Alexander Graham Bell voice recording recovered

April 26, 2013

A dramatic application of digital technology has allowed researchers to recover Alexander Graham Bell‘s voice from a recording held by the Smithsonian — a breakthrough announced in the Smithsonian magazine for the first time.

The precise methods they employed in early efforts to play back their recordings are lost to history. As a result, says curator Carlene Stephens of the National Museum of American History, the discs, ranging from 4 to 14 inches in diameter, remained “mute artifacts.”

Then, Stephens learned that physicist Carl Haber at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, California, had succeeded in extracting sound from early recordings made in Paris in 1860. He and his team created high-resolution optical scans converted by computer into an audio file.

Documents indicated that one wax-and-cardboard disc, from April 15, 1885 — a date now deciphered from a wax inscription — contained a recording of Bell speaking.

On June 20, 2012, at the Library of Congress, the research team was transfixed as it listened to the inventor himself : “In witness whereof — hear my voice, Alexander Graham Bell.”

Bell’s father, Alexander Melville Bell, had been a renowned elocution teacher (and perhaps the model for the imperious Prof. Henry Higgins, in George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion; Shaw acknowledged Bell in his preface to the play).

The intonation of the British Isles was unmistakable in Bell’s speech. The voice is vigorous and forthright — as was the inventor, at last speaking to us across the years.

— Charlotte Gray,

Video Source: Smithsonian

We Had No Idea What Alexander Graham Bell Sounded Like. Until Now