Alexander Graham Bell is best known for his invention of the telephone. However, he also made important contributions to electrical wiring that transformed homes and buildings. Bell's innovations laid the foundation for modern electrical systems and made electric lighting practical for the first time.

Bell's Early Work With Electricity

Even before inventing the telephone, Alexander Graham Bell had a deep fascination with electricity. In 1872, he began giving public lectures on the nature of electricity and electromagnetism. During this time, Bell experimented with sending electrical signals over wires.

These early experiments eventually led to Bell's groundbreaking invention of the telephone in 1876. However, Bell did not stop his electrical innovations there. Throughout the 1870s and 1880s, he continued tinkering and inventing various electrical and magnetic devices.

The Rise of Electric Lighting Systems

In the late 1870s, electric arc lighting started becoming more common in cities. Powerful arc lamps produced extremely bright light by passing a high voltage electrical current between two electrodes.

However, arc lighting had significant downsides. The lamps were unsuitable and unsafe for home use. They required very high voltages, produced intense heat, and had an unsteady light output.

Around 1878, Thomas Edison began developing an incandescent light bulb as a safer and more practical form of electric lighting. Incandescent bulbs produced light by passing current through a thin filament wire inside a glass bulb.

Bell's Breakthrough With Electrical Wiring

As electric lighting spread, there was a major challenge - how to distribute electricity safely and efficiently throughout buildings. The electrical systems at the time used direct current (DC). DC power could only be transmitted short distances before losing too much energy. This required power stations every mile or less along electrical lines.

In the 1880s, Bell made several key innovations that helped solve these issues:

Wiring Homes With Concealed Conduits

Bell believed that electrical wires should be hidden from view in homes and buildings for aesthetics and safety. In 1888, he wrote:

"The time will come when all the wires required in the lighting of houses will be run in hollow mouldings... There are many places where the presence of wires would be objectionable, and many places where the wires would be exposed to accident"

To achieve this vision, Bell patented an early version of rigid metal conduit. His electrical conduits allowed wires to be routed through walls and ceilings and then be concealed.

By the late 1880s, Bell's junction boxes and conduits enabled the installation of hidden electrical wiring systems in homes, transmitting AC power from Westinghouse generators to newly available Edison incandescent bulbs.

Legacy on Electrical Systems

While Alexander Graham Bell is most famous for the telephone, his innovative work on electrical systems helped bring lighting to homes across America. The junction boxes, conduits, and promotion of AC current laid the groundwork for modern electrical wiring.

Next time you flip a light switch and safely take electric power for granted, remember that it owes much to Bell's vision and inventiveness with electricity. He helped revolutionize and conceal wiring, allowing electricity to transform our homes.