Alexander Graham Bell

'Come here, Mr Watson, I want to see you.' These intrinsically unexciting words marked the beginning of a communications revolution which continues today. They were spoken by Bell in one room to his assistant in the next, his words into a microphone being changed into electric signals through a conducting wire which carried the signal to a receiving microphone and hence into intelligible sounds.

He was born in Edinburgh, the son of Alexander Melville Bell. The father was an educationalist and phonetician, analysing human speech and inventing a machine which produced an optical representation of speech. Bell Jnr. In essence continued his father's work, bringing his knowledge to bear on helping children who were profoundly deaf or otherwise unable to communicate.

Unfortunately, the scourge of tuberculosis caught Bell, and in fact killed both of his brothers. After a spell teaching in Elgin, his parents persuaded him to cross the Atlantic (his father was now living and working in the USA) He was then 23, and moved first to Canada, then Boston, where he became Professor of Vocal Physiology at Boston University. By day he taught deaf children, at night he experimented.

Obliged by patent laws to become an American citizen, he did so aged 27. His patent application was made on the same day as a commercial rival, and was done, as were many others, through a commercial company he had set up with commercial backers. He married Mabel Hubbard, the deaf daughter of one of his backers, and never lost the true humanitarian spirit he was imbued with.

He was disappointed with the British government, who failed to offer any encouragement towards his efforts, but gradually his commercial work increased in size and value until he was eventually a millionaire. He died at his home in Nova Scotia, where he is buried.