Watson’s great-granddaughter on the truth of Bell’s invention

June 6, 2008

Don’t believe the dramatic story that “that the telephone was born when Alexander Graham Bell spilled battery acid on himself and called out to Thomas Watson for help,” says Susan Cheever, Watson’s great-granddaughter. Writing to The New Yorker, she says:

March 10, 1876, the day Watson heard Bell through the wire, was a day completely without drama. There is no mention of the battery-acid accident in Bell’s log of the day. “The first recorded message was commonplace,” Watson complained in letters. “There was little of dramatic interest in the occasion.” It wasn’t until fifty years later, in 1926, when Watson sat down to write his lovely memoir, “Exploring Life,” that the battery-acid story was born. …

I come from a family of inspired storytellers, and Watson, who was my great-grandfather, was one of the best.