Beyond the Telephone: Alexander Graham Bell’s Not-So-Famous Five

I am sure that you've heard about Mr Bell.

The inventor, the rockstar: Alexander Graham Bell!

The same person who's the reason you're able to hold a smartphone to your ears and say things like… “Baby, khaana kha liya aapne? (Baby, have you eaten?)”

The world is aware of the fact that Bell invented the telephone. In fact, on the 7 March 1876, he got the official patent for it.

However, that's not the only thing Bell cooked up in his time. Feast your eyes on the five other inventions of Bell, which didn't quite make front page:

1. Wheat husker

Bell was indeed a chip off the old block. He started inventing at the early age of 14. Although, his first invention wasn't a majestic piece of technology, it still plays an important role in our daily lives.

A wheat husker.

The wheat husker is made of nail brushes, which attached to a rotating paddle, remove the husk from the wheat grains.

2. Photophone

Next up is the photophone. The photophone is a telecommunications device Bell invented on 3 June 1880. It works on the principle of transmitting sound on a beam of light. It was used it to bounce sound off mirrors and communicate. Really, only Bell could have thought of something like this.

Bell said it was one of his most important inventions, and he was right. The same technology helps modern computers send digital voice and data through glass fibers, today.

3. Metal detector

As the story goes, in an emergency, Bell invented a makeshift metal detector. He was asked to find a bullet inside the body of the then US President James Garfield. Although, Bell's detector didn't help remove the bullet in time, it garnered a lot of attention.

4. Hydrofoil

Bell was pretty impressed with Italian inventor Enrico Forlanini's design of the hydrofoil. So much so, he decided to make a boat out of it! Today, a hydrofoil is a boat in which the hull is fitted underneath with shaped foils, which lift the boat off the water, helping it gain much more speed.

The first hydrofoil boat was spotted in 1919 and it went on to break speed records at the time by moving at close to 114 kilometers per hour. It was called the HD-4 or Hydrodome. Today, many boats like commuter services, fishery patrols, fire fighters, harbor control use the same technique.

5. Audiometer

And the fifth and perhaps a quintessential invention for the modern audiology industry: The audiometer.

An audiometer is an instrument used to measure how accurately one can hear. It produces tones at specific frequencies at specific volume levels to each ear in sequence so that the relay can tell how clearly one is hearing the sound.

Carl E Seashore was the first man to develop the modern version of the audiometer but Bell is credited with the invention.

So, there you have it, the Graham Bell ‘not so famous 5’. Although he invented many other things, it’s tough to accommodate all of them here. Just too many. So, the next time the name Alexander rings a 'Bell', remember these five inventions.

Video Editor: Kunal Mehra
Cameraperson: Abhay Sharma

(This story was first published on 7 March 2018 and has been reposted from The Quint’s archives to mark the day Alexander Graham Bell installed the world’s 1st commercial telephone service in Canada in 1877.)

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