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Polio: Ancient (and Modern) Scourge

February 17th, 2013 2 comments

I remember distinctly my first polio vaccine. Now usually it would be very unusual for me to remember getting a vaccination, but this was a special case. One day, about 1963 I’m thinking, my entire grade school class was taken to Gove Middle School in Denver, where sugar cubes containing a drop of the new oral polio vaccine were being given en masse to school children. This was because the much-anticipated polio vaccine was finally available in quantity, and a major health risk for children could now be effectively fought. It’s hard to imagine now, but in the first half of the 20th Century polio was one of the most feared diseases and the annual polio outbreaks were a common and dangerous occurrence.
Poumon_artificielPre-Vaccination
Polio (also known as poliomyelitis or infantile paralysis) is a highly contagious viral disease which has dogged the human race throughout its history. Polio was first described in 1789 by English physician Michael Underwood as a debility of the lower extremities in children. [1] Polio outbreaks were first reported in the United States in 1843. Polio did not, however, reach epidemic proportions until the industrial revolution and the concentration of people in cities. This was due to the normal transmission method of polio: people drinking contaminated water or eating contaminated food. In medical terms this is the fecal-oral route of disease transmission. (Eewww!) Cities were notoriously dirty in the early industrial age, with inadequate waste water disposal systems.
With the rise of the cities the number, scope and intensity of outbreaks gradually increased. In addition, increasingly older people were becoming sick with polio. For over a hundred years, the annual summer and fall outbreaks increased, until the U.S. reached a peak of polio cases in 1952. In that year, the U.S. incurred some 58,000 reported cases, with 3,145 deaths and 21,269 cases of paralytic polio. The real number of cases may actually have been much higher, since modern research indicates that only about 1% of polio cases result in paralysis. [2] The number of new cases began to drop after 1952 with improvements in sanitation and with municipalities banning public swimming venues upon news of an outbreak starting.
My mother-in-law Betty and her brother Jimmy were both inflicted with polio as children. Nana remembers being treated with Sister Kenny’s controversial treatment. [3] Sister Kenny developed her treatment of hot compresses and passive exercise from practical experience, and despite her success the technique was not accepted by many in the medical establishment of the day. Betty and Jimmy were spared the paralysis and pretty fully recovered, though Betty has one leg ½ an inch shorter than the other and Jimmy suffered from post-polio syndrome in his later years. My brother Marty remembers going over to one of his friend’s houses, whose polio-infected mother was not so lucky and was confined to an iron lung in the living room. The iron lung was necessary because the paralysis had affected the muscles of her chest, making breathing impossible without assistance.
2013-02-17 13.08.29_SmallThe March of Dimes
The March of Dimes, originally known as the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, was founded by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on January 3, 1938 in response to the increasingly severe polio outbreaks. [4] Roosevelt, himself diagnosed with polio, was unable to move his legs, a fact (though not secret) that was carefully de-emphasized throughout his political career. After Roosevelt’s death, the nation wanted to commemorate Roosevelt in many ways, including coinage. The U.S. Mint concluded that the dime was the obvious choice for honoring FDR. Interestingly, modern medical scholars think that Roosevelt may actually have had Guillain-Barré syndrome rather than polio.
Modern Times
The World Health Organization reports that the polio vaccine has been enormously successful in combating the spread of polio throughout the world, except in three countries: Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan. What’s going on there? Well, sadly there are many people in these countries who won’t get vaccinated, either because of rumors that the vaccine is harmful or because of pressure from Muslim extremists, who view the Polio Global Eradication Initiative as a Western conspiracy. In fact, on several occasions polio vaccination workers have been murdered [5] by these misdirected individuals.
Vox’s Take: There’s no good reason why polio could not join smallpox on the tragically short list of infectious diseases to be completely eradicated by medicine. [6] However, it cannot be eliminated until everyone cooperates, including the religious zealots.

Sources:
[1] Polio History, EMedTV
[2] Poliomyelitis, Wikipedia
[3] Sister Kenny: Confronting the Conventional in Polio Treatment, by Miki Fairley, Orthotics & Prosthetics.com
[4] January3, 1938: Franklin Roosevelt founds March of Dimes, This Day in History, History.com
[5] Gunmen Kill Nigerian Polio Vaccine Workers in Echo of Pakistan Attacks, By Donald G. McNeil Jr., The New York Times
[6] Pages in category “Eradicated diseases”, Wikipedia

D.S.P.&P.R.R.

