Fact Checked

Was Alexander Graham Bell the Real Inventor of the Telephone?

Diana Bocco
Diana Bocco

Alexander Graham Bell, a Scottish-born scientist and inventor, has long been touted as the inventor of the telephone, but this fact has recently been disputed. Bell immigrated to Canada at the age of 23 and immediately developed an interest in communication machines. His first design was a piano that could transmit its music to a distance using electricity. He went on to study at Boston University, where he eventually developed a telephone that could transmit articulate speech. Bell obtained a patent for the telephone on 7 March 1876, partly thanks to his father-in-law, who helped finance his research.

Some years before Bell, Italian-born inventor Antonio Santi Giuseppe Meucci created an apparatus that could transfer voice to a distance. Meucci didn't set out to invent the telephone; all he wanted was a way of communicating between the basement and the first floor of his Staten Island home. This precursor of the telephone came to be in 1871, and just three years later, Meucci published a paper on the invention. Because of monetary concerns, Meucci never pursued a patent for the telephone and lost his place in history.

A telephone.
A telephone.

At about the same time that Bell created a telephone prototype, American-born scientist Elisha Gray was also working on a communications device. Historians now believe that both Gray and Bell invented the telephone at the same time, without knowing about each other. According to official records, Gray filed a provisional patent application, or caveat, for the telephone one hour before Bell. However, Gray's application fee was entered in the cash blotter hours later, giving Bell the advantage. Gray took Bell to court to prove the telephone was actually his invention, but Bell ultimately won and went on record as the official inventor of the telephone.

In most of Europe, Meucci is officially considered the inventor of the telephone, as established by the Enciclopedia Italiana di Scienze, Lettere ed Arti. In June 2002, the United States House of Representatives passed a symbolic bill officially recognizing Meucci as the foremost inventor of the telephone.

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Discussion Comments


Bell and Gray didn't know of each other's work, but they filed their patents on the exact same day? What are the odds of that? I'm sure some information was leaked to Gray by a spy who knew when Bell was going to apply. I smell foul play.


What about the German physicist Johann Philipp Reis who sent his verbal message "A horse doesn't eat cucumber salad", in the year 1861.


With all respect to both of these people who invented the telephone, I believe that invention is not only the creation of a concept, it is how to persuade and market this. Maybe, if Meucci had not been cut by Bell, we still wouldn't have telephone! Or maybe a better telephone.


i also believe that they both invented it but poor meucci worked so hard and lost it because he couldn't pay for it.


The true inventor is Meucci. This is sure. It is ridiculous to believe that Bell is the real inventor.


i have done extensive research and have found Bell to be the real inventor of the telephone.

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      A telephone.