While famous for his invention of the telephone, Alexander Graham Bell hand many interests. His lively curiosity lead him to experiments in selective breeding, notation for vocal physiology, development of the vaccuum jacket and a sonic metal detector for bullets in the human body. Bell also used light to record sound, worked on developing motor-driven airplanes as well a boat that held the world's record for speed for 71 years.
Alexander Graham Bell's interest in sound and hearing grew naturally from his family background. His mother, and later on, his wife, both were deaf. His father developed a system he called "visible speech" to help hearing-impaired people more easily learn to speak. Watch several people as they talk. How do they move their mouths? What expressions are on their faces? Develop symbols for speech sounds. Use the symbols you have developed in a sentence and see if someone else can read them.
Sound and Communication
When he developed the telephone, Alexander Graham Bell was trying to develop a telegraph that would send more than one message at a time. You can do some experiments with sound yourself. For example, blow up a balloon and hold it next to your ear. When you tap lightly on the balloon, the sound will be much louder in the ear next to the balloon. Alternatively, select two tin cans. Carefully punch a hole into the bottom of each can. Using a string that is at least 10 feet long, thread the ends of the string through the holes in the bottom of each can. Tie a knot in the ends of the string so that it will not pull out. Get a friend to hold one can, while you hold the other. Walk away from each other, pulling the string tightly. One of you can talk or hum into your can while the other holds his can to his ear.
Toward the end of his life, Bell became interested in sheep breeding. He wanted sheep that would have at least two babies at a time. You and your child can develop a genetic experiment by pretending to cross models of mice with different colors of eyes. Use a coin toss to determine what color the offspring's eyes will be. Alternatively, purchase guppies, mice or hamsters to set up your own breeding experiment. Check with your local pet store to see if it will buy back surplus babies.
Bell was working with kites and flying machines before the Wright Brothers. He made a special kind of kite using tetrahedrons. Construct a traditional diamond-shaped kite, a box kite and one of Bell's tetrahedral (triangular pyramid) kites. Fly each one and take notes. Record which kite flew the highest, which was hardest to get off the ground and how long each kite stayed in the air. Keep a record of how they flew in different types of weather conditions.
- Canada Science and Technology Museum: Alexander Graham Bell, 1847-1942
- Kite History: Alexander Graham Bell's Flights of Fancy; M. Robinson
- Library of Congress: Alexander Graham Bell Family Papers
- Science Kids: Alexander Graham Bell Facts
- National Academy of Sciences: Biographical Memoir of Alexander Graham Bell; Harold S. Osborne
- Phys: What did Alexander Graham Bell's voice sound like? Scientists help find out
- Berkley Lab: What Did Alexander Graham Bell’s Voice Sound Like? Berkeley Lab Scientists Help Find Out
- Carnet de Vol: Kite History, Alexander Graham Bell
- A History of Speech-Language Pathology; Judy Duchan
- Judith Felson Duchan
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