Alexander Graham Bell is most famous for inventing the telephone, but was not just a prolific inventor – Bell was also one of the most famous futurists of his time. And it turns out many predictions he made about the world were spot on!
Many of Bell’s inventions made the world an easier place to live in, both for him and for society at large, but his foresight into the future is astounding, especially considering the time he lived in.
Global warming and the greenhouse effect
The industrial revolution of the 19th century brought with it an onslaught the environment hadn’t seen before, and the most visible sign of this was the dirty air. While many other scientists predicted that dirty air blocking the sun would cool the planet, Bell specifically thought it might lead to a “sort of greenhouse effect” – an idea that only gained ground again in the 1960s.
Himself an avid aviation buff – he experimented in this regard around the same time as the Wright brothers did – Bell proposed that “the flying machine will be the solution” to public transportation woes. Now, hundreds of thousands of commercial flights allow passengers to travel internationally every day.
The finite nature of fossil fuels
In a speech given at McKinley Manual Training School in 1917, Bell was again ahead of his time, when predicting that fossil fuels, which were the driving force behind the Industrial Revolution, would eventually run out.
“We can take coal out of a mine, but we can never put it back. We can draw oil from subterranean reservoirs, but we can never refill them again,” Bell told the students.
He proposed alcohol as an alternative fuel, and also sketched rooftop devices resembling modern-day solar panels to collect power from the sun.
When Alexander Graham Bell died at age 75, he left a legacy that was much more than just the telephone, and as a tribute to him, all 14 346 701 telephones went silent for one minute.