|Philip Reis, Inventor of the Telephone
Philip Reis (1837-1874) a schoolteacher living in Frankfurt, Germany, invented the first functioning physical telephone that he named "Das Phone". It has been very well documented in newspapers, scientific journals and in front of hundreds of spectators, (particularly from 1860 to 1865), that Philipp Reis:
(1) Did invent the telephone i.e. "Das Telephon" with the intention of
(2) In many demonstrations did actually transmit speech with "Das Telephon".
In 1851 Reis became a member of the Physical Society, which held its meetings at the Senckenburg Museum. Lectures covering topics in chemistry and physics were given on a regular weekly basis. Saturday evenings at the Society were spent reviewing the current events in the field of physical science. Some of its honorary members included Herman Von Helmholtz, Michael Faraday, Professor Sturgeon and Sir Charles Wheatstone. Being an active participant in the scientific community he kept up with the research in the field with a specific interest in electricity and magnetism. In 1855 Reis sent a letter to Michael Faraday regarding a recent article Faraday had written. By 1855, Michael Faraday was now well established as the Head of the Royal Society of London. Faraday delivered lectures and published articles on a regular basis which were read throughout Europe. These are the letters on record between Reis and Faraday regarding Electricity and Magnetism:
Professor Reis to Faraday: Berlin: August 9, 1855
Faraday to Professor Reis: Royal Institution November 19th 1855
Professor Reis to Faraday: Berlin: December 10th 1855
After their correspondence, Reis wrote a paper in conjunction with Faraday "On the Action of Non-Conducting Bodies in Electric Induction" which appeared in the January issue of the European "Philosophical Magazine and Journal of Science". Faraday also delivered this paper to the Royal Society in the form of a lecture in 1856. This comes just 4 years before Reis would invent the "Das Phone". It is interesting to note that in this article Reis quotes De la Rive's directly from his famous work "Traite d Electricite". This confirms that Reis read and comprehended French very well. Perhaps Reis comprehended French well enough to read the paper written by Charles Bourseul in1854 which articulated the concept for the telephone.
"How could a single instrument reproduce at once the total actions of all the organs operated in human speech? This was ever the cardinal question. Every tone and every combination of tones evokes in our ear, if it enters it, vibrations whose curves are like those of any given tone, or combination of tones, we shall then receive the same impression as that tone or combination of tones would have produced upon us".
- Philipp Reis
Reis believed that the key in constructing a working device, which would transmit sound over a wire, was to recreate the human ear in a mechanical form. It is obvious that Philipp Reis was dramatically influenced by the work of Herman Von Helmholtz. In1860 Philipp Reis developed the first form of his phone which was absolutely an imitation of the human ear.
At the end of the aperture of Reis's mechanism was a thin membrane, which was constructed of sausage skin to create an imitation of the human tympanum. Against the center of the sausage skin membrane rested the lower end of a small curved lever of platinum wire, which represented the "hammer" bone of the ear. In short, when a person spoke into the "ear" the sound waves caused the membrane or sausage skin to vibrate. These vibrations would then set the "hammer" in motion, as does the hammer bone in the human ear. This now caused the upper lever of Reis's configuration to vary. When that lever was put into motion by the vibrating membrane it caused the electrical contact to move as an open or closed circuit, which either allowed current to flow with great strength or interrupted the passage of current and caused the current to flow less freely. The second form of the Reis phone, "the tin tube", was also modeled after the ear's pinna or ear flap, auditory passage and the drum skin. (Thompson, Pg 16,17) The basic principle of all forms of the Reis phone was very simple. Reis's devices were designed to imitate the mechanism of the human ear by using a current of electricity by varying the degree of contact at the loose joint in the electrical circuit.
Over the next three years Reis builds ten forms of the transmitter and three different forms of the receiver. Its important to note that the second of Reiss receiver was an electro-magnetic receiver, which was the form of receiver pursued by Bell, Edison, Blake and many others in the mid 1870s. It is unfortunate that Reis abandoned his electro-magnetic receiver so early in his research. Years later other inventors would construct electro-magnetic receivers and use them with "Das Phone" transmitters with great success.
Exhibition of the Telephone to the Naturalists' Association of Germany
(Deutsche Naturforscher Versammlung.)
September 21st 1864
Poggendorff (Berlin), Herman Von Helmholtz (Heidelberg), and E.W. Blake (New Haven, USA student) were just a few of the many great scientific minds of Germany which were present for the experiment. The early morning test run did not go very well, however the afternoon demonstration of the device was an absolute success which met with tremendous applause from the large audience. It was at this demonstration that Philipp Reis was at his best. Reis was relaxed when he spoke to this distinguished group in the afternoon. He was able to trace his concepts from his first ideas on how the device might work right through the final invention which included a live transmission of human speech. It was his easy and honest delivery which won people over. Both the demonstration of his phone and Reis's lecture were the subject of many articles written by the observers which appeared in prestigious publications like Muller-Pouillet's "Textbook of Physics" (Lehrbuch der Physik), Hessler's "Technical Physics", Pisko's "Recent Apparatus of Acoustics" and particularly in Kuhn's admirable "Handbook of Applied Electricity".