The greatest Briton: Alexander Graham Bell

first_imgIf the BBC can do it, so can Personnel Today. We want to know which Britonyou rate as the greatest people manager and leader of all time. Personnel Todayhas invited 10 leading figures in the field of management to nominateindividuals they believe are the best, and then convince you they are right. Tovote, visit the voting form where you will also find summaries of all 10nominees. The voting closes on Tuesday 4th March 2003.. This week’s nominee is:Alexander Graham BellBy Paul Pagliari, HR director of Scottish WaterThere was a Scot who was responsible for transforming the world in waysinconceivable before his radical invention. Who was that man? Alexander Graham Bell, of course, inventor of the telephone,and the man who truly deserves the title of the Greatest Briton. Bell was born in Edinburgh on 3 March 1847. He was the son of Melville – aspeech and elocution teacher who developed the first international phoneticalphabet – and Eliza, who was deaf from the age of five. Bell was the only child to survive into adulthood, with his younger andelder brothers, Ted and Melly, dying of tuberculosis. These biographical facts foretell the strong values, personality anddetermination of the man destined to radically change the preferred mode oflong distance communications to voice, and thus transform virtually all aspectsof modern life. Bell developed a passion for communication from a young age. He was tobecome an extraordinary man with a visionary understanding of its power andpotential. Educated at the universities of Edinburgh and London, Bell emigrated to theUS in 1870. In his twenties, he set about developing a multiple telegraph thatcould send several morse code messages. Like many great people, Bell appeared to benefit from luck and skill inequal measure, and it was while he was trying to develop multiple morse codethat he stumbled on the concept that speech could be reproduced through soundwaves in a continuous undulating current. This truly brilliant discovery is theprinciple behind the telephone. On 7 March 1876, Bell patented the telephone (Patent 174,465) at the tenderage of 29. But unlike so many great pioneers and inventors, Bell followed through,visualising the future and realising the potential of his remarkable invention.Shortly after the invention of the telephone, Bell had told his father:”The day is coming when telegraph wires will be laid on to houses, justlike water or gasÉ and friends will converse with each other without leavinghome.” How right he was. Remember this prediction was at a time when the telephonewas in its infancy and its full potential was far from recognised. Bell’s invention changed for good the way people live their lives. Telehonesand telephone lines have enabled us to network global companies via computers,make transactions electronically, or simply talk to our loved ones to let themknow all is well, wherever in the world we might be at the time. The telephone is not only capable of transmitting voice, but also oftransmitting emotion and, therefore, allows us to communicate not only what weare thinking but how we feel. In a stroke of genius, Bell shrank the world and transformed the lives ofthe citizens of his country of birth and education, Great Britain, and, indeed,the lives of people around the world. But Bell was more than a ‘one event wonder’. Like Leonardo da Vinci, heforesaw the future and continued to be a prolific inventor, developing theforerunners to mobile telephones, tape recorders and air conditioning. He dared to lead the way and in 1877, helped establish the Bell TelephoneCompany, which proved enormously successful and a great many have continued toaccrue the benefits. Bell, though, was able to translate his exceptional values into his privatelife. He lobbied the cause of deaf people and to establish day schools for themthroughout the US. When he set out on this challenge, only 40 per cent of deafchildren were taught to speak. At the time of his death in 1922 the figure was80 per cent – testimony enough in itself to his leadership qualities. Like all exceptional leaders, Bell made himself accessible to all. Heencouraged one family – the Kellers – to educate their little girl Helen, whowas deaf. She later attended the Boston Museum of fine arts and became a highlysuccessful commercial artist. Employers today can learn much from Bell’s great achievements – nurtureideas, encourage innovation and pursue developments, however radical they mightseem at the time. Likewise, there remains a need today for companies to accept and fostertheir links and social responsibilities within the communities in which theyoperate and beyond. Bell proved that leaders and business can create thecircumstances to improve our quality of life. In researching this article, I have grown to respect the great depth andleadership qualities of Alexander Graham Bell, a hugely successful entrepreneurand a great humanitarian. While telephones, fax, mobiles, text messaging, and the like may sometimesdrive you mad, they have undoubtedly revolutionised the world for the better,and it can all be traced back to the leadership and vision of one man. Bell isthe greatest creator ever of shareholder value and an inspirational figure forthe to the cause of the “children of a lesser God” – it must earn himthe title of Greatest Briton in Management and Leadership. Bell’s CV3 March 1847 – Born in Edinburgh1865 – Educated at Edinburgh and London universities 1870 – Bell family emigrated to the US   7 March 1876 – Patented the telephone 1877 – Created the Bell Telephone Company 2 August 1922 – Died in Nova Scotia The greatest Briton: Alexander Graham BellOn 21 Jan 2003 in Personnel Today Related posts:No related photos. Previous Article Next Article Comments are closed. last_img read more