Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Invention of telephone and national heritage

Sirio187: Telecom Italia telephone with caller ID and SMS - 2000

Who invented the telephone?
Yet we can't be sure at 100%. The problem is that an invention isn't only an artefact but often it is seen as a part of national heritage (similar thing about the invention of radio, i already wrote about it).

From Wikipedia:

the history of the invention of the telephone is a confusing collection of claims and counterclaims, made no less confusing by the many lawsuits which attempted to resolve the patent claims of several individuals

In the USA Alexander Graham Bell (1847-1922) for very long time was credited with inventing the telephone: patent 174,465 (see the 6-page patent here), including the claim on transmitting vocal sounds, was issued to Bell on 7 March 1876 by the U.S. Patent Office.
But things are much more complicated.

On 11th June 2002 the US House of Representatives passed the second version of bill number H.RES.269 EH

Whereas Antonio Meucci, the great Italian inventor, had a career that was both extraordinary and tragic; (Engrossed as Agreed to or Passed by House)


H. Res. 269

In the House of Representatives, U.S.,

June 11, 2002.

Whereas Antonio Meucci, the great Italian inventor, had a career that was both extraordinary and tragic;

Whereas, upon immigrating to New York, Meucci continued to work with ceaseless vigor on a project he had begun in Havana, Cuba, an invention he later called the `teletrofono', involving electronic communications;

Whereas Meucci set up a rudimentary communications link in his Staten Island home that connected the basement with the first floor, and later, when his wife began to suffer from crippling arthritis, he created a permanent link between his lab and his wife's second floor bedroom;

Whereas, having exhausted most of his life's savings in pursuing his work, Meucci was unable to commercialize his invention, though he demonstrated his invention in 1860 and had a description of it published in New York's Italian language newspaper;

Whereas Meucci never learned English well enough to navigate the complex American business community;

Whereas Meucci was unable to raise sufficient funds to pay his way through the patent application process, and thus had to settle for a caveat, a one year renewable notice of an impending patent, which was first filed on December 28, 1871;

Whereas Meucci later learned that the Western Union affiliate laboratory reportedly lost his working models, and Meucci, who at this point was living on public assistance, was unable to renew the caveat after 1874;

Whereas in March 1876, Alexander Graham Bell, who conducted experiments in the same laboratory where Meucci's materials had been stored, was granted a patent and was thereafter credited with inventing the telephone;

Whereas on January 13, 1887, the Government of the United States moved to annul the patent issued to Bell on the grounds of fraud and misrepresentation, a case that the Supreme Court found viable and remanded for trial;

Whereas Meucci died in October 1889, the Bell patent expired in January 1893, and the case was discontinued as moot without ever reaching the underlying issue of the true inventor of the telephone entitled to the patent; and

Whereas if Meucci had been able to pay the $10 fee to maintain the caveat after 1874, no patent could have been issued to Bell: Now, therefore, be it

    Resolved, That it is the sense of the House of Representatives that the life and achievements of Antonio Meucci should be recognized, and his work in the invention of the telephone should be acknowledged.

After over a century Antonio Meucci (1808-1889) is credited with the invention of telephone ... but Alexander Graham Bell is a hero in Canada (he spent years in Canada and he died on 2 August 1922, at his private estate, Beinn Bhreagh, Nova Scotia, at age 75) and after 10 days we have news from canadian Parliament:

Friday, June 21, 2002

Oral question period

Mr. Bob Speller (Haldimand—Norfolk—Brant, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Canadian Heritage.

The minister must be aware now of the silly goings on in the United States capital where the U.S. house of representatives passed a motion claiming that somebody other than Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone.

I am wondering if the minister will take the time to inform the U.S. congress that indeed yes, Virginia, Alexander Graham Bell did invent the telephone.

Hon. Sheila Copps (Minister of Canadian Heritage, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, this is one planted question that will bear fruit.

The member for Haldimand--Norfolk--Brant has raised a very important point. It has also been raised by my colleague from Brantford and by members on all sides of the House.

I am very pleased to report that right after question period I hope we will be able to table a unanimous resolution of all members of the House recognizing the fact that the real inventor of the telephone was indeed Alexander Graham Bell.

and later the same day:

Routine Proceedings

Alexander Graham Bell

Hon. Sheila Copps (Minister of Canadian Heritage, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the House for unanimous consent on the following motion, which has been discussed with all parties, regarding Alexander Graham Bell. I move:

This House affirms that Alexander Graham Bell of Brantford, Ontario and Baddeck, Nova Scotia is the inventor of the telephone.

The Speaker: Does the hon. Minister of Canadian Heritage have the unanimous consent of the House to propose this motion?

Some hon. members: Agreed.

The Speaker: Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Some hon. members: Agreed.

(Motion agreed to)

Hon. Sheila Copps: Mr. Speaker, might I suggest that we forward a copy of this to the congress in the United States so they get their facts straight?

Not a word about Antonio Meucci, not a single evidence about the invention. Is the important thing to discover the truth about history or to save the national heritage?

There is even a second controversy about a race to the patent office between Elisha Gray (1835-1901) and Alexander Graham Bell (again!): I don't know who should be credited but I do know that Bell is a legend and Gray is completely unknown by the masses...


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