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Alexander Graham Bell: Electrical Transmission of Articulate Speech, 1912

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In 1858, Alexander Melville (called Melville) and Eliza Bell purchased a pleasantly rustic two-storey stucco house in Trinity, located in the environs of Edinburgh. Their neighbors in Trinity included a lively family called Herdman, who operated a nearby flour mill. A number of photographs survive from this and other periods of Aleck's life, due to Melville's contagious fascination with photography. In his early teens, photos and descriptions reveal that Aleck was tall, dark and handsome, with a trademark habit of flicking his long locks back over his shoulders.

The dashing youth was first encouraged to invent at age eleven or twelve, when the rowdy behavior of Aleck and Ben Herdman prompted Ben's father to exasperatedly question the boys, "Why don't you do something useful?" Intrigued by the idea, Aleck asked John Herdman how he could be of use. The man replied that he needed help taking the husks off of wheat. In response, Aleck combined a windmill-like machine consisting of rotation paddles with a nail brush, creating a dehusking machine that was put into operation and used steadily for a number of years. Many years later, Alexander Graham Bell wrote on his youth at the flour mill: "So far as I remember, Mr. Herdman's injunction to do something useful was my first incentive to invention, and the method of cleaning wheat the first fruit."