpose. Instruments were installed in
the banks without saying anything to the bankers, or making any charge
for the service. One banker demanded that his telephone be removed,
insisting that it was a foolish toy. But even with the crude little
exchange the first system proved its worth. Others were established in
New York, Philadelphia, and other cities on a commercial basis. A man
from Michigan appeared and secured the perpetual rights for his State,
and for his foresight and enterprise he was later to be rewarded by
the sale of these rights for a quarter of a million dollars. The free
service to the Boston bankers was withdrawn and a commercial system
installed there.

But these exchanges served but a few people, and were poorly equipped.
There was, of course, no provision for communication between cities.
With the telephone over a year old, less than a thousand instruments
were in use. But Hubbard, who was directing the destinies of the
enterprise during Bell's absence in Europe, decided that the time
had come to organize. Accordingly the Bell Telephone Association was
formed, with Bell, Hubbard, Sanders, and Watson as the shareholders.
Sanders was the only one of the four with any considerable sum of
money, and his resources were limited. He staked his entire credit in
the enterprise, and managed to furnish funds with which the fight for
existence could be carried on. But a business depression was upon the
land and it was not easy to secure support for the telephone.

The entrance of the Western Union Telegraph Company into the telephone
field brought the affairs of the Bell company to a crisis. As we have
seen, the telegraph company had developed into a great and powerful
corporation with wires stretching across the length and breadth of
the land and agents and offices established in every city and town of
importance. Once the telephone began to be used as a substitute for
the telegraph in conveying messages, the telegraph officials awoke to
the fact that here, possibly, was a dangerous rival, and dropped the
viewpoint that Bell's telephone was a mere plaything. They acquired
the inventions of Edison, Gray, and Dolbear, and entered the telephone
field, announcing that they were prepared to furnish the very best
in telephonic communication. This sudden assault by the most powerful
corporation in America, while it served to arouse public confidence in
the telephone, made it necessary for Hubbard to reorganize his forces
and find a general capable of doing battle against such a foe.

Hubbard's political activities had brought to him a Presidential
appointment as head of a commission on mail transportation. In the
course of the work for the Government he had come much in contact with
a young man named Theodore N. Vail, who was head of the Government
mail service. He had been impressed by Vail's ability and had in turn
introduced Vail to the telephone and aroused his enthusiasm in its
possibilities. This Vail was a cousin of the Alfred Vail who
was Morse's co-worker, and who played so prominent a part in the
development of the telegraph. His experience in the Post-office
Department had given him an understanding of the problems of
communication in the United States, and had developed his executive
ability. Realizing the possibilities of the telephone, he relinquished
his governmental post and cast his fortunes with the telephone
pioneers, becoming general manager of the Bell company.

The Western Union strengthened its position by the introduction of a
new and improved transmitter. This was the work of Thomas Edison, and
was so much better than Bell's transmitter that it enabled the Western
Union to offer much better telephonic equipment. As we have seen,
Bell's transmitter and receiver were very similar, being about the
same as the receiver now in common use. In his transmitter Edison
placed tiny bits of carbon in contact with the diaphragm. As the
diaphragm vibrated under the sound-impulses the pressure upon the
carbon granules was varied. An electric current was passed through
the carbon particles, whose electrical resistance was varied by the
changing pressure from the diaphragm. Thus the current was thrown into
undulations corresponding to the sound-waves, and passed over the
line and produced corresponding sounds in the receiver. Much stronger
currents could be utilized than those generated by Bell's instrument,
and thus the transmitter was much more effective for longer distances.

Bell returned from Europe to find the affairs of his company in a
sorry plight. Only the courage and generalship of Vail kept it in
the field at all. Bell was penniless, having failed to establish
the telephone abroad, even as Morse before him had failed to secure
foreign revenue from his invention. Bell's health failed him, and as
he lay helpless in the hospital his affairs were indeed at a low
ebb. At this juncture Francis Blake, of Boston, came forward with an
improved transmitter which he offered to the Bell company in exchange
for stock. The instrument proved a success and was gladly adopted,
proving just what was needed to make possible successful competition
with the Western Union.

