Public lecture: Understanding Technology. "Patenting the Telephone. Legally Disputing an Inventive History" (Prof. Graeme Gooday) - National Museums Scotland - 20 January 2011

National Museums Scotland and Institute for the Study of Science, Technology and Innovation, the University of Edinburgh


Public lecture

Thursday 20 January 2011, 3:00 pm

Professor Graeme Gooday (University of Leeds):

Patenting the Telephone: Legally Disputing an Inventive History

A plaque at 16 South Charlotte Street marks the Edinburgh birthplace of Alexander Graham Bell as ‘Inventor of the Telephone’. Yet many colourful challenges have been made to this heroic status – in courtroom patent litigation and even in international politics. Rather than try to resolve such rivalries, Graeme Gooday discusses the early evolution of the telephone – especially the case of Bell’s collaboration with Thomas Edison in the UK – to show why it is so difficult to pinpoint any unique inventor. So how then did Bell acquire the popular standing epitomized on the Edinburgh plaque? Professor Gooday shows this arose in part from the Anglo-American patent system’s presumption that the award of any patent rights always had to be to a ‘first and true inventor’, and also from the skill of Bell company lawyers in defending those patent rights against courtroom challenges by disputants who characteristically claimed a very different history of the telephone’s invention.

Dunfermline Room, National Museums Scotland

Admission free

Please register with Maureen Kerr on 0131 247 4274 or

Dr Klaus Staubermann
Principal Curator of Technology

National Museums Scotland
Chambers Street
Edinburgh EH1 1JF
Tel (0)131-247-4357
Fax (0)131-247-4312