Alexander Bain fax inventorBeginning of Facsimile Machines

Alexander Bain is the very first person who started wondering what would it take to transfer information from one sheet of paper to the other over long distances using automated systems.


Alexander Bain was born in Watten, Scotland, in a family of 12 siblings, including a twin sister. His academic life is not significant as he was not too good at studies, but his apprenticeship as a clockmaker has introduced him to the practical side of physics and invention. He is best known for his research on an electrical clock, but he's also heralded as the inventor that started the development of facsimile machines.


Alexander's original research was tied into developing an electric clock, and he spent most of his time on it. However, his research related to clock synchronisation has inspired him to see if he can sync up two clockwork mechanisms over longer distances using electric impulses.

His original experiment involves using a cylinder with metal pins being rolled across the treated electrochemically sensitive paper. Current being conducted through the pins would burn the imprint on the paper. The transmitter sent on and off pulses by dragging the metal pins across the message written in conductive ink.

This very first facsimile machine was able to send low-quality images, but the point is, this was the very first device of this type, and it's what set the path for following researchers. His experiments on the first facsimile machines were conducted through 1843 and 1846, but it took until 1861 for the first commercially viable telefax machine to be developed – Pantelegraph, designed by Giovanni Caselli.

He's had many other invention patents, including the chemical telegraph, which are supposed to be much faster than mechanical clockwork one. The method is, in theory, faster than Morse telegraph, but that particular invention never went mainstream.

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