Prolonged patent litigation followed, and after a bitter legal
struggle the Western Union officials became convinced of two things:
one, that the Bell company, under Vail's leadership, would not
surrender; second, that Bell was the original inventor of the
telephone and that his patent was valid. The Western Union, however,
seemed to have strong basis for its claim that the new transmitter of
the Bell people was an infringement of Edison's patent. A compromise
was arranged between the contestants by which the two companies
divided the business of furnishing communication by wire in the
United States. This agreement proved of the greatest benefit to both
organizations, and did much to make possible the present development
and universal service of both the telephone and telegraph. By the
terms of the agreement the Western Union recognized Bell's patent
and agreed to withdraw from the telephone business. The Bell company
agreed not to engage in the telegraph business and to take over the
Western Union telephone system and apparatus, paying a royalty on all
telephone rentals. Experience has demonstrated that the two businesses
are not competitive, but supplement each other. It is therefore proper
that they should work side by side with mutual understanding.

Success had come at last to the telephone pioneers. Other battles were
still to be fought before their position was to be made secure,
but from the moment when the Western Union admitted defeat the Bell
company was the leader. The stock of the company advanced to a point
where Bell, Hubbard, Sanders, and Watson found themselves in the
possession of wealth as a reward for their pioneering.

The Western Union had no sooner withdrawn as a competitor of the Bell
organization than scores of small, local companies sprang up, all
ready to pirate the Bell patent and push the claims of some rival
inventor. A very few of them really tried to establish telephone
systems, but the majority were organized simply to sell stock to a
gullible public. They stirred up a continuous turmoil, and made
much trouble for the larger company, though their patent claims were
persistently defeated in the courts.

Most of the rival claimants who sprang up, once the telephone had
become an established fact and had proved its value, were men of
neither prominence nor scientific attainments. Of a very different
type was Elisha Gray, whose work we have before noticed, and who
now came forward with the claim that he had invented a telephone
in advance of Bell. Gray was a practical man of real scientific
attainments, but, as we have noticed, his efforts in search of a
telephone were from the viewpoint of a musical telegraph and so
destined to failure. It has frequently been stated that Gray filed
his application for a patent on a telephone of his invention but a
few minutes after Bell, and so Bell wrested the honor from him by the
scantiest of margins. A careful reading of the testimony brought out
in Gray's suit against Bell does not support such a statement. While
Bell filed an application for a patent on a completed, invention, Gray
filed, a few moments later, a caveat. This was a document, stating
that he hoped to invent a telephone of a certain kind therein stated,
and would serve to protect his rights until he should have time to
perfect it. Thus Gray did not have a completed invention, and he later
failed to perfect a telephone along the lines described in his caveat.
The decision of the court supported Bell's claims in full.

Another of the Western Union's telephone experts, Professor Dolbear,
of Tufts College, also sought to make capital of his knowledge of the
telephone. He based his claims upon an improvement of the Reis
musical telegraph, which had formed the starting-point for so many
experimenters. The case fell flat, however, for when the apparatus was
brought into court no one could make it talk.

None of the attacks upon Bell's claim to be the original inventor
of the telephone aroused more popular interest at the time than the
famous Drawbaugh case. Daniel Drawbaugh was a country mechanic with a
habit of reading of the new inventions in the scientific journals. He
would work out models of many of these for himself, and, showing them
very proudly, often claim them as his own devices. Drawbaugh was
now put forward by the opponents of the Bell organization as having
invented a telephone before Bell. It was claimed that he had been too
poor to secure a patent or to bring his invention to popular notice.
Much sympathy was thus aroused for him and the legal battle was waged
to interminable length, with the usual result. Bell's patent was again
sustained, and Drawbaugh's claims were pronounced without merit.

Many other legal battles followed, but the dominance of the Bell
organization, resting upon the indisputable fact that Bell was the
first man to conceive and execute a practical telephone, could not
be shaken. The telephone business was on a firm footing: it had
demonstrated its real service to the public; it had become a
necessity; and, under the able leadership of Vail, was fast extending
its field of usefulness.



