Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 23.djvu/563

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THE TELEPHONE AND ITS INVENTOR.

block and is closed at d by a membrane. A platinum strip, b, extends from the screw-cup p, to the center of the membrane d, to which it is attached. From the screw-cup n a spring, n d, carrying a platinum style, makes contact at d with the platinum strip p d. This original instrument, presented by Reis to Professor Böttger, is now in the possession of Professor Thompson. It has an adjusting screw in the course of the spring n d.

Reis's claim as an inventor is discussed by Professor Thompson and fully substantiated under the three following heads: "1. Reis's telephone was expressly intended to transmit speech. 2. Reis's telephone, in the hands of Reis and his contemporaries, did transmit speech. 3. Reis's telephone will transmit speech." Before bringing forward evidence on these points, Professor Thompson disposes of a current prejudice against Reis's telephone, which has been not altogether innocently created. It has been called a "tone-telephone," or musical telephone, by those interested in relegating it to the category of harmonic instruments. Reis called it neither an articulating nor tone telephone, but simply "Das Telephon." He spoke habitually of reproducing any and all sounds through its agency, the German word used being Ton, plural Töne, which is nearly the equivalent of our English word "sound." By transferring the German word (untranslated) to the English it has been attempted to narrow the scope of his discovery as stated in his own words. It is in place here to say that Reis was no musician, and could hardly distinguish one tune from another.

Reis's first memoir on the telephone, delivered before the Physical Society of Frankfort-on-the-Main, in 1861, and printed in their "Annual" for the same year, begins thus: "The surprising results in the domain of telegraphy have often already suggested the question whether it may not be possible to communicate the very 'tones' [sounds] of speech direct to a distance." He says that "the cardinal question" always was "how could a single instrument reproduce at once the total action of all the organs operated by human speech." Could the expression of intention be plainer? He says, again: "Until now [1861], it has not been possible to reproduce the 'tones' [sounds] of human speech with a distinctness to satisfy everybody. The consonants are for the most part tolerably distinctly reproduced, but the vowels not yet in an equal degree." Was this only a "tone-telephone"? He proceeds to show the cause of the difficulty in the case of vowels by diagrams of the undulating curves representing consonant and vowel sounds. The memoir concludes thus: "There may probably remain much to be done toward making the telephone of practical commercial value. For physics, however, it has already sufficient interest in that it has opened out a new field of labor. . . . Philipp Reis, December, 1861." It will be observed that this date precedes the improved forms of Reis's telephone, by which the some-