Wednesday, March 7, 2012

This Day in History: Mar 7, 1876: Alexander Graham Bell patents the telephone

On this day in 1876, 29-year-old Alexander Graham Bell receives a patent for his revolutionary new invention--the telephone.

The Scottish-born Bell worked in London with his father, Melville Bell, who developed Visible Speech, a written system used to teach speaking to the deaf. In the 1870s, the Bells moved to Boston, Massachusetts, where the younger Bell found work as a teacher at the Pemberton Avenue School for the Deaf. He later married one of his students, Mabel Hubbard.

While in Boston, Bell became very interested in the possibility of transmitting speech over wires. Samuel F.B. Morse's invention of the telegraph in 1843 had made nearly instantaneous communication possible between two distant points. The drawback of the telegraph, however, was that it still required hand-delivery of messages between telegraph stations and recipients, and only one message could be transmitted at a time. Bell wanted to improve on this by creating a "harmonic telegraph," a device that combined aspects of the telegraph and record player to allow individuals to speak to each other from a distance.

With the help of Thomas A. Watson, a Boston machine shop employee, Bell developed a prototype. In this first telephone, sound waves caused an electric current to vary in intensity and frequency, causing a thin, soft iron plate--called the diaphragm--to vibrate. These vibrations were transferred magnetically to another wire connected to a diaphragm in another, distant instrument. When that diaphragm vibrated, the original sound would be replicated in the ear of the receiving instrument. Three days after filing the patent, the telephone carried its first intelligible message--the famous "Mr. Watson, come here, I need you"--from Bell to his assistant.

Bell's patent filing beat a similar claim by Elisha Gray by only two hours. Not wanting to be shut out of the communications market, Western Union Telegraph Company employed Gray and fellow inventor Thomas A. Edison to develop their own telephone technology. Bell sued, and the case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which upheld Bell's patent rights. In the years to come, the Bell Company withstood repeated legal challenges to emerge as the massive American Telephone and Telegraph (AT&T) and form the foundation of the modern telecommunications industry.

In South Africa: Gen. De la Rey captures Lord Methuen

Date: 7 March, 1902
Anglo-Boer War 2: Gen. Koos De la Rey defeated and captured Gen. Lord Methuen in the Battle of Tweebosch (or De Klipdrift) in Western Transvaal in the last important battle won by the Boer forces. A wounded Methuen and more than 870 British soldiers were captured, while sixty-eight had been killed. De la Rey lost eight killed and twenty-six wounded. Eleven armed Blacks, fighting on the side of the British and responsible for misconduct at the farmhouse, were forced to dig a mass grave, blindfolded and summarily executed.

Battle of Tweebosch

 In the Battle of Tweebosch or De Klipdrift on 7 March 1902, a Boer commando led by Koos de la Rey defeated a British column under the command of Lieutenant General Lord Methuen during the final months of the Second Boer War.


In order to trap the Boer guerrillas in the Orange Free State, Lord Kitchener built lines of blockhouses connected with barbed wire. But there was not enough water in the Western Transvaal to employ the blockhouse system. Instead, he unleashed nine columns to hunt down De la Rey and the other Boer commanders in the area. On 24 February 1902, De la Rey pounced on a wagon convoy commanded by Lieutenant Colonel S. B. Von Donop. For the loss of 51 Boers, De la Rey killed, wounded or captured 12 officers and 369 men.[2] In response, Methuen tried to track the Boer leader down.

The Battle

Canadian Lt Nesham of the Royal Field Artillery, who single-handedly continued firing his gun after his crew was killed at Tweebosch

Less than two weeks later, De la Rey ambushed Methuen's column at Tweebosch on the Little Harts River. The British force numbered 1250, including nearly 1000 mounted men and four guns. Methuen's force was largely made up of green troops; these panicked and fled or surrendered. Only the British regulars in the column fought stubbornly in the combat which lasted from dawn until 9:30 am. The British lost 200 killed and wounded, plus 600 men and all four guns captured. After being wounded twice and suffering a broken leg when his horse fell on him, Methuen was captured.[3] He was the only general taken prisoner by the Boers during the war.[2]


De la Rey sent the wounded Methuen to a British hospital in his own carriage under a flag of truce, despite demands from his own troops to execute him. The Boers court marshaled De la Rey for freeing such a valuable prisoner, but after convincing the court that Methuen would withdraw from the war, he was let off.

Upon hearing news of the disaster, a badly shaken Kitchener retired to his bedroom for two days and refused to eat. Recovering his poise, he ordered heavy reinforcements sent to the Western Tranvaal and appointed Colonel Ian Hamilton to coordinate the British effort. On 11 April, one of Hamilton's columns beat the Boers at the Battle of Rooiwal.

The defeat at Tweebosch, the biggest defeat for the British since the beginning of the war, had far-reaching consequences. In addition to the 68 killed, 121 wounded and 205 captured (including a general), 6 guns had also been taken and the biggest British force in the Western Transvaal neutralised. Questions were asked in parliament as to why Methuen had not been recalled following his defeat at Magersfontein.[1] On the Boer side, there was a feeling that an honourable end could be found to the war.

Metheun escaped with his career intact, with the War Office and Kitchener taking the brunt of criticism for providing him with green troops.[1] On 9 April, Boer and British delegations convened to discuss a negotiated surrender, which was signed on 31 May.



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