Tech UPTechnologyDid you know that Alexander Bell dedicated much of...

Did you know that Alexander Bell dedicated much of his life to treating deafness?


This September 8 commemorates the founding, 132 years ago, of the North American Association to Promote the Teaching of Speech to Persons with Deafness, today known as the Alexander Graham Bell Association for Persons with Deafness. This date serves to remember the legacy of Alexander Graham Bell who, in addition to an intense life as an inventor, joined his commitment to the oral education of children with hearing loss.

bell the inventor

Born in Edinburgh (UK) in 1847, Alexander Graham Bell was a scientist, inventor and teacher of the deaf who opened the future for his fellow man with his contributions to the world of telecommunications and aviation technology. Although it was he who obtained the patent for the telephone in the United States in 1876, the invention had been the work of the Italian Antonio Meucci. Whether or not he followed Meucci’s ideas, the company he founded, the Bell Telephone Company, contributed to the establishment of this means of communication.

His record of services includes the registration of 18 individual patents and 12 more with his collaborators. To name a few, 14 were for the telephone and telegraph, 4 for the photophone, one for the phonograph, 9 for aerial vehicles and 2 for selenium cells. He is also credited with the invention of the metal detector. Another little-known fact about Alexander Graham Bell is that in 1888 he was one of the founders of the National Geographic Society and in 1898 he became president of the institution.

Graham Bell also believed that all children with hearing loss deserved the opportunity to learn to speak. That is why he dedicated a large part of his life to helping these children develop their listening, speaking and reading skills. The entity created by him continues his work to provide educators and therapists with specialized knowledge and high-quality training.

His contributions to teaching for people with deafness are little known, but they are fundamental today. A strong advocate of oral education, his theses stood in contrast to those of Edward Gallaudet, who advocated sign language. Both maintained an intense epistolary relationship in defense of their postulates. Bell was a pragmatic man who did not hesitate to use sign language or other means to establish communication with deaf adults. However, with the children, he opted for a strictly oral education, without any type of signs. The Alexander Graham Bell Association for People with Deafness and Hard of Hearing (United States) continues its work over time.

his mother’s deafness

The concern for the world of the deaf came from his family. Both his grandfather and his father and uncle were associated with the teaching of elocution. They also worked as announcers. In addition, his mother, Eliza Grace, had a progressive hearing loss and became deaf when AG Bell was 12 years old, which explains the interest in studies on listening and speech, both in research and with inventions to favor them. The father developed a method of teaching to represent the position of the organs of speech in articulated sounds, called visible speech. Alexander Melville taught his son Alexander Graham and his brothers sign language, a system to which he gave importance, although he was always in favor of oral language.

Following in the footsteps of his father, he taught at the Susana E. Hull private school for the deaf in London. The father was invited by the Boston School for Deaf Mutes to spread his methods to teachers. But he gave the job to his son. Alexander traveled to Boston (United States) in 1871. The program was so successful that he repeated the experience at the American School for the Deaf in Hartford and the Clarke School for the Deaf in Northampton, where he dedicated himself to teaching speech. A year later he opened his own school in Boston, Vocal Physiology and Speech Mechanics, which was very well received by the deaf community.

Mabel is called my love

In 1875, at the age of 27, Graham was still working as a teacher of the deaf. One of his students was Mabel Gardiner Hubbard, ten years his junior. She had become deaf at the age of five as a result of scarlet fever. She was the daughter of Gardiner Greene Hubbard, who founded the Clarke School for Hearing and Speech as a result of his daughter’s problem.

In 1877 they married. They had four children. The fevers had affected her inner ear and her balance, but this handicap did not prevent her from accompanying her husband on many trips. Graham Bell died on August 2, 1922, ten months later Mabel would.

The Volta Laboratory and deafness

From England to Canada and from here to the United States. This is the journey through the vital adventures of Alexander Graham Bell, who in 1882 became a US citizen. The family had their residence in Washington, next to what is now the Volta Laboratory. Behind it was the house of carriages and servants. And there he wanted to make a laboratory, the Volta laboratory, with the 10,000 dollars he won for the Volta Prize he was able to undertake the work and move the carriages and the servants to another place.

In the laboratory, he collected a large number of books related to deafness to form an interesting library. After the remodeling of the building, he founded in that place in 1890 the North American Association to Promote the Teaching of Speech to Persons with Deafness. The objective of the entity, to serve as a model in the care of families and children with deafness and hearing loss, is maintained today with the focus on auditory-verbal therapy and pediatric audiology. AG Bell currently has a professional team located at the organization’s historic headquarters, the Volta Laboratory in Washington, DC, and in Madrid, Spain.

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