Alexander Graham Bell's Delightfully Weird Sketchbooks

More

It was on March 10, 1876 that Alexander Graham Bell made the first successful telephone call. "'Mr. Watson--come here--I want to see you," he said to his assistant, who was in the next room. Bell recorded those early telephone experiments in his lab notebooks from the time, as he did with countless other experiments and ideas.

The books are a priceless treasure of an incredibly fertile mind working through one of the most exciting periods of technological innovation in the history of the world. The sketches, though, are more than just dry recordings of physical principles. Bell's drawings are expressive in ways that few technical sketches are. Little flourishes and annotations make paging through his drawings a delight.

Sadly, his handwriting doesn't have the same precision as his drawings. You'll probably have as tough a time as I did making out his intentions. Nonetheless, we can appreciate Bell's genius even without the full explanations of what he was thinking.

Bell's notebooks have been preserved by the Library of Congress, which digitized them, turning them into one of the Internet's real treasures. We present a selection of the best images here.

Jump to comments
Presented by

Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science website in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

Why Do People Love Times Square?

A filmmaker asks New Yorkers and tourists about the allure of Broadway's iconic plaza


Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Why Do People Love Times Square?

A filmmaker asks New Yorkers and tourists about the allure of Broadway's iconic plaza

Video

A Time-Lapse of Alaska's Northern Lights

The beauty of aurora borealis, as seen from America's last frontier

Video

What Do You Wish You Learned in College?

Ivy League academics reveal their undergrad regrets

Video

Famous Movies, Reimagined

From Apocalypse Now to The Lord of the Rings, this clever video puts a new spin on Hollywood's greatest hits.

Video

What Is a City?

Cities are like nothing else on Earth.

Writers

Up
Down

More in Technology

Just In