Bell was born into a family specialising in elocution: both his father and his grandfather were authorities on the subject, and before long he himself was teaching people how to speak. Largely family trained and self-taught, in 1863, at the age of 16, he and his brother Melville began researching the mechanics of speech. Starting with the anatomy of the mouth and throate, they sacrificed the family cat in order to study the vocal chords in more detail.
In 1864 Bell became a resident master in Elgin's Weston House Academy in Scotland, where he conducted his first studies in sound and first conceived the idea of transmitting speech with electricity. His idea was to make a device that could mimic the human voice and reproduce vowels and consonants. His father has already spent years classifying vocal sounds and had developed a shorthand system called Visible Speech, in which every sound was represented by a symbol, with the intention of teaching the deaf to speak by putting these sounds together.
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