The concept of the telephone deals with sound being converted to electronic impulses and traveling along electrical current until they reach their destination where they are converted back into audible sound. No modern day technological telephony equipment from home phones to telephone answering services would be possible without the help of Sir Charles Wheatstone. Born on February 6, 1802, he grew up to be one of the major scientific and musical inventors of the Victorian era. He is known for his contributions to acoustics and electric telegraphy. Through his inventions of the aconcryptophone and stereoscope, Wheatstone became a major player in developing how sound would travel and be heard, eventually leading to the invention of the modern day telephone, a device that is the basis for modern day call center and telephone answering services.
Charles Wheatstone was born near Gloucester. His father a music-seller in the town gave Charles his love of music and invention. Charles was very educated as a child, receiving an education in a village school and several institutions in London. Wheatstone was a shy and emotional boy who liked to be alone and keep to himself. At the age of fourteen, Wheatstone was apprenticed to his uncle. His uncle was a seller and maker of musical instruments. While with his uncle, Charles did not show much interest to the handicraft or business, but was more into what made the instruments work. In his later year, Wheatstone was married in February 12, 1847 only to have his wife die in 1866, leaving him with five young children to take care of.
With his love of music spawning from his father, Wheatstone created the Aconcryptophone. It consisted of a combination of the piano, harp, and dulcimer together, hung from the ceiling by a cord. The instrument worked my waves moving in high velocity, transmitting sounds to long distances. Said to have sound travel at 200 micrographia, Wheatstone wrote, “I can assure the reader that I have, by the help of a distended wire, propagated the sound to a very considerable distance in an instant, or with as seemingly quick motion as that of light.” Not only was this the first of its kind in the Victorian era, but could also work with bent wires, the arrangement is called a ‘telephone’ Not only did he invent a way to travel sounds from long distance, but he also invented the ‘microphone,’ to hear the sounds delivered by the telephone. The microphone consisted of two rods that work by conveying mechanical vibrations to the ears.
As an English scientist and inventor, Wheatstone also invented the stereoscope, used to display three-dimensional images. The stereoscope was found through the exploitation of spectral emission lines. Wheatstone used a method of looking at an electric spark through a prism to reveal certain rays which were characteristic of them. The metals that formed the sparking points could be found by analyzing the light of the spark. The stereoscope was an arrangement of lenses and prisms and it used two photographs of the same object taken from different points and made them seam as a single solid object to the human eye. With this invention and his explanation of binocular vision, Wheatstone was awarded the Royal Medal of the Royal Society. He showed that the mind can comprehend more than just two dimensional pictures, but of two separate pictures of an object taken by both eyes from different points of view, thus creating a three dimensional image.
Wheatstone used his inventions of the telephone, microphone, and stereoscope, to aid in the installation of wires for the telegraph. He proposed to lay lines across the Thames and on the London and Birmingham Railway. Following his completion of the automatic telegraph in 1868, Wheatstone was knighted. With more than thirty-four distinctions and diplomas to his name, he became a much respected man in society. Telephones and the entire telephone answering service industry would not exist if it were not for the work of Sir Charles Wheatstone.
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