June 5th, 2011 No comments

D.S.P.&P.R.R. Locomotive

D.S.P.&P.R.R. Locomotive

I took this shot of a steam locomotive on my recent visit to South Park City, a re-creation of an early Colorado mining town. This locomotive, painted to represent an engine of the Denver, South Park and Pacific Railroad (D.S.P.&P.R.R.), is a survivor of the era of the “Narrow Guage” railroads. In Colorado we hear about narrow guage all the time, but for those of you not familiar with narrow guage, this refers to the distance between the rails of a railroad track. Standard guage is 4 foot, eight and 1/2 inches between the rails’ inside edges, where the width of a narrow guage track might be 3 foot or less. The narrower guage allowed the train to make sharper turns, necessary in the mountains where digging railroad grades was enormously expensive. The depot’s large red tank in the background held water to fill the steam locomotive’s boiler; and the black car immediately behind the engine held wood or coal for keeping the engine’s fire box fed.

The Perfect Swarm

April 30th, 2011 No comments

Have you ever heard of the Rocky Mountain Locust (Melanoplus spretus)? Mid-western farmers in the 19th Century sure knew of it. Every 7 to 12 years, this normally benign grasshopper entered a gregarious (swarming) phase and became a locust, and what swarms they made! The largest recorded concentration of animals ever, according to The Guinness Book of Records, was a swarm of Rocky Mountain Locusts. [1]

Rocky Mountain Locust

Rocky Mountain Locust

The swarm was observed by Dr. Albert Child of the U.S. Signal Corps in 1875, remembered by midwest farmers as the Year of the Locust. From timing the swarm as it passed overhead for five days, and telegraphing associates in other towns, Dr. Child estimated the size of the swarm as 1,800 miles long and at least 110 miles wide: 198,000 square miles containing 3.5 trillion grasshoppers! [2] Swarms of locusts, though not usually this size, descended on farming communities from Texas to Minnesota like a Biblical plague, eating every green thing in sight. When the plants were gone, the hungry insects ate leather, cotton and wool (still on the sheep). Housewives vainly placed blankets over their gardens. The pests ate the blankets, then the gardens.

Brief extracts from contemporary accounts will suggest the nature of the locust plague: “They came like a driving snow in winter, filling the air, covering the earth, the buildings, the shocks of grain and everything.” “Their alighting sounded like a continuous hailstorm. The noise was like suppressed distant thunder or a train in motion.” “They were four to six inches deep on the ground and continued to alight for hours. Their weight broke off large tree limbs.” “By dark there wasn’t a stalk of field corn over a foot high. Onions were eaten down to the very roots. They gnawed the handles of farm tools and the harness on horses or hanging in the barn, the bark of trees, clothing and curtains of homes and dead animals — including dead locusts.” [3]

A swarm of locusts devastates the family farm in Laura Ingalls Wilder‘s book On the Banks of Plum Creek. After this biological tsunami passed through, the crops were devastated and the settlers faced starvation, forcing the Federal and state governments to supply the stricken pioneers with food, clothing and seed for replanting crops.

Persons in the East have often smiled incredulously at our statements that the locusts often impeded the trains on the western railroads. Yet such was by no means an infrequent occurrence in 1874 and 1875-the insects pawing over the track or basking thereon so numerously that the oil from their crushed bodies reduced the traction so as to actually stop the train, especially on an up-grade. – Report of the Commissioner of Agriculture For The Year 1877. Washington, DC 1878. [7]

So why don’t you hear about these critters now? Because, in the space of 27 years, the Rocky Mountain Locust population went from an estimated 15 trillion to… zero. Nada. Extinct. The last known pair was collected in 1902, and is now at the Smithsonian Institution. The species was declared extinct in the 1950′s. How can such a thing happen? Just as “being smart is no guarantee against being dead wrong” – Carl Sagan, it turns out that large numbers are no guarantee against a spectacular decline.

Locust-Killing Machine

Locust-Killing Machine

During the settlement period of the midwest, farmers tried many contraptions to try to eradicate the grasshoppers. It was like trying to empty the ocean with a teacup. However, the species had an Achilles heel, and that was: like Monarch Butterflies, after the swarming phase the population naturally declined and retreated to its breeding grounds. In the case of the Rocky Mountain Locust this was the fertile mountain river valleys. The whole population of these grasshoppers in this phase of their life cycle could fit into a 20-mile diameter circle. [2] It just so happened that the farmers who were so chastised by the locust were plowing up these same river valleys, and in the process, inadvertently decimating the locust’s breeding grounds. Farm records from the late 19th Century tell of plowing up egg sacs by the thousands during the spring planting. And so the grasshoppers died. It is one of the few agricultural “pest” species to have been eradicated, and it was done by accident.
Vox’s Take: Accidental demise or not, the story of the Rocky Mountain Locust is a cautionary tale we should heed. Life on this third rock from the Sun can be more fragile than is commonly supposed.

