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Alexander Graham Bell: Electrical Transmission of Articulate Speech, 1912

Ignorance is Bliss

Hermann von Helmholtz, whose inventions contributed to the scientific renaissance of the 19th century, developed a machine which generated vowel sounds. Alexander Graham Bell investigated this apparatus, which used regulation of tuning fork vibrations to generate its sounds. While Bell did know a great deal about vowel sounds, he knew next to nothing about electricity. This lack of knowledge caused him to form the mistaken idea that Helmholtz's machine actually transmitted vowel sounds, when in actuality it only produced them. However erroneous, this exciting idea prompted Bell to theorize that if vowel sounds could be transmitted over electrical wires, so too could consonant sounds and sounds in general, and his determination to see this feat realized helped drive his determination to construct the telephone.