The First Suggestion--Morse Sends Messages Through the
Water--Trowbridge Telegraphs Through the Earth--Experiments of
Preece and Heaviside in England--Edison Telegraphs from Moving
Trains--Researches of Hertz Disclose the Hertzian Waves.

Great as are the possibilities of the telegraph and the telephone in
the service of man, these instruments are still limited to the wires
over which they must operate. Communication was not possible until
wires had been strung; where wires could not be strung communication
was impossible. Much yet remained to be done before perfection
in communication was attained, and, though the public generally
considered the telegraph, and the telephone the final achievement, men
of science were already searching for an even better way.

The first suggestion that electric currents carrying messages might
some day travel without wires seems to have come from K.A. Steinheil,
of Munich. In 1838 he discovered that if the two ends of a single wire
carrying the electric current be connected with the ground a complete
circuit is formed, the earth acting as the return. Thus he was able
to dispense with one wire, and he suggested that some day it might be
possible to eliminate the wire altogether. The fact that the current
bearing messages could be sent through the water was demonstrated by
Morse as early as 1842. He placed plates at the termini of a circuit
and submerged them in water some distance apart on one side of a
canal. Other plates were placed on the opposite side of the waterway
and were connected by a wire with a sensitive galvanometer in series
to act as a receiver. Currents sent from the opposite side were
recorded by the galvanometer and the possibility of communication
through the water was established. Others carried these experiments
further, it being even suggested that messages might be sent across
the Atlantic by this method.

But Bell's greatest contribution to the search for wireless telegraphy
was not his direct work in this field, but the telephone itself.
His telephone receiver provided the wireless experimenters with an
instrument of extreme sensitiveness by which they were able to detect
currents which the mirror galvanometer could not receive. While
experimenting with a telephone along a telegraph line a curious
phenomenon was noticed. The telephone experimenters heard music very
clearly. They investigated and found that another telegraph wire,
strung along the same poles, but at the usual distance and with
the usual insulation, was being used for a test of Edison's musical
telephone. Many other similar tests were made and the effect was
always noted. In some way the message on one line had been conveyed
across the air-gap and had been recorded by the telephones on the
other line. It was decided that this had been caused by induction.

Prof. John Trowbridge, of Harvard University, might well be termed
the grandfather of wireless telegraphy. He made the first extensive
investigation of the subject, and his experiments in sending
messages without wires and his discoveries furnished information and
inspiration for those who were to follow. His early experiments tested
the possibility of using the earth as a conductor. He demonstrated
that when an electric current is sent into the earth it spreads from
that point in waves in all directions, just as when a stone is cast
into a pond the ripples widen out from that point, becoming fainter
and fainter until they reach the shore. He further found that these
currents could be detected by grounding the terminals of a telephone
circuit. Telegraphy through the earth was thus possible. However, the
farther the receiving station was from the sending station the wider
must be the distance between the telephone terminals and the smaller
the current received. Professor Trowbridge did not find it possible to
operate his system at a sufficient distance to make it of value, but
he did demonstrate that the currents do travel through the earth and
that they can be set to carrying messages.

Professor Trowbridge also revived the idea of telegraphing across the
Atlantic by utilizing the conductivity of the sea-water to carry the
currents. In working out the plan theoretically he discovered that the
terminals on the American side would have to be widely separated--one
in Nova Scotia and the other in Florida--and that they would have to
be connected by an insulated cable. Two widely separated points on
the coast of France were suggested for the other terminals. He
also calculated that very high voltages would be necessary, and the
practical difficulties involved made it seem certain that such a
system would cost far too much to construct and to operate to be

Trowbridge suggested the possibility of using such a system
for establishing communication between ships at sea. Ship could
communicate with ship, over short distances, during a fog. A trailing
wire was to be used to increase the sending and receiving power, and
Trowbridge believed that with a dynamo capable of supplying current
for a hundred lights, communication could be established at a distance
of half a mile.

