alexander graham bell

Mention the name Alexander Graham Bell and people will automatically think telephone.

But although he gave ‘voice to the world’ by inventing the telephone, the telephone is only one of many and varied world-changing inventions of Alexander Graham Bell.

In 1881, when U.S. President James A. Garfiled was shot and the doctors couldn’t locate one of the bullets lodged in his body, despite vigorous probing, they called on Alexander Graham Bell. That’s right. They wanted the ‘telephone man’ to invent a device that would find the bullets.

And he did, creating a prototype for the world’s first working metal detector. The machine worked well; sadly, due to interference of the metal springs on the bed the patient was lying on, the device wasn’t able to find the bullet and save the President.

This was but one of the fascinating facts I learned during a visit to the Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site/Museum at the small lakeside town of Baddeck in Cape Breton, Canada.

The museum, built on the shoreline of the Bras d’Or Lakes, contains Bell’s hundreds of his research papers, artifacts, and inventions.

Bell, it turns out, had a never-ending curiosity for scientific exploration and research and dabbled in everything from kite flying, hydroplanes, and artificial respiration.

He played a lead role in the birth of Canadian aviation, designing and building the Silver Dart.

alexander graham bell silver dart

A replica of this flimsy spruce, bamboo, and canvas airplane, which made the first powered flight in Canada in 1909,  is now housed in the museum.

So too is a full -scale model of his HD-4 hydrofoil boat that was tested on the lake.

Far ahead of his time, Bell experimented with compositing toilets, devices that would capture water from the environment and heat from the sun.

This man was a true serial inventor, something very obvious as you wander through the rooms of the museum.

Even more interesting, from a travel perspective, is the fact that Bell was one of the original founders of the National Geographic Society (and it’s second president). And it is Bell who, with his passion for pictures, was instrumental in making photography a priority of the magazine.

More than that, he had a passion for discovering the unknown.

Don’t keep forever on the public road, going only where others have gone. Leave the beaten track occasionally and dive into the woods. You will be certain to find something you have never seen before.” – Alexander Graham Bell

 (photos@Liz Lewis 2013)

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Liz Lewis is a New Zealand based writer who favors wine tasting and food markets over bungy jumping and mountain climbing.