If I were to ask you who invented the telephone, you’d likely tell me it was a man by the name of Alexander Graham Bell.

It’s true Bell was awarded a patent for the original telephone, but he was not the sole inventor.

In-fact, Bell was one on a long list of individuals who each came up with the idea of a telephone over the span of 54 years.During that half century, a dozen or more people independently conceptualize and documented their idea of the telephone.

Some even went so far as to invent a working version of the telephone before Bell did.

You’re probably thinking each of the inventors collaborated with one another, borrowing and building on each others ideas, but the reality is that they came up with more or less the same idea in isolation.

These early inventors didn’t have easy access to each other because, of course, the telephone hadn’t yet been invented. Nor did they know whether or not someone had already explored the idea of a telephone before them.

They didn’t even know if someone elsewhere in the world was working on the idea at the exact same time as they were. In Bell’s case, his patent was filed the exact same day — just a few hours earlier — than another inventor: Elisha Gray.

In the world of invention, having numerous people independently stumble on the same concept is a common occurrence; so common it’s been given a nickname: multiples

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