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Reluctant Genius: Alexander Graham Bell and the Passion for Invention

por Charlotte Gray

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1856146,725 (4.4)20
Biography & Autobiography. History. Technology. Nonfiction. HTML:The popular image of Alexander Graham Bell is that of an elderly American patriarch, memorable only for his paunch, his Santa Claus beard, and the invention of the telephone. In this magisterial reassessment based on thorough new research, acclaimed biographer Charlotte Gray reveals Bell's wide-ranging passion for invention and delves into the private life that supported his genius. The child of a speech therapist and a deaf mother, and possessed of superbly acute hearing, Bell developed an early interest in sound. His understanding of how sound waves might relate to electrical waves enabled him to invent the "talking telegraph" be- fore his rivals, even as he undertook a tempestuous courtship of the woman who would become his wife and mainstay.
In an intensely competitive age, Bell seemed to shun fame and fortune. Yet many of his innovations??electric heating, using light to transmit sound, electronic mail, composting toilets, the artificial lung??were far ahead of their time. His pioneering ideas about sound, flight, genetics, and even the engineering of complex structures such as stadium roofs still resonate today. This is an essential portrait of an American giant whose innovations revolutionized the modern
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Ottawa book awards winner. great story and well written ( )
  mahallett | Nov 3, 2020 |
Terrific insight into Bell's life, the race for the telecommunication advantage by competing companies in the US and Europe, and the fascinating story of how inventions spring from the mind of oddball, slightly mad individuals. Not a book I would have picked, but one I really enjoyed reading. Author did tons of research, and used original letters as primary sources, from which she uses quotes and paraphrases to create a narrative style that makes the biography read like a novel. The other thing that caught me about this book is the parallel to our current day, regarding, i.e. iPhone vs Android phone, the competition for the edge in mobile and communication technology and its hardware (and software). ( )
  cjazzlee | Nov 13, 2015 |
I first encountered this book in the gift shop of the AGB national historic site in Baddeck, and had finished reading it within 24 hours. I can't imagine a more lively and readable account of the life of the great inventor.

Gray has the gift of storytelling in spades, and although, as she frankly admits, she is not the first to explore Bell's relationship with his wife Mabel Hubbard, she does an excellent job of bringing it to life for contemporary readers without anachronistic distortion. This is balanced with clear, non-technical exploration of his major inventions, and plenty of historic and political context that enhances, without overwhelming, the main narrative.

This is the only biography of Bell that I have read, so I have no direct point of comparison, but as a popular biography, seemingly well-grounded in primary and established secondary sources, I found it to be quite excellent. There are a couple of weak turns of phrase here and there ("Sounds. Alec Bell's childhood was full of sounds."), but these are quite few so this is just a quibble.

I'd long been curious about how Bell came to live and work in Baddeck; this book quite illuminated for me where he fits in the history of Nova Scotia—and, needless to say, the world. ( )
  jrcovey | Jun 8, 2011 |
At the end of the book, the author says she set out to write a biography not just about Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor, but about the man and his family life. She certainly accomplished her goal of giving us a well-rounded view of Mr. Bell.

I think the strength of a good biography is that the author remains invisible....the portrayal is unbiased and the reader makes his/her own judgements. Ms. Gray has, by this measure written an excellent biography. ( )
  LynnB | Feb 19, 2008 |
Subtitled: 'The Passionate Life and Inventive Mind of Alexander Graham Bell". This is a thorough and comprehensive life story of Bell with detailed information on his family life as well as his scientific life. Perhaps this is the single best book to read to get the Bell life story and all of his accomplishments. The book is not strong on technical detail, but the chronicle of Bell's life and the portrait of his personality are wonderful. An outstanding book by one of Canada's finest contemporary historians.] ( )
  hifliercanada | Oct 1, 2007 |
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Biography & Autobiography. History. Technology. Nonfiction. HTML:The popular image of Alexander Graham Bell is that of an elderly American patriarch, memorable only for his paunch, his Santa Claus beard, and the invention of the telephone. In this magisterial reassessment based on thorough new research, acclaimed biographer Charlotte Gray reveals Bell's wide-ranging passion for invention and delves into the private life that supported his genius. The child of a speech therapist and a deaf mother, and possessed of superbly acute hearing, Bell developed an early interest in sound. His understanding of how sound waves might relate to electrical waves enabled him to invent the "talking telegraph" be- fore his rivals, even as he undertook a tempestuous courtship of the woman who would become his wife and mainstay.
In an intensely competitive age, Bell seemed to shun fame and fortune. Yet many of his innovations??electric heating, using light to transmit sound, electronic mail, composting toilets, the artificial lung??were far ahead of their time. His pioneering ideas about sound, flight, genetics, and even the engineering of complex structures such as stadium roofs still resonate today. This is an essential portrait of an American giant whose innovations revolutionized the modern

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