|Edison, Bell, and Infant Mortality
Thomas A. Edison is born on February 11th 1847 in Ohio, USA, and Alexander Graham Bell is born on March 3rd in Edinburgh Scotland. Born just three weeks apart, they were both triumphant over the dangerously high infant mortality rates of their time. A harsh world took the lives of nearly 25% of all infants born during this period.
The First Transatlantic Cable
Werner von Siemens suggests that gutta-percha be used to preserve electrical wiring form moisture. It is this concept which causes Siemens to become involved in the construction and deployment of the first underground submarine telegraph cables. Unfortunately, this idea is not enough to make the first attempts of laying a submarine telegraph cable between Dove, England, to Calais, France, successful. Both attempts to lay the cable fail in 1850 and 1851 simply because the cable is not strong enough. In the first attempt the cable is cut by a small French fishing boat, and during the second, cable simply snaps from its own weight. Although England is linked to Ireland in 1853, the trial and error would continue for many years before a successful transatlantic cable would link Europe and North America. In 1857, a failed attempt at laying a transatlantic telegraphic cable snaps at a depth of 6000 ft and can not be recovered. However it is not until August 1858, when the 1st transatlantic cable fails after a month due to incompetent engineering that steps are taken to fix the problem. In 1855, Lord Kelvin (William Thomson) made public his theory of electrical signals through submarine cables. When a committee is formed to address the many problems of the failed transatlantic link, Sir Charles Wheatstone (who had been researching the issue since 1846) and Lord Kelvin are asked to guide the investigation direction and scope. Finally, after an extensive re engineering effort, a dependable link was secured in between North America and Europe in July of 1866. Citrus West Field's company in Stockbridge Massachusetts is credited with laying the first telegraph cable across the Atlantic.
Paul Julius Baron von Reuter opens a telegraphic agency in London. The agency had started three years earlier by using a homing pigeon service, which carried stock prices between Brussels, Belgium and Aachen, Germany. In 1858 he will turn the company into a press agency.
On August18th, 1854 Charles Bourseul writes a paper articulating the concept of the telephone. The article is published on the 26th of August in the "L'illustration, Journal Universel". He starts out explaining the basic principle of the electro-magnetic telegraph and the printing telegraph experiments in London. From there he moves to the idea of the speaking telephone:
"I ask myself, for example, if speech itself, couldn't also be transmitted by electricity; in a word, if we couldn't speak in Vienna and be heard in Paris. This is how it can actually be achieved: we know that sounds are made by vibrations and are brought to the ear by the same vibrations reproduced by the intervening medium. Suppose that a man speaks near a movable disk, sufficiently flexible to lose none of the vibrations of the voice; that this disk alternately makes and breaks the currents from a battery; you may have at a distance another disk which will simultaneously executes the same vibrations."
Charles Bourseul had now said in print what had been on the minds of many since the invention of the telegraph.
It is important to note that Philipp Reis was fluent in French. On several occasions we see Reis reference French scientists like De La Rive in letters to Faraday. It is very possible that Reis read Bourseul's article before he invented his telephone in 1860.
Who Was Where in the Global Village of 1855?
By 1855, steamboats delivered the bulk of life-sustaining staples these urban populations grew on riverbanks and canals. The steam engine raced across the railroads and telegraph wires covered over 15,000 land miles in the US and over 20,000 miles in Europe with two cross continental cable connections between Ireland and Canada and the US and Europe. The global village was already growing rapidly in the western world. When we look around that year to see who was where in the global village, we find Philipp Reis, the man who would invent the first physical telephone in just five years, is 18 years old and living in Germany. He has begun correspondence with Michael Faraday, now 63 years old and head of the Royal Institute of London. Herman Von Helmholtz, now 34, is preparing his lecture on tone and the human ear, which he will deliver in Bonn Germany in just 2 years. This speech will directly influence Reis, and, many years later, A.G. Bell. Charles Bourseul had just published a paper on the concept of the telephone the year before in France. Charles Wheatstone now 53 years old was conducting research on submarine telegraph cables designed to carry telegraph messages across the Atlantic. Wheatstone had sold off the rights of his telegraph invention ten years earlier to William Cooke now age 49; who had now expanded their telegraph network throughout England via the railway. Alexander Graham Bell age 8 living with his family in Edinburgh, spending his time playing piano and lying among the heather on Scottish hills. Yeates and Son Instrument Makers and Opticians have established themselves at 2 Grafton St. in Dublin, Ireland. It is there where Stephen Mitchell Yeates will make dramatic improvements in Reiss telephone, which allow it to articulate human speech with great clarity. Across the pond in the US, Heinrich Gobel, an emigrated German watchmaker, had invented the electric light bulb in New York City. Gobel would sue Thomas Edison in court for the patent on the light bulb and win in 1893. Edison was now 8 years old and living at home with his parents in Ohio. The famous promoter of the American telegraph, Samuel Morse, now 64, is reaping his rewards. Joseph Henry at the age of 52 is now the director of the Smithsonian in Washington DC.