Historic, but not famous

Antonio Meucci, inventor of telephone

Antonio Santi Giuseppe Meucci (13 April 1808 – 18 October 1889) was an Italian inventor and is best known for developing the first telephone in Staten Island, NY. Meucci set up a form of voice-communication link in his home that connected the second-floor bedroom to his laboratory. He submitted a patent  for his telephonic device to the U.S. Patent Office in 1871, but there was no mention of electromagnetic transmission of vocal sound in his application. That mention was made by Alexander Graham Bell in 1876.

Meucci was admitted to Florence Academy of Fine Arts at the age of 15, as its youngest student, where he studied chemical and mechanical engineering. He was not able to afford full time tuition after 2 years and continued his studies part time while working. While working in the theater in 1834 he constructed a type of acoustic telephone to communicate between the stage and control room at the Teatro of Pergola. This telephone was constructed on the principles of pipe-telephones used on ships and still functions.

In 1835, he emigrated with his wife to Cuba where he continued his work in the theater. IN April of 1850, his family immigrated to NY and settled in Staten Island. He set up  a tallow candle factory (the first of this kind in America) employing several Italian exiles. He also continued his experiments in telephony, water purification and the use of electric shock on rhuematism patients. His wife suffered from  rheumatoid arthritis.

He continued to work on experiments despite having to declare bankruptcy due to some fraudulent investors in his work. In August 1870, Meucci reportedly was able to capture a transmission of articulated human voice at the distance of a mile by using a copper plate as a conductor, insulated by cotton. He called this device the “telettrofono”. He was declared the inventor of the telephone by the Italian government and his work has been acknowledge by the US government.

Meucci became ill in March 1889 and died on 18 October 1889. The Order of the Sons of Italy in America maintains a Garibaldi–Meucci Museum on Staten Island. The museum is located in a house that was built in 1840, purchased by Meucci in 1850, and rented to Giuseppe Garibaldi from 1850 to 1854. Exhibits include Meucci’s models and drawing and pictures relating to his life

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