Bell's early wall telephone, c 1878.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Box telephone made by The Telephone Company Ltd, London, of a design patented on 9 December 1878. After experimenting with various acoustical devices, Bell (1847-1922) produced the first intelligible telephonic transmision with a mesage to his asistant on 5 June 1875. He patented this device as the telephone in 1876, a patent he had to defend against Elisha Gray. Bell, who became a naturalised American in 1874, also invented the phonograph (1880) and the gramophone (1887). Among Bell's other achievements was the photophone which transmitted sound on a beam of light - a precursor of today's optical fibre systems, and the invention of techniques for teaching speech to the deaf.