Bell of a time in Nova Scotia

Many people understand that Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone, and although his invention has had an enormous influence on our day-to-day lives, the telephone was just one of his many interests.

Although born in Edinburgh, Scotland, and later becoming a naturalised citizen of the United States, Bell often seemed happiest at his estate in the town of Baddeck on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia, Canada.

Today his life and work are both celebrated and commemorated at the Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site in Baddeck, which is open to the public.

Bell was certainly an extraordinary man, and he had an interest in speech because both his mother and his wife were deaf. Bell not only had an interest in speech, but a good ear for languages as well, and at one stage taught himself to speak the language of the Mohawk and translated its unwritten language. Because of his, and his father’s, interest in communicating with the deaf they devised a way to write a visible speech using symbols, to help the deaf communicate.

He began inventing at an early age. At age 12 he invented a de-husker for a flour mill. Other inventions for which he is credited include the metal detector and the hydrofoil, and he also invented the basic technology which would later be used to produce tape recorders, hard disks and floppy disks.

At the Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site exhibits show how Bell and his associates achieved Canada’s first powered flight with their airplane Silver Dart, produced the world’s fastest boat, advanced recording technology, designed giant kites and, of course, invented the telephone.

The major historical resources at the site are the large collection of artefacts related to Alexander Graham Bell’s research, which he conducted both at Baddeck and elsewhere; books, photographs and copies of material from his personal archives; and various personal items, furniture and awards received by Bell during his lifetime. Most artefacts are original, but there are some reproductions that are also valuable, particularly ones such as the HD-4 reconstruction, which incorporate original parts. Some archival materials are original, others are valuable copies of original transcriptions located elsewhere.

Alexander Graham Bell and his wife Mabel were popular citizens in the town who participated in many community events, so it is fitting that this man of science who was a great humanitarian with an unquenchable curiosity should be so celebrated in the town that meant so much to him.

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