By Rick Bretz
John Roebling and Alexander Graham Bell conquered barriers. John Roebling practiced construction engineering to break down barriers while Alexander Graham Bell used the art of communication transmitted by wires and electrical engineered devices. One is famous for the Brooklyn Bridge while another is famous for the telephone. However, both men accomplished much more during their lives than just those achievements they are known for in history books. John Roebling pioneered the construction of suspension bridges and built more in Pennsylvania, Ohio and other places as well as running a successful business in New Jersey. Bell in addition to inventing and perfecting the telephone, founded a school for speech and communication. He also helped many people with diction and voice problems so they could function better during their daily lives.
Similarities between Roebling and Bell
Alexander Graham Bell
Johann Augustus Roebling
|Born: March 3, 1847-Edinburgh, Scotland||Born: June 12, 1806-Muhlhausen, Prussia|
|Engineer, inventor, linguist, scientist||Civil Engineer, innovator, designer, businessman|
|Educated overseas: Edinburgh University||Educated overseas: Royal Polytechnic School|
|Invented and perfected telephone system to connect people and cities||Built bridges to connect people and cities|
|Was recognized as a math talent at an early age||Recognized for the ability to fix things at early age|
|Died: August 2, 1922||Died: July 22, 1869|
John Roebling came early in the 19th Century and died before his time from complications from an accident working on the beginning stages of the Brooklyn Bridge. While surveying for the Brooklyn Bridge, his toes were crushed and had to be amputated. He developed tetanus and later developed lockjaw. He suffered a painful gruesome death after many seizures and lapsing in and out of a coma. John Roebling taught his son, Washington Roebling, the business and kept him at his side during the planning stages of the bridge. This enabled the bridge construction to continue after his death.
John Roebling built other suspension bridges over the Ohio River from Kentucky to Cincinnati, Ohio as well as a railway suspension bridge over the Niagara River. In addition, Roebling built a suspension bridge over the Monongahela River at Pittsburgh, Pa., and four suspension aqueducts on the Delaware and Hudson Canals. All of this while running a wire cable business in Trenton, New Jersey.
Roebling was a meticulous man who demanded perfection. He also was a micro-manager who needed to approve and inspect every aspect of a project or business. Roebling was in the business of completing projects that were to be used by people. Because of this, he was involved in every detail. He eventually trusted two people during his professional life, his assistant and his son, Washington Roebling, who completed the Brooklyn Bridge after his father’s death. While other engineer’s bridges failed after a few years, John Roebling’s bridges are still going strong to this day due to his calculations and use of wire strands. Drivers and pedestrians are crossing the Brooklyn and Cincinnati Bridges today because of Roebling’s demanding standards.
Alexander Graham Bell
While John Roebling connected people commercially and socially by giving them opportunities to cross one land mass to another, Alexander Graham Bell united one another through speech, communication, and the baby steps of information technology.
Alexander Graham Bell’s interest in speech, elocution, diction, communication patterns, and the physical development of Visible Speech was brought to him by his grandfather and father where he grew up in Scotland. Alexander’s father, Melville, became a leading authority on elocution and speech correction and Alexander began to learn about these techniques from his family. After the family moved to Toronto, Canada, Alexander Bell accepted a position and began working at Boston School for Deaf Mutes in 1871 where he taught his father’s system of Visible Speech. He taught there for only a semester but liked the Boston area and began tutoring deaf children on his own. He became successful at this business.
While Bell and his partners were working on sending multiple telegraph transmissions over the same wire on using different harmonic frequencies, he became interested in human voice transmission over those same wires. He teamed up with another electrician to do this, Thomas Watson. From 1974 to 1876, Bell and Watson worked on the harmonic telegraph and voice transmission. The stories of the first phone call have different versions but the important part is that Watson heard a sound transmitted over a wire. On March 10, 1876, Bell and Watson were working on their devices in the lab and Bell likely heard a noise over the wire and told Watson called to his assistant. Watson probably heard Bell’s voice over the wire also, which became the first telephone call. From there, Bell increased the distance of the wire transmissions. On July 9, 1877, the Bell Telephone Company was organized and it was just a matter of time before a phone was in everyone’s home. He had to defend his telephone patent over the next 18 years in court 550 times but he beat them all and the company fortunes and Bell’s fame grew. Thomas Edison had a part in improving the telephone which the invention of the microphone. The microphone aided in the sound level so that the user didn’t need to shout into the receiver.
In addition to the telephone, Bell founded the Volta Laboratory where people could devote their efforts to science. He developed metal jacket that helped people with lung problems, engineered a metal detector to local bullets in bodies, and invented an audiometer that tested a person’s hearing ability. He founded the American Association to Promote the Teaching of Speech to the Deaf in 1880. Bell also met and worked with Helen Keller during this period, becoming lifelong friends. He described what Anne Sullivan did to help Keller as a hugely successful experiment rather than a miracle. When he died on August 2, 1922, the entire telephone system was turned off for one minute as a tribute.
Two pioneers in their fields who accomplished a great deal furthering the idea that people from different countries, states, cultures, neighborhoods and abilities can connect in different ways.