"An Early History of the Telephone 1664-1866"

By Daniel P McVeigh

Special Thanks to:
Jean Gagnon
Fondation Langlois
Dr Robert McClintock
Teachers College Columbia University

The popular history of the telephone seems somewhat fabricated in the fact that we have been lead to view Alexander Graham Bell as the lone inventor. This amplifies the myth of the rugged individual, one person in a classless society making his fortune through a stroke of absolute genius. This reckless proposition moves the reality of cumulative knowledge created by a community of people into the unpublished shadows of history. It further leads us to believe that one would have to be born a child prodigy to achieve a goal such as the invention of the telephone. This is a self-defeating model for our students. It is very possible that given the same knowledge and resources many people could have invented the telephone. The research presented here shows that the invention of the telephone is NOT a stroke of individual genius but a cumulative synthesis of knowledge built over many years by a community of people. Some of these individuals were formally educated and some were self educated.

You will find substantial amount of evidence exists that shows the first working physical telephone was constructed by Philipp Reis of Germany when A.G. Bell was only 12 years old. The basic concept for the device appeared in an article written by Charles Boursual of France in 1854 when Bell was only 6 years old. The fact is that as far back as 1667 Robert Hooke then at Oxford University in England conducted numerous experiments where he was able to provocate sound over a wire at a great distance. Robert Hooke, Ernst Chladni, Andre Marie Ampere, Del Rive, Charles G. Page, Michael Faraday, Joseph Henry, Sir Charles Wheatstone, Willam Cook, Charles Boursual, Herman Hemholtz, Philipp Reis, Stephen Mitchell Yeates, Elisa Grey, A.G.Bell, Edison and Blake all play significant roles in the evolution of the telephone.