Not satisfied with the earth or the sea as a medium for carrying the
current, Trowbridge essayed to use the air. He believed that this was
possible, and that it would be accomplished at no distant date. He
believed, however, that such a system could not be operated over
considerable distances because of the curvature of the earth. He
endeavored to establish communication through the air by induction.
He demonstrated that if one coil of wire be set up and a current sent
through it, a similar coil facing it will have like currents induced
within it, which may be detected with a telephone receiver. He also
determined that the currents were strongest in the receiving coil when
it was placed in a plane parallel with the sending coil. By turning
the receiving coil about until the sound was strongest in the
telephone receiver, it was thus possible to determine the direction
from which the messages were coming. Trowbridge recognized the great
value of this feature to a ship at sea.

But these induced currents could only be detected at a distance by
the use of enormous coils. To receive at a half-mile a coil of eight
hundred feet radius would have been necessary, and this was obviously
impossible for use on shipboard. So these experiments also developed
no practical improvement in the existing means of communication. But
Professor Trowbridge had demonstrated new possibilities, and had set
men thinking along new lines. He was the pioneer who pointed the way
to a great invention, though he himself failed to attain it.

Bell followed up Trowbridge's suggestions of using the water as a
medium of communication, and in a series of experiments conducted on
the Potomac River established communication between moving ships.

Professor Dolbear also turned from telephone experimentation to the
search for the wireless. He grounded his wires and sent high currents
into the earth, but improved his system and took another step toward
the final achievement by adding a large induction coil to his sending
equipment. He suggested that the spoken word might be sent as well as
dots and dashes, and so sought the wireless telephone as well as
the wireless telegraph. Like his predecessors, his experiments were
successful only at short distances.

The next application of the induction telegraph was to establish
communication with moving trains. Several experimenters had suggested
it, but it remained for Thomas A. Edison to actually accomplish it.
He set up a plate of tin-foil on the engine or cars, opposite the
telegraph wires. Currents could be induced across the gap, no matter
what the speed of the train, and, traveling along the wires to the
station, communication was thus established. Had Edison continued his
investigation further, instead of turning to other pursuits, he
might have achieved the means of communicating through the air at
considerable distances.

These experiments by Americans in the early 'eighties seemed to
promise that America was to produce the wireless telegraph, as it had
produced the telegraph and the telephone. But the greatest activity
now shifted to Europe and the American men of science failed to push
their researches to a successful conclusion. Sir W.H. Preece,
an Englishman, brought himself to public notice by establishing
communication with the Isle of Wight by Morse's method. Messages were
sent and received during a period when the cable to the island was
out of commission, and thus telegraphing without wires was put to
practical use.

Preece carried his experiments much further. In 1885 he laid out two
great squares of insulated wire, a quarter of a mile to the side,
and at a distance of a quarter of a mile from each other. Telephonic
communication was established between them, and thus he had attained
wireless telephony by induction. In 1887, another Englishman, A.W.
Heaviside, laid circuits over two miles long on the surface and other
circuits in the galleries of a coal-mine three hundred and fifty feet
below, and established communication between the circuits. Working
together, Preece and Heaviside extended the distances over which
they could communicate. Preece finally decided that a combination of
conduction and induction was the best means of wireless communication.
He grounded the wire of his circuit at two points and raised it to a
considerable height between these points. Preece's work was to put the
theories of Professor Trowbridge to practical use and thus bring the
final achievement a step nearer.

But conduction and induction combined would not carry messages to a
distance that would enable extensive communication. A new medium had
yet to be found, and this was the work of Heinrich Hertz, a young
German scientist. He was experimenting with two flat coils of wire,
as had many others before him, but one of the coils had a small gap
in it. Passing the discharge from a condenser into this coil, Hertz
discovered that the spark caused when the current jumped the gap set
up electrical vibrations that excited powerful currents in the other
coil. These currents were noticeable, though the coils were a very
considerable distance apart. Thus Hertz had found out how to send out
electrical waves that would travel to a considerable distance.

What was the medium that carried these waves? This was the question
that Hertz asked himself, and the answer was, the ether. We know that
light will pass through a vacuum, and these electric waves would do
likewise. It was evident that they did not pass through the air. The
answer, as evolved by Hertz and approved by other scientists, is that
they travel through the ether, a strange substance which pervades all
space. Hertz discovered that light and his electrical waves traveled
at the same speed, and so deduced that light consists of electrical
vibrations in the ether.

