JF Ptak Science Books LLC Post 10
Part (A)--Alex Graham Bell as a Purposefully Forgotten Element in the History of the Telephone,
Part (B) the Author Who Forgets Bell Fails to See the Future of the Telephone as a Communication Device.
Well, Alexander Graham Bell didn't totally disappear in these very early reports on the telephone (published in the very influential Nature, an Illustrated Weekly Journal of the Science, London, May and August, 1876), but might as well have. The author of these two reports, published just on the heals of Bell's announcement in America in March 1876, was J. Munro and he was not a Bell-believer. In these two reports Munro champions Elisha Gray as the inventor of the telephone, and does so with the exclusion of discussing Bell. There are however numerous other references to others working in the field--which was crowded in 1875 and 1876--so at least according to my line of thought the omission of Bell needed to be accomplished with some severe and anti-penetrating thought.
Now it must be stated that the history of the patent for the telephone from 1861 to 1876 is indeed complex and tricky , and there are at least four others who may be considered to have preceded Bell, in some regards that is, but the fact that Bell was granted the patent and that he resisted all claims and attempts at penetration against his patent(s) beginning even within a year of the invention, says something pretty rock-solid about his place in the priority of the invention. Munro does come around to this , somewhat in his early summation and history of the telephone (Heroes of the Telegraph), but his desire for not-Bell comes through very strongly. (It should be noted that Sir William Thomson , who introduced the telephone to Europe in the fall of 1876, thought of it being the most perfect development of the telegraph, a "speaking telegraph" if you will, and hence the name of Munro's book.)
In the second paper (the first appeared 15 May 1876, the second 24 August 1876) Munro continues on with his appreciation of the telephone's musical virtuosity to the exclusion of using the telephone for spoken communication. "There is a possibility here, we must admit, of a curious use of electricity. When we are going to a dancing party there will be no need to provide a musician", he writes, as the dancers will be able to pay their electrician for the privilege of getting their piano via wire. It is understandable to some degree to appreciate the telephone as a sort of radio, but Thomson had by this time made his report of the spectacular sensation of hearing *spoken words* coming from the telephone and what that experiment meant, and it is hard to understand (even at such great distance and hindsight) how Munro could've missed this report from Thomson, and how he could no make the intuitive leap to using the new invention for communication rather than amusement. I think Munro just plain got it wrong, or got it only partially right, which in this case makes him totally wrong.
(I should note here for the sake of clarity that when Thomson heard the spoken words that he missed, or the telephone missed, all of the monosyllables--still, one could assume that improvements would be made and that at some near point they could be understood.)