Alexander Graham Bell

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Alexander Graham Bell : biography

March 3, 1847 – August 2, 1922

On learning of Bell’s death, the Canadian Prime Minister, Mackenzie King, cabled Mrs. Bell, saying: [The Government expresses] to you our sense of the world’s loss in the death of your distinguished husband. It will ever be a source of pride to our country that the great invention, with which his name is immortally associated, is a part of its history. On the behalf of the citizens of Canada, may I extend to you an expression of our combined gratitude and sympathy.

Bell’s coffin was constructed of Beinn Bhreagh pine by his laboratory staff, lined with the same red silk fabric used in his tetrahedral kite experiments. To help celebrate his life, his wife asked guests not to wear black (the traditional funeral color) while attending his service, during which soloist Jean MacDonald sang a verse of Robert Louis Stevenson’s "Requiem":Bethune 2009, pp. 119–120. Under a wide and starry sky, Dig the grave and let me lie. Glad did I live and gladly die And I lay me down with a will.

Upon the conclusion of Bell’s funeral, "every phone on the continent of North America was silenced in honor of the man who had given to mankind the means for direct communication at a distance".Osborne, Harold S. National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, Bibliographical Memoirs, Volume XXIII, First Memoir. Annual Meeting presentation, 1943, pp. 18–19.

Dr. Alexander Graham Bell was buried atop Beinn Bhreagh mountain, on his estate where he had resided increasingly for the last 35 years of his life, overlooking Bras d’Or Lake. He was survived by his wife Mabel, his two daughters, Elsie May and Marian, and nine of his grandchildren. The New York Times, August 3, 1922. Retrieved: July 21, 2007. Quote: Dr. Alexander Graham Bell, inventor of the telephone, died at 2 o’clock this morning at Beinn Breagh, his estate near Baddeck."Descendants of Alexander Melville Bell – Three Generations". Bell Telephone Company of Canada Historical Collection and Company Library (undated), from the Brant Historical Society, June 2012.

Eugenics

Bell was connected with the eugenics movement in the United States. In his lecture Memoir upon the formation of a deaf variety of the human race presented to the National Academy of Sciences on November 13, 1883 he noted that congenitally deaf parents were more likely to produce deaf children and tentatively suggested that couples where both parties were deaf should not marry.Bell, Alexander Graham. Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf, 1883. However, it was his hobby of livestock breeding which led to his appointment to biologist David Starr Jordan’s Committee on Eugenics, under the auspices of the American Breeders Association. The committee unequivocally extended the principle to man.Bruce 1990, pp. 410–417. From 1912 until 1918 he was the chairman of the board of scientific advisers to the Eugenics Record Office associated with Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York, and regularly attended meetings. In 1921, he was the honorary president of the Second International Congress of Eugenics held under the auspices of the American Museum of Natural History in New York. Organisations such as these advocated passing laws (with success in some states) that established the compulsory sterilization of people deemed to be, as Bell called them, a "defective variety of the human race". By the late 1930s, about half the states in the U.S. had eugenics laws, and California’s compulsory sterilization law was used as a model for that of Nazi Germany.Lusane 2003, p. 124.

Work with the deaf

Bell’s father was invited by Sarah Fuller, principal of the Boston School for Deaf Mutes (which continues today as the public Horace Mann School for the Deaf),Bruce 1990, p. 74. in Boston, Massachusetts, to introduce the Visible Speech System by providing training for Fuller’s instructors, but he declined the post, in favor of his son. Traveling to Boston in April 1871, Bell proved successful in training the school’s instructors.Town 1988, p. 12. He was subsequently asked to repeat the program at the American Asylum for Deaf-mutes in Hartford, Connecticut, and the Clarke School for the Deaf in Northampton, Massachusetts.