An essential portrait of an American giant whose innovations revolutionized the modern world.
The popular image of Alexander Graham Bell is that of an elderly American patriarch, memorable only for his paunch, his Santa Claus beard, and the invention of the telephone. In this magisterial reassessment based on thorough new research, acclaimed biographer Charlotte Gray reveals Bell’s wide-ranging passion for invention and delves into the private life that supported his genius. The child of a speech therapist and a deaf mother, and possessed of superbly acute hearing, Bell developed an early interest in sound. His understanding of how sound waves might relate to electrical waves enabled him to invent the “talking telegraph” be- fore his rivals, even as he undertook a tempestuous courtship of the woman who would become his wife and mainstay.
In an intensely competitive age, Bell seemed to shun fame and fortune. Yet many of his innovations—electric heating, using light to transmit sound, electronic mail, composting toilets, the artificial lung—were far ahead of their time. His pioneering ideas about sound, flight, genetics, and even the engineering of complex structures such as stadium roofs still resonate today.
"I much prefer to read about real people’s lives rather than fiction . . . [and] this is rather good—very well written and researched. Bell was a fascinating man and invented so much more than the telephone. A lot of his work involved sound, including sonar probes and fiber optics. This biography really brings him to life."—Ralph Steadman, Guardian
"Required Reading . . . Gray does an admirable job of collecting facts. . . . Enjoyable."—New York Post
"Splendid . . . A winner . . . Bell emerges from Ms. Gray’s fine book as a brilliant but disorganized inventor whose creations reached the world largely because of the marketing skill of Mabel and her father."—Washington Times
"Gray has the knack for making famous people come alive in her biographies, and she has succeeded once again with this illuminating portrait. . . . This biography of this ingenious celebrity is not the first, but it may be the most fascinating to read. . . . The rich text is enhanced by many black-and-white photographs, drawings, a very useful index, and discussion of the references. Highly recommended."—Choice
"Combining the household history of the Bells with that of Alexander’s successive enthusiasms . . . Gray fairly portrays the attractions and exasperations of Bell’s life."— Booklist
"This is a major biography, it contains original research and understanding into his life combined with an excellent writing style that brings his life to life."—Books-on-Line.com
"A new book by Charlotte Gray is always worth celebrating. She not only loves history, but she is a superb writer."—Calgary Herald
"Charlotte Gray has a knack for making . . . history come alive."—Toronto Star