With the knowledge that this all-pervading ether would carry electric
waves at the speed of light, that the waves could be set up by the
discharge of a spark across a spark-gap in a coil, and that they
could be received in another coil in resonance with the first, the
establishment of a practical wireless telegraph was not far away.



The Italian Youth who Dreamed Wonderful Dreams--His Studies--Early
Detectors--Marconi Seeks an Efficient Detector--Devises New Sending
Methods--The Wireless Telegraph Takes Form--Experimental Success.

With the nineteenth century approaching its close, man had discovered
that the electric waves would travel through the ether; he had learned
something of how to propagate those waves, and something of how
to receive them. But no one had yet been able to combine these
discoveries in practical form, to apply them to the task of carrying
messages, to make the improvements necessary to make them available
for use at considerable distances. Though many mature scientists had
devoted themselves to the problem, it remained for a youth to solve
it. The youth was Guglielmo Marconi, an Italian.

We have noticed that the telegraph, the cable, and the telephone were
the work of those of the Anglo-Saxon race--Englishmen or Americans--so
it came as a distinct surprise that an Italian youth should make
the next great application of electricity to communication. But
Anglo-Saxon blood flows in Marconi's veins. Though his father was an
Italian, his mother was an Irishwoman. He was born at Villa Griffone
near Bologna, Italy, on April 25, 1874. He studied in the schools of
Bologna and of Florence, and early showed his interest in scientific
affairs. From his mother he learned English, which he speaks as
fluently as he does his native tongue. As a boy he was allowed to
attend English schools for short periods, spending some time at
Bedford and at Rugby.

One of his Italian teachers was Professor Righi, who had made a close
study of the Hertzian waves, and who was himself making no small
contributions to the advancement of the science. From him young
Marconi learned of the work which had been accomplished, and of the
apparatus which was then available. Marconi was a quiet boy--almost

He did not display the aggressive energy so common with many promising
youths. But though he was quiet, he was not slothful. He entered into
his studies with a determination and an application that brought to
him great results. He was a student and a thinker. Any scientific book
or paper which came before him was eagerly devoured. It was this habit
of careful and persistent study that made it possible for Marconi to
accomplish such wonderful things at an early age.

Marconi had learned of the Hertzian waves. It occurred to him that by
their aid wireless telegraphy might be accomplished. The boy saw the
wonderful possibilities; he dreamed dreams of how these waves might
carry messages from city to city, from ship to shore, and from
continent to continent without wires. He realized his own youth and
inexperience, and it seemed certain to him that many able scientists
had had the same vision and must be struggling toward its attainment.
For a year Marconi dreamed those dreams, studying the books and papers
which would tell him more of these wonderful waves. Each week he
expected the news that wireless telegraphy had been established, but
the news never came. Finally he concluded that others, despite their
greater opportunities, had not been so far-seeing as he had thought.

Marconi attacked the problem himself with the dogged persistence and
the studious care so characteristic of him. He began his experiments
upon his father's farm, the elder Marconi encouraging the youth and
providing him with funds with which to purchase apparatus. He set
up poles at the opposite sides of the garden and on them mounted the
simple sending and receiving instruments which were then available,
using plates of tin for his aerials. He set up a simple spark-gap, as
had Hertz, and used a receiving device little more elaborate. A Morse
telegraph-key was placed in circuit with the spark-gap. When the key
was held down for a longer period a long spark passed between the
brass knobs of the spark-gap and a dash was thus transmitted. When
the key was depressed for a shorter period a dot in the Morse code was
sent forth. After much work and adjustment Marconi was able to send
a message across the garden. Others had accomplished this for similar
distances, but they lacked Marconi's imagination and persistence, and
failed to carry their experiments further. To the young Irish-Italian
this was but a starting-point.


