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The Telephone Gambit: Chasing Alexander Graham Bell's Secret Hardcover – January 17, 2008

ISBN-13: 978-0393062069 ISBN-10: 0393062066 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1 edition (January 17, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393062066
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393062069
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,143,270 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Amazon Best of the Month, January 2008: Seth Shulman closely examines the race to build the first telephone and uncovers potential bombshells with The Telephone Gambit. Although Alexander Graham Bell is widely accepted as the father of the telephone (despite the fact that rival inventor Elisha Gray submitted a similar claim the same day Bell filed his patent), Schulman provides intriguing evidence questioning if the scales were deliberately tipped in Alexander's favor. Was the venerable inventor party to theft from Gray's own research? Or are such accusations merely sour grapes from a bitterly contested legal battle? Fraught with controversy, conspiracy, and possible chicanery, Shulman spins real-life Da Vinci Code drama around one of the most influential inventions of the modern era. --Dave Callanan

From Bookmarks Magazine

In Unlocking the Sky (2003), Seth Shulman showed his knack for historical detection by making credible claims that aviation pioneer Glenn Curtiss deserves the same accolades for his work as the Wright brothers for theirs. In The Telephone Gambit, Shulman, who researched the book while a resident scholar in MIT’s Dibner Institute, sets his sights on Alexander Graham Bell. He comes away with a stunning and plausible conclusion as he discredits Bell’s claim to the world’s most valuable patent. Drawing on research from Bell’s own notebooks and other sources, Shulman combines deft sleuthing and a nose for a good story with what every critic except the reviewer for the Los Angeles Times deems lively, compact prose. The Telephone Gambit is a necessary addendum to textbook history.
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

Seth Shulman's book exploring the invention of the telephone is an eye-opener.
Mr. W. M. Byrnes
The plot is unconvincing, the characters unbelievable and the prose sensational; I found expressions like "incriminating sketch" quite irritating.
Dave Kirkcaldy
I recommend that you join Shulman in his personal adventure and read this most interesting story.
Hubert I. Flomenhoft

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

33 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Jeffrey M. Musser on January 7, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I have just finished reading "The Telephone Gambit" by Seth Schulman. This is the first book that I have sat down and read in one day since my September vacation. I know nothing about Seth's other books and can't comment on the caustic review by zzoott (River Styx, OH, USA)

I was drawn to this book by the review in the Boston Globe on New Year's Day. [...]

I previously worked for the "other" telephone company. I worked at GTE Labs in Waltham, MA (what remains is now Verizon Labs). In the summer time in the late `80s we usually had summer students join us, and I often gave a presentation on the history of the Telephone. . In fact one of my vugraphs (we didn't have PowerPoint then) is the same photo shown by Seth on page 61, the tangle of telegraph wires in 1870.

I bought in to the story that "Elisha Gray was an hour late filing his patent; that Bell got there first. It now is embarrassing to say that I bought in. This was a research lab and we all used scientific principals and investigative techniques to do our work. So how could I buy in to a difference in filing time being the reason? We all knew that the American patent system is "the first to discover" not "the first to file" as is most of Europe. After all, that is why we all kept Lab notebooks detailing our work, notebooks that were signed, dated and witnessed every day to prove when we had discovered.

As a result I found Seth Schulman's detailed account of the Bell patent extremely exciting. He meticulously lays out all the circumstantial evidence indicating something really smells about the process that granted the Bell patent over the Gray patent.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Peter J. TOP 500 REVIEWER on November 1, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Those familiar with the history of the telephone are well aware that the key patent for the telephone was filed at the US patent office independently by Elisha Gray and Alexander Graham Bell on the same day in 1877. The conventional interpretation of this remarkable coincidence is that it was indeed a remarkable coincidence, or that somehow Gray tried to steal Bell's idea. The thesis of this book is that Bell (or one of his backers) was the likely thief and that Bell's patent was awarded through what may have been the greatest patent fraud in history. These are strong charges, but as the author shows, they are not new. In the years that followed this remarkable dual filing there were ten years of litigation and a congressional investigation aimed at sorting out who had the rightful claim as the father of the telephone. The author cites several other books that claim that Gray, not Bell was the inventor of the telephone. The author's key original contribution to this investigation was an analysis of Bell's laboratory notebook (long hidden from public view by the Bell family). This notebook contains a sketch of the telephone that is very similar to the one used by Gray in his filing, but it appears in Bell's notebook only AFTER Gray's and Bell's filings. Furthermore, there is no evidence that Bell was experimenting with the successful technique described by Gray prior to a trip that Bell took to Washington, during which time both he and Gray made their filings. Now as in the 19th century, the priority of an invention under US patent law (I hold 15 US patents so this is an area with which I have some knowledge) is based on the date that the idea was conceived, not the date at which a patent is applied for.Read more ›
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Paul R. Niven on February 15, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Does Shulman really consider himself a journalist? I don't know where to begin in the litany of offenses committed by the author. My personal favorite is his audacious claim that Bell chose his beloved Cape Breton estate to escape from the suspicious glare of colleagues in the U.S. Ridiculous! Everyone knows Bell chose Beinn Bhreagh for its ressemblance to his native land and its simple, yet stunning, beauty.

Again and again Shulman villainizes Bell, ascribing the worst possible motives to his actions while simultaneously canonizing poor Elisha Gray - hard done by til' the bitter end according to Shulman. For just one (of dozens) of examples Shulman criticizes (I'm being euphemistic here) Bell for not crediting the work of German Reis in his own work on the telephone. But Shulman never shares that burden with Gray. Did he think Gray just magically conceived of the telephone one day? Surely he was aware of Reis's work as well, but Shulman chooses to ignore this, as he ignores most of the historical facts in this case.

I've never read any of Shulman's other work but another reviewer suggests this is his typical pattern - attempt to discredit worthy inventors (see for example his attempt to tear down the wings of the Wright Brothers).

Shoddy, shoddy, shoddy!
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Format: Hardcover
This book provides overwhelming evidence that Alexander Graham Bell did not invent the telephone.The inventor of the telephone was Elisha Gray.Elisha Gray was a highly regarded electrical researcher.His telephone design was based on a process he called liquid transmission(liquid transmitter).Gray was a generally recognized American expert in this approach.In contrast,Shulman's examination of ALL of Bell's lab books and notes on his research work on the telephone shows that there is NO mention of any such process involving electrical current.The sketch of Gray's invention ,which was submitted with his patent claim,is practically identical to the same sketch submitted later in Bell's patent application.There is no question that Bell did not invent the telephone.Gray did.

However,did Bell actually steal Gray's invention or was the theft committed by Bell's financier,, G.G. Hubbard,a wealthy Boston businessman who was bankrolling Bell? Shulman provides overwhelming evidence that Bell was deeply in love with Hubbard's daughter,Mabel,whom he was teaching and would later marry.
The conclusion one reaches is that Hubbard stole the diagram and attached it to Bell's patent application.Shulman himself does not consider who was the actual thief.
This type of behavior should not be at all shocking.Many other such dastardly deeds have been unearthed in the last 40 years,such as Crick and Watson's breaking into Rosalind Franklin's locked lab in order to obtain copies of her x ray photographs of the double helix structure of DNA(RNA)or Einstein refusing to acknowledge the role of his wife ,Meliva,in his four 1904 papers.
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