Join 3,512 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Bell's-lettres
March 11, 2011 2:38 AM   Subscribe

Alexander Graham Bell's Delightfully Weird Sketchbooks . You know him as the inventor of the telephone, but Graham Bell also came up with horse-pulled kites, really sweet airplanes, "ghost effects" with an "elliptical reflector", and a better seesaw. More of Bell's papers from the Library of Congress.
posted by twoleftfeet (24 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
Well, anyway, I'm pretty sure that the "ghost effects" with an "elliptical reflector" would involve a person seated at the center of a mirrored elliptical room, with the source-image located at one focus and the ghost image appearing at the other focus, according to the reflection property of an ellipse. Such a thing works well enough for sound.
posted by twoleftfeet at 3:05 AM on March 11, 2011


Is that the Angel of Death on the seesaw?
posted by cropshy at 3:09 AM on March 11, 2011


I thought it was Jesus, he's with you always.
posted by _Lasar at 3:39 AM on March 11, 2011


Those Scots Canadians Americans created everything.
posted by clvrmnky at 3:52 AM on March 11, 2011


He also doesn't get enough credit for inventing the pepper.
posted by Wolfdog at 4:35 AM on March 11, 2011


...And then he worked on a machine to communicate with the dead. Kind of scary telephone, I guess. Or maybe he planned to just stick his head under the ground and yell.
posted by incomple at 4:44 AM on March 11, 2011


I think the mystery contraption for launching wheels might be a device like one of these whirly-copter toys:

http://www.alibaba.com/product-gs/293773354/LED_Whirly_Propeller_Flyer.html
posted by bonobothegreat at 4:46 AM on March 11, 2011


Given that the man carrying telegraph wire just happens to be holding something up to his ear suggests to me that he's not carrying telegraph cable for the purpose of moving it from point A to point B.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 5:15 AM on March 11, 2011


The US Congress has recognised that Bell didn't invent the telephone, but stole the idea from a guy (Meucci) he shared a lab with.

I don't know the truth; maybe someone more knowlegeable can shed light.
posted by surenoproblem at 5:16 AM on March 11, 2011


When I was a kid we visited a Bell museum, I think Baddeck.
What surprised and delighted me the most was the tetrahedral kites.
posted by MtDewd at 5:19 AM on March 11, 2011


Isn't that strange airplane based on the Sierpinski triangle?
posted by Enron Hubbard at 5:37 AM on March 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think it's Samara on the see-saw, which, in a way, means he predicted VHS as well!
posted by Scoo at 6:20 AM on March 11, 2011


Bell was also pretty dickish towards the deaf, as he was a eugenicist and preferred to see deafness bred out of humanity. One of his means of seeing that through was helping fund the Clarke School for the deaf in Northmapton, MA and ensuring that they forbid sign language (so that deaf students wouldn't sign and would mingle more in non-deaf circles and would be more likely to marry non-deaf and be more likely to have hearing children...).
posted by plinth at 6:48 AM on March 11, 2011


He also invented the photophone, a telephone that used modulated light to transmit the signal. It resulted in one of the more delightfully bizarre Victorian science engravings I have ever come across and this choice commentary in the New York Times:

"The ordinary man ... will find a little difficulty in comprehending how sunbeams are to be used. Does Prof. Bell intend to connect Boston and Cambridge ... with a line of sunbeams hung on telegraph posts, and, if so, what diameter are the sunbeams to be ....[and] will it be necessary to insulate them against the weather ..... until (the public) sees a man going through the streets with a coil of No. 12 sunbeams on his shoulder, and suspending them from pole to pole, there will be a general feeling that there is something about Professor Bell's photophone which places a tremendous strain on human credulity." [via]
posted by nTeleKy at 7:57 AM on March 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


The US Congress has recognised that Bell didn't invent the telephone, but stole the idea from a guy (Meucci) he shared a lab with.--surenoproblem

Meucci submitted a patent at almost the exact time as Alexander Graham Bell, so there have been all kinds of crazy stories circulating ever since (he was certainly not a lab partner).

Wikipedia has a good overview. Basically, this guy's submitted patent application had nothing indicating a working telephone. It was more of the 'wire and two cups' type of telephone. So he lost in subsequent trials. It is only afterwards that his lawyer started claiming that his invention covered all the things in Bell's invention. But there is no evidence that this is true.
posted by eye of newt at 8:02 AM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


He also doesn't get enough credit for inventing the pepper.

Or the bell, for that matter.
posted by Flashman at 8:27 AM on March 11, 2011


He also developed a hydro-foil boat that he terrorized the locals with.
Shown briefly in the BADDECK link.
posted by Jumpin Jack Flash at 8:27 AM on March 11, 2011


Triforce plane!
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 8:33 AM on March 11, 2011


The hydrofoil in the Baddeck museum is pretty awesome. It looks like a torpedo on skates.
posted by Pseudoephedrine at 9:47 AM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


What surprised and delighted me the most was the tetrahedral kites.

When I was a teenager, I had a Bell four-celled tetrahedral kite. I remember buying it from the MIT Coop Bookstore, so it was a fairly nerdy thing. It flew well and was very stable, and it was unusual enough to draw some attention. It was made from snap-together plastic modular parts, I always wanted to buy a whole bunch of them and assemble them to make a larger kite.
posted by charlie don't surf at 2:55 PM on March 11, 2011


See-saw that will not come down with a bump if the boy jumps off.

What fun is that?
posted by maniabug at 4:35 PM on March 11, 2011


Here, he provides the helpful annotation "This is a man!"

Hah!
posted by mellavellum at 8:53 PM on March 11, 2011


Tesla, eat your heart out.
posted by Apocryphon at 3:06 PM on March 12, 2011


The NYT commentary is hilarious, but it basically boils down to the typical "how can companies control/make money off of that". The photophone is in regular use today. We call it "wireless communications". The only real difference is that Bell wanted to use the sun, but I assume that's only because lasers and (portable) radio transmitters hadn't been invented yet.
posted by DU at 4:48 AM on March 14, 2011


« Older What's in Spock's Scanner - Part 1...  |  The Crumble Song (Bombay Mix) ... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments