Who Invented the Telephone?

Antonio Meucci Antonio Meucci

A chi attribuire la paternità del telefono? Ad Antonio Meucci nel 1872 o ad Alexander Graham Bell nel 1876? L’inventore italiano nacque a Firenze da una famiglia modesta e contro il volere del padre si iscrisse all’accademia delle Arti. Per fare fronte alle difficoltà finanziarie si fece però assumere come macchinista in teatro, dove furono immediatamente notate le sue prime invenzioni di alcuni meccanismi di comunicazione. Da Cuba a New York, da ricco imprenditore a squattrinato inventore la cui moglie dovette vendere ad un rigattiere per solo pochi dollari i bozzetti e gli esperimenti del telefono per fare fronte alle spese, le sorti di Meucci si incrociano con quelle di Bell  nel 1872 quando l’italiano consegnò i disegni del suo telettrofono all’American District Telegraph di New York, la società per cui lavorava come consulente Alexander Graham Bell, che a sua volta presentò all’ufficio brevetti il proprio apparecchio telefonico nel 1876. La diatriba continuò per anni in Tribunale tra accuse reciproche. Nel 2002, a 113 anni dalla sua morte, la Camera di Washington ha proclamato Meucci "l'inventore del telefono".

The Scottish-born scientist Alexander Graham Bell is commonly credited as the inventor of the first telephone. Many people question whether he actually was first. Without issue, Bell did important work in communication and was a primary inventor in developing a machine transmitting sound by electricity. He did get a patent on March 7, 1876. Hollywood produced somewhat of a biographical film of Bell in a 1939 black and white movie starring an Italian actor, Don Ameche, but nowhere is there reference to another Italian, Antonio Meucci, who was born in Florence, Italy in 1808.
Meucci was 27-years-old when he relocated to Havana, Cuba where he worked with patients having electric therapy. It was during those sessions of several years, where he conceived the idea and experimented that speech could be transmitted electrically. He moved to the U.S. in 1851, bought a home on Staten Island and opened a candle factory. He continued his interest in transmitting sound and tested with instrument after instrument. He had a working model by 1855 and, in 1860, demonstrated it publicly. Focused on this “pet project,”  his candle factory went belly up, forcing him to survive on public charity. To make matters worse, he was severely injured on a ferryboat excursion and confined to bed for several months. To pay the bills, his wife sold his telefono paper work and instruments for a few dollars to a junk dealer.
In 1871, five years before Bell’s patent, Meucci borrowed $20 to purchase a protective writ for his invention, but could not afford the paperwork filing for a patent. Learning of Bell’s invention, Meucci protested, but to no avail, and sold his intention to Globe Telephone which lost a court battle with the American Bell Telephone Company. The U.S. attorney eventually charged Bell with patent fraud but the criminal case ended when Meucci died in 1889.
Meucci died fully believing he was the first to create a primitive telephone. On June 11, 2002 the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution honoring Antonio Meucci for his key contribution to the invention of the telephone. But, he has been much overshadowed by Bell. To this day, it’s “Ma Bell” – not “Ma Meucci.”