Photographed in the uniform of an officer in the Italian army]

Marconi quickly found that the receiver was the least effective part
of the existing apparatus. The waves spread in all directions from
the sending station and become feebler and feebler as the distance
increases. To make wireless telegraphy effective over any considerable
distance a highly efficient and extremely sensitive receiving device
is necessary. Some special means of detecting the feeble currents was
necessary. The coherer was the solution. As early as 1870 a Mr. S.A.
Varley, an Englishman, had discovered that when he endeavored to
send a current through a mass of carbon granules the tiny particles
arranged themselves in order under the influence of the electric
current, and offered a free path for the passage of the current. When
shaken apart they again resisted the flow of current until it became
powerful enough to cause them to again arrange themselves into a
sort of bridge for its passage. Thus was the principle of the coherer

An Italian scientist, Professor Calzecchi-Onesti, carried these
experiments still further. He used various substances in place of the
carbon granules and showed that some of them will arrange themselves
so as to allow the passage of a current under the influence of the
spark setting up the Hertzian waves. Professor E. Branly, of the
Catholic University of Paris, took up this work in 1890. He arranged
metal filings in a small glass tube six inches long and arranged a
tapper to disarrange the filings after they had been brought together
under the influence of the spark.

With the Branly coherer as the basis Marconi sought to make
improvements which would result in the detector he was seeking. For
his powder he used nickel, mixed with a small proportion of fine
silver filings. This he placed between silver plugs in a small glass
tube. Platinum wires were connected to the silver plugs and brought
out at the opposite ends of the tube. It required long study to
determine just how to adjust the plugs between which the powder was
loosely arranged. If the particles were pressed together too tightly
they would not fall apart readily enough under the influence of the
tapper. If too much space was allowed they would not cohere readily
enough. Marconi also discovered that a larger proportion of silver
in the powder and a smaller amount between the plugs increased the
sensitiveness of the receiver. Yet he found it well not to have it
too sensitive lest it cohere for every stray current and so give false

Under the influence of the electric waves set up from the spark-gap
those tiny particles so arranged themselves that they would readily
carry a current between the plugs. By placing these plugs with their
platinum terminals in circuit with a local battery the current from
this local battery was given a passage through the coherer by the
action of the electric waves coming through the ether. While these
waves themselves were too feeble to operate a receiving mechanism,
they were strong enough to arrange the particles of the sensitive
metal in the tube in order, so that the current from the local battery
could pass through them. This current operated a telegraph relay which
in turn operated a Morse receiving instrument. An electrical tapper
was also arranged in this circuit so that it would strike the tube a
light blow after each long or short wave representing a dot or a dash
had been received. Thus the particles were disarranged, ready to array
themselves when the next wave came through the ether and so form the
bridge over which the stronger local circuit could convey the signal.

Marconi further discovered that the most effective arrangement was to
run a wire from one terminal of the coherer into the ground, and from
the other to an elevated metal plate or wire. The waves coming through
the ether were received by the elevated wire and were conducted down
to the coherer. Experimenting with his apparatus on the posts in
the garden, he discovered that an increase in the height of the wire
greatly increased the receiving distance.

At his sending station he used the exciter of his teacher, Professor
Righi. This, too, he modified and perfected for his practical purpose.
As he used the device it consisted of two brass spheres a millimeter
apart. An envelope was provided so that the sides of the spheres
toward each other and the space between was occupied by vaseline oil
which served to keep the faces of the spheres clean and produce a more
uniform spark. Outside the two spheres, but in line with them, were
placed two smaller spheres at a distance of about two-fifths of a
centimeter. The terminals of the sending circuit were attached to
these. The secondary coil of a large induction coil was placed in
series with them, and batteries were wired in series with the primary
of the coil with a sending key to make and break the circuit. When the
key was closed a series of sparks sprang across the spark-gap, and
the waves were thus set up in the ether and carried the message to the
receiving station.

As in the case of his receiving station, Marconi found that results
were much improved when he wired his sending apparatus so that one
terminal was grounded and the other connected with an elevated wire or
aerial, which is now called the antenna. By 1896 Marconi had brought
this apparatus to a state of perfection where he could transmit
messages to a distance of several miles. This Irish-Italian youth
of twenty-two had mastered the problem which had baffled veteran
scientists and was ready to place a new wonder at the service of the

The devices which Marconi thus assembled and put to practical use had
been, in the hands of others, little more than scientific toys.
Others had studied the Hertzian waves and the methods of sending and
detecting them from a purely scientific viewpoint. Marconi had the
vision to realize the practical possibilities, and, though little
more than a boy, had assembled the whole into a workable system of
communication. He richly deserves the laurels and the rewards as the
inventor of the wireless telegraph.



