I agree with Duane: few new inventions are truly new. If you believe in anything then you have to believe that the inspiration to create is all around us located in a large cosmic dome of ideas. Channeling those ideas into inventions is what defines inventors. Whether it is the telephone or some music composition--the idea for both came from the same source and is just an extension of the human creative process. There must have been many inventors working on the concept of telephony at the same time around the world. One or two have their name recorded for posterity; how many others could have, no one really knows. It's not what we know from the past that defines us, it's how we shape the future that extends us. But being it is summer, the "The Book of General Ignorance" should be a good read.
I've known about the telephone invention controversy for quite some time. There's a similar question about the invention of television, the light bulb, modern steel smelting and a host of other inventions. In some cases, it seems that two individuals in different parts of the world discovered the same thing independently and almost simultaneously.
This is likely a reflection of the fact that very few inventions are truly new. Most are the culmination of the works of many, many people. Most of those shoulders that inventors stand on are lost to history. Sometimes one of the "simultaneous inventors" had access to the ideas of the other. In many cases, the person written into history is the one that had the best public relations engine.
An interesting but probably unanswerable question would be to see: "how many unknown inventions have been completely lost to history because the particular inventor didn't know how to publicize the idea."
I agree that such late discoveries do not make much sense or impact on the general public other than a moment of entertainment. The people who claimed that they were the inventors of a certain thing have already enjoyed their share of glory and the real inventors may have suffered in silence . But after so many centuries these things cannot be reversed. These famous names now only form the part of those GK quizzes and nothing more.
I have to agree, in the end it doesn't really matter that it was Meucci and not Bell. Heck, it was so long ago.. More interestingly,did you know that chicken tikki marsala comes from Glasgow, not India, and that bagpipes aren't Scottish they're.. och, ye should read the bloomin' book. It's just plain fun weekend reading.
Some students care, at least when you catch them in a pensive moment. But each of these assignments of invention suffers from a common experience: "to the victor belongs the spoils." That is to say, credit goes to the guy who banged the world on the head enough with the invention to make it (and his name) stick. Is this fair? What a silly question. Author Jack Vance opines that the universe is 4 billion years old, and in that time frame absolute equity has not existed for even one hour. I agree. (In any event, my favorite is the Lissajous curve, which seems to have been described first by Nathaniel Bowditch. Oh well.) Still, the book might be worth a look...
I think everyone knows about controversy of these inventions. The real question here is? Do you think that this generation of students really cares? Just correct these items in the history textbooks and move on.
Does the book mention about the controversy about the original inventor to radio? Though it is known that Guglielmo Marconi (Italy) was the inventor of wireless but it is argued by many that the oriiginal inventor was Sir Jagadish Chandra Bose (India). :)
This controversy has been well known in Italy for a lot longer than I've been alive. Wikipedia has a good summary of the history, which includes Meucci and Bell, but also other early experimenters.
Every engineer knows about the controversy between Newton and Leibniz over the invention of calculus, but I had never before heard of this controversy over the invention of the telephone.
This sounds like a book I need to add to my summer reading list.