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When I think of Alexander Graham Bell, I Think of . . . Kites?

Alexander Graham Bell, The tetrahedral principle in kite structure, p.39 Box-kite gliderNot usually. Like most folks, I associate Bell with the telephone. But apparently the inventor didn't stop there.

The son of an elocutionist, he had always been interested in speech and sound, particularly in regard to the deaf. He worked, as a teacher, with many children and young people, either deaf from birth, or, like Helen Keller and his eventual bride, Mabel Gardiner Hubbard, deaf as the result of an illnessin Mabel's case a bout of scarlet fever as a child, in Helen's most likely meningitis or also possibly scarlet fever. This interest in sound led to his experiments with the "harmonic telegraph," which later became the telephone.

But Bell was also interested in aeronautics, especially tetrahedral box kites.

As one of the founding members of the National Geographic Society, and later its second president, Bell made an address on the subject, which is in the Libraries' National Air and Space Museum Library collection, The tetrahedral principle in kite structure.

So today, while I am attempting to get a kite airborne at the 44th Annual Smithsonian Kite Festival, I will be thinking of Alexander Graham Bell, and keeping my eyes open for flying tetrahedrons.—Elizabeth Periale

Image: Alexander Graham Bell, The tetrahedral principle in kite structure, p.39 Box-kite glider

Alexander Graham Bell was also a regent of the Smithsonian Institution, and one of the things he felt strongly about was that James Smithson's remains should be brought to the Smithsonian. He went to Italy in 1903 to accomplish this, and Smithson is now interred in the Smithsonian Castle. Here are some additional interesting Smithsonian links that relate to Alexander Graham Bell:

Alexander Graham Bell Did More Than Just Invent the Telephone

Portrait of Alexander Graham Bell (1847-1922), Engineer

Alexander Graham Bell's telephone prototypes, 1876

Alexander Graham Bell's Large Box Telephone

Invention at Play: Alexander Graham Bell

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