We all know the story of the day Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone: he spilled acid on his hand when fiddling with his invention in the attic and cried out in pain. His friend, downstairs and on the other side of the line, heard Bell yell out, and they both realized that Bell’s invention worked! But have you ever wondered what the great inventor’s voice sounded like over his telephone? Well now you can!
In the 188o’s, Bell gave his extensive collection of laboratory materials to the Smithsonian Institution, where he was a member of the Board of Regents. That collection included many discs and cylinders that Bell had used to try to record himself documenting his research in order to keep his ideas safe from other inventors. They contained research anticipating fiber-optic communications, recording devices, and extensive light research. These valuable recordings have been unplayable until recently since Bell kept his method of playing the sound back a tight secret.
Previously lost recordings of muffled voices recited Hamlet, number sequences, and “Mary Had a Little Lamb” can now be played back on the computer. One such recording of Bell speaking in which he says “In witness whereof – hear my voice, Alexander Graham Bell” can be heard here.