Alexander Graham Bell

On March 10, 1876, Alexander Graham Bell conducted a successful experiment with the telephone. This breakthrough, during which he uttered his famous directive to his assistant, Thomas Watson, is recorded in the March 10 entry in his 1875-1876 Lab Notebook.

Mr. Watson — come here — I want to see you.

March 10 1876 entry, Notebook by Alexander Graham Bell, from 1875 to 1876. Alexander Graham Bell Family Papers at the Library of Congress. Manuscript Division

Bell’s Lab Notebook, March 10, 1876. Reason Gallery A, American Treasures of the Library of Congress.

That same day, an ebullient Bell wrote his father of his “great success” and speculated that “the day is coming when telegraph wires will be laid on to houses just like water and gas — and friends converse with each other without leaving home.”

Born on March 3, 1847, in Edinburgh, Scotland, Alexander Graham Bell was the son and grandson of authorities in elocution and the correction of speech. Educated to pursue a career in the same specialty, his knowledge of the nature of sound led him not only to teach the deaf, but also to invent the telephone.

Alexander Graham Bell at the opening of the long-distance line from New York to Chicago [October 18, 1892]. Gilbert H. Grosvenor Collection of Photographs of the Alexander Graham Bell Family. Prints & Photographs Division.

Bell’s unceasing scientific curiosity led to invention of the photophone, to significant commercial improvements in Thomas Edison’s phonograph, and to development of his own flying machine just six years after the Wright Brothers launched their plane at Kitty Hawk. As President James Garfield lay dying of an assassin’s bullet in 1881, Bell hurriedly invented a metal detector in an unsuccessful attempt to locate the fatal slug.

In 1915, fifty-four years after telegraph lines connected America’s coasts, transcontinental telephone lines were completed. Invited to play a role in the formal dedication of the line in New York, Bell used a duplicate of his 1876 telephone to speak to his former assistant, Thomas Watson, in San Francisco. Echoing his famous words of March 10, 1876, Bell again commanded, “Mr. Watson, come here, I want you.” Watson replied that it would take him a week to do so.

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