Sources:

[1] Rocky Mountain Locust, Wikipedia
[2] Six-Legged Teachers: Lessons from Locusts and Beetles, by Jeffrey A. Lockwood, WyoFile
[3] A Plague of Locusts, by Gerry Rising, August 1, 2004 issue of The Buffalo Sunday News
[4] Albert’s swarm, Wikipedia
[5] Looking Back at the Days of the Locust, By Carol Kaesuk Yoon, April 23, 2002 issue of The New York Times
[6] The death of the Super Hopper, by Jeffrey Lockwood, High Country News
[7] When The Skies Turned To Black: The Locust Plaque of 1875, Hearthstone Legacy Publications

The California Clipper

April 23rd, 2011 No comments

Most aviation records set in the pioneering first half-century of manned flight were accomplished after months or even years of careful planning, funding, determination and daring. Often the aviators and their backers were in pursuit of prize incentives offered by newspapers, aviation societies or wealthy enthusiasts. Sometimes, the aircraft was specially designed and built for a single attempt at a record. A great example is the Ryan NYP (New York to Paris), dubbed the Spirit of St. Louis to recognize the financial backers. Charles Lindbergh piloted the Spirit of St. Louis in 1927 in the first successful attempt at a solo non-stop crossing of the Atlantic and claimed the Orteig Prize.
Such was not the case with the first round-the-world trip by a commercial airliner. In fact, when the crew of Pan Am’s California Clipper left Los Angeles on December 2, 1941 for a regularly scheduled round-trip flight to Auckland, New Zealand, they had no idea they were going to set an aviation record, that they were going to go around the world, and that they would be gone from home five weeks.

California Clipper

California Clipper

The California Clipper, a Boeing B-314, was one of Pan Am’s famous fleet of China Clipper ships: flying boats designed for long-range flights over the ocean. In the 1930′s, the public was more apt to trust a flying boat in trans-oceanic travel because if there were engine troubles or navigation errors, the aircraft could land on the water. This was not a trivial concern at the time – air travel over the ocean was still a new and somewhat unproven method of getting from one shore to another. For the passenger service operators, they could extend their service to any city with a sheltered harbor, in the days when adequate airports with long runways were scarce. Marketed to the super-rich, the Pan Am China Clippers represented the pinnacle of luxury air travel and the fastest way to get over the ocean. The California Clipper had one class of service, and that was first class. In comparative dollars, a flight on a clipper was more expensive than flying the supersonic Concorde sixty years later [3].
Boeing B-314 Dining Room

Boeing B-314 Dining Room

So how did the California Clipper come to set a record for traveling around the world? What happened was the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, which occurred on December 7th, when the clipper was en route to New Zealand. When they landed at Auckland, the captain and crew discovered they were in the middle of a war zone, in possession of a large and valuable aircraft, and easy prey to Japanese fighters. Ruling out a return trip by the way they had come, Pan Am instructed Captain Robert Ford to continue flying westward. There had been no plan for this of course, so there were no navigation maps, no carefully scouted re-feuling stops, no waiting maintenance hangars. Leaving Auckland and headed west, the clipper began a month-long odyssey characterized by hazards, improper fuel, overloaded take-offs and close calls with the enemy (at one harbor they were confronted by a Japanese submarine, and had to beat it to get out of the range of its’ guns).
With grit and determination, Captain Ford and the crew were able to finally bring the clipper home to the Marine Terminal at La Guardia Field, New York on January 6, 1942. “The flight was a thirty-four day ordeal. It took over 31,000 miles, 3 oceans, 5 continents, 12 nations, 22 landings, and crossed the equator 4 times.” [7] After the California Clipper was safely brought home, Pan Am renamed it the Pacific Clipper, partly due to the media attention it was receiving. Soon after, the Pacific Clipper, along with all of Pan Am’s flying boats, was requisitioned by the Army Air Force for military duty, although it continued to be flown by the experienced Pan Am crews. After the war, the concept of the commercial flying boat gave way to land-based airplanes, and the now-obsolete Pacific Clipper was sold to Universal Airlines. It never flew commercially again, however: it was heavily damaged in a storm and consequently sold for scrap.
Vox’s Take: Sadly, none of the Boeing B-314s survive today. There is, however, a full-scale mock-up at the Foynes Flying Boat Museum in Limerick, Ireland [4] – one of the terminals for the Pan Am clippers flying Atlantic routes.

