Antonio Meucci was born in
Florence, Italy in 1808, and studied
mechanical engineering and design in Florence at
the Academy of Fine Arts. He moved to Cuba in
the 1830s. He was experimenting with methods of
treating illness with electric shocks when he
made the discovery that sounds could travel
through copper wire. In 1850 he moved to the
U.S.A to continue research into this discovery.
Some years later, Meucci's wife Ester became
paralysed, and he made a communication system
between her bedroom and his workshop nearby. In
1860, he conducted a public demonstration of
this system, which he called 'teletrofono'. He
continued to refine his system.
Meucci could not afford the expensive $250 fee
to take out a patent on his invention, and
instead filed a one year notice of impending
(meaning coming soon) patent in 1871. However, a
year later he could not afford to renew it.
He sent a model and technical specifications to
the Western Union telegraph company, but could
not manage to get an appointment to meet the
senior executives of the company.
Two years later, Alexander Graham Bell, who
shared a laboratory with Meucci, paid for a
patent for a telephone, and made a deal with
Western Union telegraph company that made him a
lot of money.
Antonio Meucci sued Bell. The Supreme Court
agreed to hear the case, and fraud charges were
started against Bell. In 1889, just when it
looked like Meucci may win his case, he died,
and the court case stopped. Alexander Graham
Bell has been known as the inventor of the
telephone ever since.
However in 2002, 113 years
after Meucci's death, the American Congress
recognised officially that it was Meucci and not
Bell who invented the telephone.