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What is the history of the telephone?

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Quick Answer

Alexander Graham Bell is credited for inventing the telephone in 1876, but an Italian immigrant named Antonio Meucci originally designed and developed the concept of a talking telegraph or telephone in 1849. After accidentally discovering the science behind transmitting sound via currents, he traveled to New York to patent his work. His plans failed after complications ensued, and Bell eventually patented the telephone five years later.

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Full Answer

Meucci was born in Florence, Italy and moved to Havana, Cuba in 1835. He developed a new method of galvanizing metals that the Cuban government used in military equipment. He then developed a medical treatment entailing electrical shocks, which became popular in Havana. While preparing to administer a shock treatment, a remark from his medical assistant was transmitted through the copper cable running from the next room.

Over the next 10 years, Meucci spent his time perfecting the technology and moved to New York in 1850. He struggled financially after the move and his accomplishments suffered, with failed attempts at selling the rights to his inventions. Eventually, he filed for a caveat, or notice of patent intent, in 1871, but by 1873, it had expired.

In 1876, Alexander Graham Bell filed a patent for the telephone. Meucci attempted to sue Bell, but failed due to Bell's financial advantage. The trial was continuously postponed until Meucci's death in 1889, when the case was dropped. To this day, Bell is credited for inventing the telephone.

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