Bell telephone, 1878.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Bell telephone in mahogany case made by the Silvertown Company, one of the earliest telephones to be made in England. Alexander Graham Bell (1847-1922) was born in Scotland but emigrated to the United States, settling in Boston where he began his career as an inventor. On 7 March 1876, he secured a patent for an electrical speech machine, which he called the telephone. After showing the instrument at the American Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia in June, news of the invention spread throughout Europe. He was asked to demonstrate the telephone to Queen Victoria (1819-1901) at Osborne House, on the Isle of Wight. On the evening of 14th January 1878 contact was made with nearby Osborne Cottage and terminals in Southampton and London.