Tough Call: Book Says Bell Ripped Off Rival

Phone inventor likely copied competitor's patent application
By Dustin Lushing,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 27, 2007 3:34 PM CST

(Newser) – Telephone inventor Alexander Graham Bell ripped off the idea from his rival Elisha Gray, a new book claims. In The Telephone Gambit: Chasing Alexander Graham Bell's Secret, journalist Seth Shulman uncovers evidence that Bell took a sneak peek at Gray's patent documents with the help of his lawyers and a corrupt patent examiner, MSNBC reports.

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Bell's lab notebook details how, after a 12-day gap in 1876 when the inventor traveled to Washington to answer patent questions, he and his assistant Thomas Watson curiously switched from a failed method of transmitting voice across a wire to another that eventually worked. Bell's diagram for this new device was eerily similar to Gray's. The book hits shelves January 7. (Read more telephone stories.)

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