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Reluctant Genius: Alexander Graham Bell and the Passion for Invention Paperback – August 1, 2011


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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Gray recounts both the inventor of the telephone's creation of the device and the projects he pursued once his future was secured. Bell is portrayed as imaginative and neurotic, but his marriage to a steadier sort kept him on even keel, if not exactly scientifically disciplined. She was Mabel Hubbard and is so present in Gray's work as to make it a dual biography. Deaf teenager Mabel met Bell when he taught the hearing-impaired, and Gray's story of their courtship is intertwined with the story of how Mabel's father became involved in Bell's side project of transmitting sound by wire, much in the scientific air in the 1870s. Without the worldly Mr. Hubbard's legal and business management, Bell might not have succeeded; certainly none of his subsequent inventions had the eclat of the telephone. Combining the household history of the Bells with that of Alexander's successive enthusiasms (Helen Keller, kites, airplanes, hydrocraft), Gray fairly portrays the attractions and exasperations of Bell's life. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

“Fascinating to read. . . . Highly recommended.” (Choice)

“Required reading. . . . Enjoyable.” (The New York Post)
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Arcade Publishing; Reprint edition (August 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1611450608
  • ISBN-13: 978-1611450606
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #669,631 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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Excellent biography about Alexander Graham Bell.
Q3
This is a major biography, it contains original research and understanding into his life combined with an excellent writing style that brings his life to life.
John Matlock
I enjoy reading biographies, but I'd think anyone would enjoy this book.
kateford

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By John Matlock on November 15, 2006
Format: Hardcover
It is common knowledge that Bell invented the telephone. (Although as many times as I got called during this last election I'm not so sure it was a good idea.) But it was a time when great advances were being made in such devices. There were other inventors such as Meucci in Europe and Oki in Japan who were doing the same thing.

What is less known is that Bell was an inventor in many areas, rather like Edison or Tesla, he worked in many areas: sonar, ultra sound, iron lung, electric heating, and many more.

Perhaps as outstanding was his subsequent creation of The Bell Telephone Company. He had the ability to make the fundamental invention and then to capitalize on it to create a giant company where there had been nothing before, rather like Bill Gates was able to do in our time.

This is a major biography, it contains original research and understanding into his life combined with an excellent writing style that brings his life to life.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Minsky on November 16, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This was a great read and a finely illustrated history of Alec Bell's life. I appreciated the author's weaving in of Alec's wife, Mabel, throughout the book and how she was an integral part of his life in many ways.

The book occasionally repeats itself and gets a little tedious, mainly in the way it paints Alec as the constant tinkerer and you as a reader get frustrated in the way he wastes so much time on certain pursuits (the sheep raising being one), but this really in no way detracts from the enjoyment of reading this book.

Wonderfully detailed and very entertaining, this is a terrific read and comes highly recommended.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Midwest Book Review on February 7, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Both general-interest libraries strong in biographical representation and college-level science collections where inventor biographies are strong will want Reluctant Genius: Alexander Graham Bell and the Passion for Invention. It represents the first major biography on Bell in thirty years and probes the life of a man whose inventions changed the world. Born of a deaf mother, Bell developed a passion for sound at an early age, investigating the science of sound and joining the race to invent the first 'speaking telegraph'. While he's best known for inventing the telephone, he also participated in the race to develop the airplane, and invented the hydrofoil - as well as investigated a president's murder. A complex individual emerges from these pages, making for a satisfying read indeed.

Diane C. Donovan

California Bookwatch
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By kateford on August 10, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I read this book after I saw an interesting reference about him in the biography of President Garfield (another book I'd highly recommend). Of course I knew Bell had to be a genius, he'd invented the telephone . But I'd never given him much thought. But this book is so fascinating, so interesting, that it is a real page turner. Hard to believe about a biography, right? But it's true. Bell was not "just" a genius, but he was a real Rennaisance man, I was continuously reminded of Da Vinci, whom I've always assumed must have been the most intelligent and versatile human being that ever lived. Well, Bell must have been the second. And one aspect that makes him so fascinating is that while he was clearly a genius, and clearly eccentric, he still had a rich and full family life, a wife and children he was devoted to, and that he so clearly loved life, and seems to have been a very sensual man, who enjoyed the pleasures life has to offer. Also, I had no idea that he had devoted his life to working with the deaf and was a mentor of Helen Keller. I enjoy reading biographies, but I'd think anyone would enjoy this book. Even if you had never heard of Bell, you would find this a fascinating read. Do yourself a favor and read this book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By G. Poirier on November 7, 2013
Format: Paperback
Before reading this excellent book, I thought that I knew just about everything of importance about Alexander Graham Bell: that he invented the telephone, that his wife was deaf and that he was involved in some way with helping deaf people. I now know that this barely scratches the surface of Bell’s rich, passionate and inventive life. I had absolutely no idea that Bell was involved in so many scientific pursuits and inventions other than the telephone.

As in most biographies, the author recounts her subject’s life from birth to death as well as a depiction of the times in which he lived. She puts much emphasis on Bell’s family, his wonderful partnership with his beloved wife, his amazingly inventive mind, his distinctive personality and the ups and downs in his remarkable life – both personal and professional. However, regarding his inventions, the author does describe them but without going into enough technical detail (and without appropriate diagrams) that would appeal to a technically-minded reader like me; nevertheless, one can still get a gist of how they worked.

The author writes in a very friendly, warm, compassionate, accessible and engaging style. To me it is clear that for the author, researching and writing this wonderful book was a labour of love. I believe that absolutely anyone can enjoy this warm, captivating biography of a truly great, iconic individual.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By R. R. Parent on October 13, 2014
Format: Paperback
What good fortune to be reintroduced to Alexander Graham Bell during a recent trip to his adopted home town and final resting place, Baddeck, Nova Scotia, by the gifted author Charlotte Gray. Most people know that Bell invented the telephone but know nothing else about his exciting and inventive life. It would also surprise most to know that the telephone was invented when he was 29 years old! But that is only part of the story.

Bell's entire life was devoted to his quest for knowledge about many seemingly unrelated subjects such as telegraphy, aviation, high speed boats, distillation of sea water, solar heat, animal husbandry and the National Geographic Society to name just a few. The most important subject to himself, however, was his lifelong passion to educate and aid the deaf and possibly cure deafness as both his mother and wife were totally deaf. His own vision, passion for knowledge and experimentation would likely be called and obsessive-compulsive disorder today. He was an idealist who kept late night hours secluded in his study sometimes not retiring until the break of dawn. He was a failure at self-promtion because he was more interested in the discovery rather than the commercial value of his inventions, unlike his great rival Thomas A. Edison who was a great self promoter and never did anything that would not earn money. Despite all this, and several decades of legal challenges from other inventors, Bell became wealthy from the invention of the telephone under the guidance of his father-in-law, businessman Gardiner Hubbard. He turned over the majority of his ownership and income from the Bell Telephone Co. to his wife Mabel so that he could continue his work in other areas. He also mentored the famous Helen Keller.
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