Antonio Meucci finally recognized


(US English translation of the original lecture, in Italian, at the "Meucci Day," Rome, May 28, 2003)


 Mr. President, Authorities, colleagues and friends,

It would be marvelous if the solemnity of this celebration could serve to sooth, in some way, the many woes suffered by Esther and Antonio Meucci during their life:

Our religion, however, teaches us that Esther and Antonio Meucci have already received justice and compensation to their woes, from that great divine balance which receives us after our death and uncovers the truth, transmuting the sorrow of the past into perpetual joy. This notwithstanding, we would want to believe that Esther and Antonio Meucci be present here today, in spirit, to enjoy the honor and respect that we want to tribute them.

Let me point out, beforehand, that the present celebration has been possible thanks to the convergence of efforts of many persons, from both sides of the Atlantic, that have ended, on June 11 2002, in the US Congress Resolution No. 269, recognizing the merits and the priority of Antonio Meucci in the invention of the telephone.

Many may wonder why this recognition has only come after more than a century from that unlucky sentence pronounced by William J. Wallace, a judge of the District Court of Southern New York, who denied any merits to Meucci, also outraging his intelligence and moral integrity.

Let me remark that it could have even passed more than a century, before the truth could be freed from the envelope of lies, calumniations and barricades that have kept it imprisoned for so long time. It was, in fact, a series of favorable circumstances that have allowed the truth to emerge and finally triumph nowadays in its full splendor. I will briefly report on the facts that are behind that recognition.

On October 18, 1989, fell the centenary of death of Antonio Meucci and, by coincidence, a few weeks afterwards I retired from my job as General Manager of Telecommunication Research Laboratory in Turin. I was surprised by the lack of celebrations of that centenary in Italy, and tried to understand why. I therefore started to do research, first in Florence, then in Havana, where Meucci had lived from 1835 to 1850, and finally in the United States, where Meucci had lived from 1850 to 1889. I visited a total of about fifty archives, including the historical archives of the Bell Laboratories, upon kind permission from AT&T. Everywhere I hunted for original documents, avoiding relying on second hand information. I was confident that my lifelong experience as a researcher in telecommunications would have allowed me to set a final word on the contribution of Meucci to the invention of the telephone.

As of November 1990, I had already collected about twenty thousand pages of documents that I then proceeded to organize and study. In 1994, I made a discovery that let me fairly astonished. I found, in fact, among those papers, an affidavit containing the English translation of the notes and drawings of Meucci's laboratory notebook, relating to his telephone experiments. This affidavit was sworn the 28th September 1885 before a notary public of New York and it contained a description of an invention that was normally attributed to Michael Idvorsky Pupin, who patented it on June 19, 1900 and later assigned it to the Bell Company. The date reported by Meucci, for the aforesaid invention, was May 20, 1862, followed by an improvement made by him on September 27, 1870. It therefore turned out that Meucci had made that discovery 38 years before Pupin and 18 years before Bell could have the faintest idea of the telephone.

That invention was no other than the well known "inductive load" of long distance telephone lines, a technique which is more advanced than the simple telephone, and which has been successfully used worldwide up to a few decades ago. From that moment on, I began looking at Antonio Meucci as at a giant of science, even if, up to then, the official science could not have been aware of him.

What's more, I was surprised of the fact that the aforesaid affidavit was not exhibited at the well known New York trial of 1887, where Meucci lost his cause, but to another trial, far less known--but much more important than the former--which preceded the New York trial, and in which the Government of the United States had sustained Meucci's priority over Bell. Unfortunately for Meucci, this Government case was closed by consent, without winners or losers, after12 years of exceptions, delays and quibbles of every sort carried out by the lawyers of the Bell Company. Its proceedings were therefore never printed and are now laying in disorganized files in various towns of the United States, mostly still in manuscript or typescript form.

Between 1994 and 1996, I deemed opportune to present said results first to the Lincei Academy in Rome, and then to the Italian Electrical Association (AEI) in Milan and to Palazzo Vecchio in Florence. Shortly after I made other interesting discoveries, as important as the former one, relating to other very advanced telephonic techniques, that Antonio Meucci had devised with a similar advance with respect to what was known from the current literature. The time was therefore ripe to make my discoveries known abroad, and consequently I published several articles in some scientific magazines in Europe, Cuba and United States.

In November 1999 I had the fortune of meeting Hon. Dominic R. Massaro, justice of the Supreme Court of the New York State, who immediately realized the importance of my discoveries and had the idea to apply to the US Congress, in order to render justice, though posthumous, to Antonio Meucci. Hon. Massaro set up a powerful committee of eminent New Yorker personalities, and invited me to give a lecture at the New York University, titled "Antonio Meucci, inventor of the telephone: unearthing the legal and scientific proofs."

The lecture was given on October 10, 2000. The day after, the Speaker of the New York City Council, Peter F. Vallone, welcomed me in his office and felicitated for the success of my lecture, assuring that he would bring my findings to the attention of the City Council. The Council met on October 12, 2000 and unanimously--a quite rare circumstance&emdash;--passed resolution No. 1566, recommending the Congress of the United States to recognize the priority of Antonio Meucci in the invention of the telephone. To this end, Hon. Eliot Engel, a Representative of the State of New York, filed with the US Congress two documents expressly citing and summarizing my lecture at the New York University.

Other Representatives, among whom Vito Fossella--who deserves the merit for the preparation and presentation of the final resolution--managed to persuade as many colleagues as possible to vote in favor of the resolution, helped in this by the many Italian-American Associations, who invited their members to write to their Representative urging her/him to vote in favor of the same. In this respect, I wish to particularly acknowledge the dedication of the Order Sons of Italy in America (OSIA), who, in addition to vesting the merit of having carefully and distinctively kept Meucci's home in their owned Garibaldi-Meucci Museum, has striven, in a prominent manner, for the promotion of said Resolution. I am also proud for having received from OSIA, their recognition of my contribution as "Vindicator" of Antonio Meucci.

The US Congress Resolution No. 269, passed with a two-thirds majority, must be considered as a document of historic relevance, for which we must render due recognition to our great friendly nation, the United States of America, who has accomplished this act of justice with its well known distinctive courage and energy. At the same time, I should invite all those that have been moved and enthused by the vicissitudes of Antonio Meucci to shrink from the temptation of demonizing whom, not always justly, was considered his eternal adversary, i.e. Alexander Graham Bell. Whereas, in fact, we now have incontrovertible proofs of Meucci's priority in the invention of the telephone, we do not have yet equally incontrovertible proofs of facts liable to discredit the morality and/or the scientific eminence of Alexander Graham Bell.

Let us, therefore, be satisfied of the fact that, after more than a century from his defeat, Antonio Meucci has been amply and authoritatively reinstated in his merits and rank. Moreover, in a short time--thanks to the commitment of the Municipality of Florence and of the Tuscan-American Association--Meucci will be remembered in his beloved Florence with a tombstone in the Cathedral of Santa Croce, near other great Italian inventors, and, in particular, near his great supporter, Guglielmo Marconi, and also near the other glorious Florentines, such as Dante Alighieri, Michelangelo Buonarroti, Galileo Galilei, Lorenzo Ghiberti and Nicolò Machiavelli, who have rendered Florence and Italy worldwide renowned.

Thanks for your attention.


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