Alexander Graham Bell


Alexander Graham Bell : biography

March 3, 1847 – August 2, 1922


The March 1906 Scientific American article by American pioneer William E. Meacham explained the basic principle of hydrofoils and hydroplanes. Bell considered the invention of the hydroplane as a very significant achievement. Based on information gained from that article he began to sketch concepts of what is now called a hydrofoil boat. Bell and assistant Frederick W. "Casey" Baldwin began hydrofoil experimentation in the summer of 1908 as a possible aid to airplane takeoff from water. Baldwin studied the work of the Italian inventor Enrico Forlanini and began testing models. This led him and Bell to the development of practical hydrofoil watercraft.

During his world tour of 1910–11, Bell and Baldwin met with Forlanini in France. They had rides in the Forlanini hydrofoil boat over Lake Maggiore. Baldwin described it as being as smooth as flying. On returning to Baddeck, a number of initial concepts were built as experimental models, including the Dhonnas Beag, the first self-propelled Bell-Baldwin hydrofoil.Boileau 2004, p. 18. The experimental boats were essentially proof-of-concept prototypes that culminated in the more substantial HD-4, powered by Renault engines. A top speed of was achieved, with the hydrofoil exhibiting rapid acceleration, good stability and steering along with the ability to take waves without difficulty.Boileau 2004, pp. 28–30. In 1913, Dr. Bell hired Walter Pinaud, a Sydney yacht designer and builder as well as the proprietor of Pinaud’s Yacht Yard in Westmount, Nova Scotia to work on the pontoons of the HD-4. Pinaud soon took over the boatyard at Bell Laboratories on Beinn Bhreagh, Bell’s estate near Baddeck, Nova Scotia. Pinaud’s experience in boat-building enabled him to make useful design changes to the HD-4. After the First World War, work began again on the HD-4. Bell’s report to the U.S. Navy permitted him to obtain two 350 horsepower (260 kW) engines in July 1919. On September 9, 1919, the HD-4 set a world marine speed record of 70.86 miles per hour (114.04 km/h),Boileau 2004, p. 30. a record which stood for ten years.


In 1891, Bell had begun experiments to develop motor-powered heavier-than-air aircraft. The AEA was first formed as Bell shared the vision to fly with his wife, who advised him to seek "young" help as Alexander was at the graceful age of 60.

In 1898, Bell experimented with tetrahedral box kites and wings constructed of multiple compound tetrahedral kites covered in maroon silk. The tetrahedral wings were named Cygnet I, II and III, and were flown both unmanned and manned (Cygnet I crashed during a flight carrying Selfridge) in the period from 1907–1912. Some of Bell’s kites are on display at the Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site. Retrieved: December 29, 2009.

Bell was a supporter of aerospace engineering research through the Aerial Experiment Association (AEA), officially formed at Baddeck, Nova Scotia, in October 1907 at the suggestion of his wife Mabel and with her financial support after the sale of some of her real estate.Gillis, Rannie. Cape Breton Post, September 29, 2008. Retrieved from, April 2, 2010. Retrieved: June 12, 2010. The AEA was headed by Bell and the founding members were four young men: American Glenn H. Curtiss, a motorcycle manufacturer at the time and who held the title "world’s fastest man", having ridden his self-constructed motor bicycle around in the shortest time, and who was later awarded the Scientific American Trophy for the first official one-kilometre flight in the Western hemisphere, and who later became a world-renowned airplane manufacturer; Lieutenant Thomas Selfridge, an official observer from the US Federal government and the only person in the army who believed aviation was the future; Frederick W. Baldwin, the first Canadian and first British subject to pilot a public flight in Hammondsport, New York, and J.A.D. McCurdy —Baldwin and McCurdy being new engineering graduates from the University of Toronto.