Marconi Goes to England--he Confounds the Skeptics--A Message to
France Without Wires--The Attempt to Span the Ocean--Marconi in
America Receives the First Message from Europe--Fame and Recognition

The time had now come for Marconi to introduce himself and his
discoveries to the attention of the world. He went to England, and
on June 2, 1896, applied for a patent on his system of wireless
telegraphy. Soon afterward his plans were submitted to the
postal-telegraph authorities. Fortunately for Marconi and for the
world, W.H. Preece was then in authority in this department. He
himself had experimented with some little success with wireless
messages. He was able enough to see the merit in Marconi's
discoveries and generous enough to give him full recognition and every

The apparatus was first set up in the General Post-office in London,
another station being located on the roof but a hundred yards away.
Though several walls intervened, the Hertzian waves traversed them
without difficulty, and messages were sent and received. Stations
were then set up on Salisbury Plain, some two miles apart, and
communication was established between them.

Though the postal-telegraph authorities received Marconi's statements
of his discoveries with open mind and put his apparatus to fair tests,
the public at large was much less tolerant. The skepticism which met
Morse and Bell faced Marconi. Men of science doubted his statements
and scoffed at his claims. The Hertzian waves might be all right to
operate scientific playthings, they thought, but they were far too
uncertain to furnish a medium for carrying messages in any practical
way. Then, as progress was made and Marconi began to prove his system,
the inevitable jealousies arose. Experimenters who might have invented
the wireless telegraph, but who did not, came forward to contest
Marconi's claims and to seek to snatch his laurels from him.

The young inventor forged steadily ahead, studying and experimenting,
devising improved apparatus, meeting the difficulties one by one
as they arose. In most of his early experiments he had used a
modification of the little tin boxes which had been set up in his
father's garden as his original aerials. Having discovered that the
height of the aerials increased the range of the stations, he covered
a large kite with tin-foil and, sending it up with a wire, used this
as an aerial. Balloons were similarly employed. He soon recognized,
however, that a practical commercial system, which should be capable
of sending and receiving messages day and night, regardless of the
weather, could not be operated with kites or balloons. The height of
masts was limited, so he sought to increase the range by increasing
the electrical power of the current sending forth the sparks from the
sending station. Here he was on the right path, and another long step
forward had been taken.

In the fall of 1897 he set up a mast on the Isle of Wight, one hundred
and twenty feet high. From the top of this was strung a single wire
and a new series of experiments was begun. Marconi had spent the
summer in Italy demonstrating his apparatus, and had established
communication between a station on the shore and a war-ship of the
Italian Navy equipped with his apparatus. He now secured a small
steamer for his experiments from his station on the Isle of Wight and
equipped it with a sixty-foot mast. Communication was maintained with
the boat day after day, regardless of weather conditions. The distance
at which communication could be maintained was steadily increased
until communication was established with the mainland.

In July of 1898 the wireless demonstrated its utility as a conveyer of
news. An enterprising Dublin newspaper desired to cover the Kingstown
regatta with the aid of the wireless. In order to do this a land
station was erected at Kingstown, and another on board a steamer which
followed the yachts. A telephone wire connected the Kingstown station
with the newspaper office, and as the messages came by wireless from
the ship they were telephoned to Dublin and published in successive
editions of the evening papers.

This feat attracted so much attention that Queen Victoria sought the
aid of the wireless for her own necessities. Her son, the Prince of
Wales, lay ill on his yacht, and the aged queen desired to keep
in constant communication with him. Marconi accordingly placed one
station on the prince's yacht and another at Osborne House, the
queen's residence. Communication was readily maintained, and one
hundred and fifty messages passed by wireless between the prince and
the royal mother.

While the electric waves bearing the messages were found to pass
through wood, stone, or earth, it was soon noticed in practical
operation that when many buildings, or a hill, or any other solid
object of size intervened between the stations the waves were
greatly retarded and the messages seriously interfered with. When the
apparatus was placed on board steel vessels it was found that any part
of the vessel coming between the stations checked the communication.
Marconi sought to avoid these difficulties by erecting high aerials at
every point, so that the waves might pass through the clear air over
solid obstructions.

