Alexander Graham Bell

Ben Ruhe
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In the late 19th century, dozens of clever scientist around the world sensed that the invention of the airplane was approaching and that kites would be a key element on the road to discovery. Among them was Alexander Graham Bell, rich and famous since the age of 29, after inventing the telephone in 1876.

Having established an elaborate headquarters in Nova Scotia with full complement of assistants and laboratories, Bell began by exploring gliders, one of them rocket-propelled; propellers; hand-launched rotors; ornithoptors; and even a steam-powered wing piece. He turned inevitably to kites.

His original notebook entry reveals the moment of inspired enlightenment on Monday, August 25, 1902. After having worked with rectangles extensively, he sketches a tetrahedron, or pyramid, which will from then on become his kite building block, and complains beside it, "Can't draw it." On the next page he outlines a kite built from tetrahedral cells linked together. He is on his way.

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