Philipp Reis - inventor of the telephone

The invention of the telephone has long been a disputed matter, and as with many inventions, it is usually a development of ideas and experiments from a number of people that have contributed to objects that we take for granted today.

The reason Bell is credited as the main inventor of the telephone is that he was the first to be awarded a patent for a telephone device. However, there were many others who experimented with transmitting sound along wires, including Philipp Reis. 

Philipp Reis was born in 1834 and was the science master of Institut Garnier, a large boarding school for boys in the village of Friedrichsdorf, near Frankfurt in Germany.

In 1860 he invented the telephone while working for the school and exhibited the instrument at a meeting of the Physical Society at Frankfurt in 1861. 

A hand-bound volume of a number of editions of the Institut Garnier school magazine held in our archives celebrates the link between the school and Reis, explaining how he strung the worlds-first telephone lines across the school campus, connecting two classrooms.

Philipp Reis

Philipp Reis

Legend has it that boys were afraid to make disturbances for fear that Professor Reis would be listening on the telephone!

Unfortunately, Reis’ invention was never accepted by his scientific contemporaries, and he died before he could be credited with the invention of the telephone.

Friedrichsdorf, the Birthplace of the Telephone

Friedrichsdorf, the Birthplace of the Telephone