Marconi's next effort was to connect France with England. He went to
France to demonstrate his apparatus to the French Government and set
up a station near Boulogne. The aerial was raised to a height of one
hundred and fifty feet. Another station was erected near Folkestone
on the English coast, across the Channel. A group of French officials
gathered in the little station near Folkestone for the test, which was
made on the 27th of March, 1899. Marconi sent the messages, which were
received by the station on the French shore without difficulty. Other
messages were received from France, and wireless communication between
the nations was an accomplished fact.

The use of the wireless for ships and lighthouses sprang into favor,
and wireless stations were established all around the British coasts
so that ships equipped with wireless might keep in communication
with the land. The British Admiralty quickly recognized the value
of wireless telegraphy to war vessels. While field telegraphs and
telephones had served the armies, the navies were still dependent upon
primitive signals, since a wire cannot be strung from ship to ship
nor from ship to shore. So the British battle-ships were equipped with
wireless apparatus and a thorough test was made. A sham battle
was held in which all of the orders were sent by wireless, and
communication was constantly maintained both between the flag-ships
and the vessels of their fleets and between the flag-ships and the
shore. Marconi's invention had again proved itself.

The wireless early demonstrated its great value as a means of saving
life at sea. Lightships off the English coast were equipped with the
wireless and were thus enabled to warn ships of impending storms,
and on several occasions the wireless was used to summon aid from the
shore when ships were sinking because of accidents near the lightship.

Following the establishment of communication with France, Marconi
increased the range of his apparatus until he was able to cover most
of eastern Europe. In one of his demonstrations he sent messages
to Italy. His ambition, however, was to send messages across the
Atlantic, and he now attacked this stupendous task. On the coast of
Cornwall, England, he began the construction of a station which should
have sufficient power to send a message to America. Instead of using
a single wire for his aerial, he erected many tall poles and strung a
number of wires from pole to pole. The comparatively feeble batteries
which had furnished the currents used in the earlier efforts were
replaced with great power-driven dynamos, and converters were used
instead of the induction coil. Thus was the great Poldhu station

Late in 1901 Marconi crossed to America to superintend the
preparations there, and that he himself might be ready to receive
the first message, should it prove possible to span the ocean. Signal
Hill, near St. John's, Newfoundland was selected as the place for the
American station. The expense of building a great aerial for the test
was too great, and so dependence was had upon kites to send the wires
aloft. For many days Marconi's assistants struggled with the great
kites in an effort to get them aloft. At last they flew, carrying the
wire to a great height. The wire was carried into a small Government
building near by in which Marconi stationed himself. At his ear was a
telephone receiver, this having been substituted for the relay and the
Morse instrument because of its far greater sensitiveness.

Marconi had instructed his operator at Poldhu to send simply the
letter "s" at an hour corresponding to 12.30 A.M. in Newfoundland.
Great was the excitement and suspense in Cornwall when the hour for
the test arrived. Forgetting that they were sleepy, the staff crowded
about the sending key, and the little building at the foot of the
ring of great masts supporting the aerial shook with the crash of the
blinding sparks as the three, dots which form the letter "s" were sent
forth. Even greater was the tension on the Newfoundland coast, where
Marconi sat eagerly waiting for the signal. Finally it came, three
faint ticks in the telephone receiver. The wireless had crossed the
Atlantic. Marconi had no sending apparatus, so that it was not until
the cable had carried the news that those in England knew that the
message had been received.

Because Marconi had never made a statement or a claim he had not been
able to prove, he had attained a reputation for veracity which made
his statement that he had received a signal across the Atlantic carry
weight with the scientists. Many, of course, were skeptical, and
insisted that the simple signal had come by chance from some ship not
far away. But the inventor pushed quietly and steadily ahead, making
arrangements to perfect the system and establish it so that it would
be of commercial use.

Marconi returned to England, but two months later set out for America
again on the liner _Philadelphia_ with improved apparatus. He kept in
constant communication with his station at Poldhu until the ship was

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