On the 10th March 1876, Scottish-born inventor Alexander Graham Bell made the first successful telephone call when he contacted his assistant, Thomas Watson. Bell recorded in his journal that he shouted the phrase, “Mr. Watson, come here – I want to see you” and Watson soon appeared, saying that he heard the words clearly.
Bell moved with his family to Canada when he was 23 years old, where he continued his previous work on hearing and speech. His father was a renowned phonetician, and his mother had gradually become deaf through his teenage years, both of whom had a strong impact on their son’s work. By 1871, however, he had moved to Boston where he trained teachers of the deaf.
It was while in Boston that Bell’s experiments with sound waves and electricity led to him developing a telegraph-like system to transmit the vibrations associated with speech. His harmonic telegraph was patented on the same day as fellow inventor Elisha Gray filed a similar caveat with the U.S. Patent Office. Although Bell was awarded patent 174,465 on the 7th March, there continues to be considerable debate over whether Bell stole the telephone from Gray. However it wasn’t until three days later – and while using a liquid transmitter similar to Gray’s design – that he succeeded in getting his idea to work. Despite legal challenges, however, the courts always upheld Bell’s claim to the invention. Bell never used the liquid transmitter in public demonstrations, focusing instead on his own electromagnetic design. Fellow inventor Thomas Alva Edison later made a significant improvement to the telephone with his invention of the carbon microphone.