Skip to main content
   

News: Scottish pioneers at Communicate!, National Museum of Scotland

Communicate! at National Museum of Scotland. Courtesy National Museums Scotland.

Communicate! - the Connected Earth gallery at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh - tells the story of human communication from the drums of Papua New Guinea right up to mobile technology and beyond. The gallery has stunning displays and interactive exhibits and celebrates Scotland's contribution to the development of communications.

Scottish pioneer Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone whilst teaching in Boston. He found through experiments that sound waves could be converted into electrical currents. He made his first telephone in 1875, but it was not until 10 March 1876 that his assistant Thomas Watson heard the first telephone message, "Come here, Mr Watson, I want to see you".

Bell demonstrated his telephone to excited audiences in the Boston area. The telephones were connected to existing telegraph wires, and people were able to hear Thomas Watson, reading and singing from several miles away.

Alexander Bain, also a Scotsman, invented the fax machine. Bain was born in 1811 near Wick in the far north of Scotland and was inspired to become a clockmaker after hearing a science lecture. He learnt his new trade in Wick, then moved to Edinburgh and later to London where he developed several new communications devices.

In 1841 he invented an electric clock. In 1843 he patented an early fax machine, 30 years before the telephone. Then he patented a chemical telegraph, in which electrical pulses made marks on chemical-soaked paper. It could receive almost 300 words per minute, so he then invented a sending telegraph to match this record speed.

Open daily, 10:00am - 5:00pm, National Museum of Scotland is a free museum.

For more information on Communicate! at the National Museum of Scotland see our Partner museums.

fun and games

Can you beat our games? Explode equipment to see what's inside, hear the changing sounds of telecommunications, see how telecommunications designs have changed over time or send an e-postacard.

what's on

The UK's first permanent gallery dedicated to the history of information and communication technologies opens in the new Information Age gallery at London’s Science Museum.

audio history

Take a trip down memory lane with extracts of the interviews which have been recorded as part of the Connected Earth oral history programme.

featured story

100 years of automatic switching!
In 1912 the GPO installed Britain's first automatic telephone exchange in Epsom.

Discover the early days of the telephone...