Legacy and Honors
Honors and tributes flowed to Bell in increasing numbers as his most famous invention became ubiquitous and his personal fame grew. Bell received numerous honorary degrees from colleges and universities, to the point that the requests almost became burdensome. During his life he also received dozens of major awards, medals and other tributes. These included statuary monuments to both him and the new form of communication his telephone created, notably the Bell Telephone Memorial erected in his honor in Alexander Graham Bell Gardens in Brantford, Ontario, in 1917.
A large number of Bell's writings, personal correspondence, notebooks, papers and other documents reside at both the United States Library of Congress Manuscript Division (as the Alexander Graham Bell Family Papers), and at the Alexander Graham Bell Institute], Cape Breton University, Nova Scotia; major portions of which are available for online viewing.
A number of historic sites and other marks commemorate Bell in North America and Europe, including the first telephone companies of the United States and Canada. Among the major sites are:
- The Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site, maintained by Parks Canada, which incorporates the Alexander Graham Bell Museum, in Baddeck, Nova Scotia, close to the Bell estate Beinn Bhreagh
- The Bell Homestead National Historic Site, also known as Melville House, overlooking Brantford, Ontario and the Grand River, which was the Bell family's first home in North America;
- Canada's first telephone company building, "the Henderson Home", of the nascent 1877 Bell Telephone Company of Canada, which was carefully relocated in 1969 to the historic Bell Homestead. The Bell Homestead" and the "Bell Telephone Company Building" are both maintained by the Bell Homestead Society. in Brantford, Ontario
- The Alexander Graham Bell Memorial Park, which features a broad neoclassical monument built in 1917 by public subscription. The monument graphically depicts mankind's ability to span the globe through telecommunications;
- The Alexander Graham Bell Museum (opened in 1956), part of the Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site which was completed in 1978 in Baddeck, Nova Scotia. Many of the museum's artifacts were donated by Bell's daughters;
- In 1880, Bell received the Volta Prize with a purse of 50,000 francs (approximately US$250,000 in today's dollars) for the invention of the telephone from the Académie française, representing the French government. Among the luminaries who judged were Victor Hugo and Alexandre Dumas. The Volta Prize was conceived by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1801, and named in honor of Alessandro Volta, with Bell receiving the third grand prize in its history. Since Bell was becoming increasingly affluent, he used his prize money to create endowment funds (the 'Volta Fund') and institutions in and around the United States capital of Washington, D.C.. These included the prestigious 'Volta Laboratory Association' (1880), also known as the Volta Laboratory and as the 'Alexander Graham Bell Laboratory', and which eventually led to the Volta Bureau (1887) as a center for studies on deafness which is still in operation in Georgetown, Washington, D.C. The Volta Laboratory became an experimental facility devoted to scientific discovery, and the very next year invented a wax phonograph cylinder that was later used by Thomas Edison; The laboratory was also the site where he and his associate invented his 'proudest achievement', the Photophone, the optical telephone which presaged fibre optical telecommunications, while the Volta Bureau would later evolve into the Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (the AG Bell), a leading center for the research and pedagogy of deafness.
In partnership with Gardiner Hubbard, Bell helped establish the publication Science during the early 1880s. In 1888, Bell was one of the founding members of the National Geographic Society and became its second president (1897–1904), and also became a Regent of the Smithsonian Institution (1898–1922). The French government conferred on him the decoration of the Légion d'honneur (Legion of Honor); the Royal Society of Arts in London awarded him the Albert Medal in 1902; and the University of Würzburg, Bavaria, granted him a PhD He was awarded the Franklin Institute's Elliott Cresson Medal in 1912. He was one of the founders of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers in 1884, and served as its president from 1891–92. Bell was later awarded the AIEE's Edison Medal in 1914 "For meritorious achievement in the invention of the telephone".
The bel (B) and the smaller decibel (dB) are units of measurement of sound intensity invented by Bell Labs and named after him. Since 1976 the IEEE's Alexander Graham Bell Medal has been awarded to honor outstanding contributions in the field of telecommunications.
In 1940 the US Post Office issued a commemorative stamp honoring Bell in its 'Famous Americans Series'. The First Day of Issue ceremony was held on October 28 in Boston, Massachusetts, the city where Bell spent considerable time on research and working with the deaf. The Bell stamp became very popular and sold out in little time. The stamp became, and remains to this day, the most valuable one of the series.
The 150th anniversary of Bell's birth in 1997 was marked by a special issue of commemorative £1 banknotes from the Royal Bank of Scotland. The illustrations on the reverse of the note include Bell's face in profile, his signature, and objects from Bell's life and career: users of the telephone over the ages; an audio wave signal; a diagram of a telephone receiver; geometric shapes from engineering structures; representations of sign language and the phonetic alphabet; the geese which helped him to understand flight; and the sheep which he studied to understand genetics. Additionally, the Government of Canada honored Bell in 1997 with a C$100 gold coin, in tribute also to the 150th anniversary of his birth, and with a silver dollar coin in 2009 to honor of the 100th anniversary of flight in Canada. That first flight was made by an airplane designed under Dr. Bell's tutelage, named the Silver Dart Bell's image, and also those of his many inventions have graced paper money, coinage and postal stamps in numerous countries worldwide for many dozens of years.
Bell's name is widely known and still used as part of the names of dozens of educational institutes, corporate namesakes, street and place names around the world. Alexander Graham Bell was also ranked 57th among the 100 Greatest Britons (2002) in an official BBC nationwide poll, and among the Top Ten Greatest Canadians (2004), and the 100 Greatest Americans (2005). In 2006, Bell was also named as one of the 10 greatest Scottish scientists in history after having been listed in the National Library of Scotland's 'Scottish Science Hall of Fame'.See also: Bell Telephone Memorial
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