Who Invented the Telephone?

Alexander Graham Bell owns the patent for the electric telephone (1876). He also has the patent for the phone master patent. But as the history of the telephone will show, several inventors played pivotal roles in its development.


From the 1840s to Mid 1870s

The very first notion of a telephone occurred in 1844 when Innocenzo Manzetti brought up the idea of a speaking telegraph. But it was in 1849 when Antonio Meucci showed an apparatus capable of communication. However not much is known about this invention.

In 1860 some claimed that a German inventor named Johann Reis utilized a device whereby voices were supposedly heard. A year later Reis was able to electrically relay a voice over 300 ft away.

In 1874, Elisha Gray displayed an electrical apparatus that sent melodies via telegraph wire. A year later Alexander Graham Bell used an electronic device to relay sounds, which would prove crucial in the history of the telephone.

The Gray / Graham Bell Issue

This was a crucial point in the development of the telephone. In 1876 Gray sent a caveat to the Patent Office for the phone. That same day (Feb 14) but five hours later, Graham Bell applied for a patent for the phone.

Because Gray did not turn his caveat into a patent, the patent was given to Graham Bell. On March 10, 1876, Graham Bell made the first call to his associate Watson. The words were ”Come here Watson, I want you.”

In August of the same year Graham Bell conducted the first long distance call to Ontario, a first in the history of the telephone. That same year a Hungarian scientist named Tivadar Puskas created the phone switchboard.


In October that year Graham Bell performed the first two way long distance call from Boston and Cambridge. A couple of years later the Telephone Company Ltd was inaugurated in Britain. It was the first phone exchange in Europe.

Late 1870s to the 1900s

In September 1879, the dial phone was created. A couple of years later the American Bell Telephone Company was formed, and five years later AT&T appeared. In 1890 the Bell patent expired and several companies started making innovations that changed the history of the telephone.

In 1915 a transcontinental call was made between Tom Watson (San Francisco) and Graham Bell (New York). A dozen years later the first transatlantic call is made from Missouri to the UK. In 1935, a telephone call around the world was made.

1941 saw the introduction of multi frequency dialing and in 1946 area cedes started appearing. The 1950s saw the emergence of DDD (direct distance dialing) in the UK. Modems came out in 1958 and the touch tone three years later. In 1973 a hand held cell phone call is conducted. Five years later cellular networks started to appear.

Since that time the history of the telephone has witnessed numerous changes and innovations. While other forms of communication exist today, the telephone remains an integral part in homes and offices. It is likely to be so for many years to come.