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Google Honors a Thief

I like how Google sometimes changes its graphic to mark holidays or other important days. Today, this is the image that appears on the Google home page.


For those of you who do not know, today is Alexander Graham Bell’s birthday. Hence the cute little old man with the antique phone.

What most of you don’t know is that Bell was a fraud and a thief.

In the 1830s, Antonio Meucci moved from Tuscany to Cuba. While he was there, he was working on electric stimulation of illnesses. His research revealed that sounds could be made to travel through copper wire in the form of electrical impulses. He moved to Staten Island in the 1850s to work on his telephone project.

When Meucci’s wife, Ester, became paralysed he rigged a system to link her bedroom with his neighbouring workshop and in 1860 held a public demonstration which was reported in New York’s Italian-language press… Meucci struggled to find financial backing, failed to master English and was severely burned in an accident aboard a steamship.

Forced to make new prototype telephones after [his wife]Ester sold his machines for $6 to a secondhand shop, his models became more sophisticated. An inductor formed around an iron core in the shape of a cylinder was a technique so sophisticated that it was used decades later for long-distance connections.

Meucci could not afford the $250 needed for a definitive patent for his “talking telegraph” so in 1871 filed a one-year renewable notice of an impending patent. Three years later he could not even afford the $10 to renew it.

He sent a model and technical details to the Western Union telegraph company but failed to win a meeting with executives. When he asked for his materials to be returned, in 1874, he was told they had been lost. Two years later Bell, who shared a laboratory with Meucci, filed a patent for a telephone, became a celebrity and made a lucrative deal with Western Union.

Meucci sued and was nearing victory – the supreme court agreed to hear the case and fraud charges were initiated against Bell – when the Florentine died in 1889. The legal action died with him. (source)

See also, Who is credited as inventing the telephone? Was it Alexander Graham Bell, Elisha Gray, or Antonio Meucci?

Bell is certainly unworthy of the honor that Google has bestowed upon him.

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