Sources:

[1] Boeing B-314, Virtual Aviation Museum
[2] Pacific Clipper, Wikipedia
[3] Boeing 314, Wikipedia
[4] Boeing B314, Foynes Flying Boat Museum
[5] The Long Way Home – Revised Edition, by Ed Dover
[6] 75th Anniversary Celebration of the China Clipper, Pan American Airways
[7] Pacific Clipper: The Untold Story, Albert S. J. Tucker and Matthew W. Paxton with Eugene Dunning

Those Old, Cold Winters

March 6th, 2011 No comments

In December 1972, during my Senior year at Thomas Jefferson High School, we had a cold snap that froze and burst the schools’ water pipes. Consequently we enjoyed an extended Christmas vacation. (Unfortunately, we had to recoup those days in June – no free lunch, you know). At any rate, I remember it being cold enough, -18 °F or so, that in the early mornings the snow actually looked blue. And we’ve had some great blizzards to remember, such as the Christmas Eve Blizzard of 1982, when I was working in Oklahoma City and we had driven back to Denver to spend Christmas, and were stranded at my in-law’s house for several days. It was actually great fun for us! Another great, memorable blizzard occurred in March, 2003, dumping around 40″ of snow in parts of the Metro area and stranding my wife in Kansas for a week. (That was NOT fun!)
But how do these modern storms and cold spells compare to some of those in the past? Climate is notoriously variable and hard to summarize: “Climate is what we expect, weather is what we get.” – Mark Twain. However, there have been some exceptional winters in the past that make our recent winters look pretty mild indeed. Have you heard of The Little Ice Age? This was a period of relatively colder weather between about 1300 and 1870, with particularly cold spells beginning around 1650, another starting in 1770 and another beginning around 1850. [2] Let’s take a look at each.

The Frozen Thames 1677

The Frozen Thames 1677

17th Century: The River Thames used to freeze over regularly, and between 1608 and 1814 Londoners held a Frost Fair on the frozen estuary. During the Great Frost of 1683-84, the river was frozen solid for two months. The Frost Fair of 1814 turned out to be the last one, as the winters became a little milder and changes in the river flow made it less likely to freeze. [3] In North America, the severe, river-freezing winter of 1609-10 and a feud with the Powhatan Indians contributed to an 80% mortality rate among the settlers of the Jamestown Colony, a winter they called “The Starving Time”. Some colonists resorted to cannibalism to survive.

Army Cabins, Jockey Hollow

Army Cabins, Jockey Hollow

18th Century: In American History, students are taught about the severe winter and deplorable conditions that George Washington’s army suffered at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania during the harsh winter of 1777-78. That winter was rough on the Continental Army, and gets all the press in the history books. It was, however, not nearly as severe as the winter of 1779-80, the worst during the Revolutionary Period. During this winter Washington established a winter camp in an area called Jockey Hollow near Morristown, New Jersey. From here the Continental Army could keep an eye on the British occupying New York but still be relatively safe from attack. In January 1780 the temperature fell to -16 °F, and remained cold so long that every harbor from North Carolina to New England froze over, including New York Harbor and the Hudson and East Rivers. [6] It was now possible to simply walk from Staten Island to Manhattan, and even port heavy cannon over the ice, which had frozen eight feet thick in places. The British were apprehensive of a winter attack by the Patriot forces, since their natural defenses of river and harbor were temporarily ineffective. The Patriots, however, were in no position to mount an attack – they were fully occupied in simply trying to survive the winter. [7] The Colonists had learned important lessons at Valley Forge, and the survival rate was better at Jockey Hollow due to improvements in camp construction and hygiene. The cold and lack of food was still exceptionally trying for the enlisted men, and desertions were common. The men were close to mutiny, and one of the miracles of the Revolution is that the army held together. [8]

Train Stuck in Snow, Minnesota 1881

Train Stuck in Snow, Minnesota 1881

19th Century: There were a number of harsh winters during the 1800s. In Mark Twain’s Autobiography, Volume 1, p. 353, he tells how, as a boy in 1849, he went ice skating at night (without permission, of course) on the Mississippi, which had frozen over from shore to shore. The story becomes really interesting when the ice starts breaking up when he and his friend are a half-mile out from shore! [9] Another harsh winter, that of 1880-81, is documented by Laura Ingalls Wilder in The Long Winter, the sixth of her Little House book series. On the Great Plains, this seven-month winter was ushered in with a three-day blizzard in October, followed by so many snowstorms and so little thawing weather that some towns were without railroad service until May. People in the rough, rural conditions froze in the fierce blizzards or starved because the trains could not get through the frozen drifts to deliver food. A rancher in Nebraska tells of losing all but 800 of his 3,000 head of cattle to the harsh winter, with cattle starving in sight of the hay that the rancher put out but unable to move through the frozen snow. In the towns, the snow accumulated to the roofs, and people resorted to tunneling to move about the place. In open areas, the snow was often up to the level of the telegraph wires. [10]
Wall Street, Blizzard of 1888

Wall Street, Blizzard of 1888

Of the many accounts of fierce storms and blizzards during the latter half of the 19th Century the deadly storms of 1888 stand out. In the West, January 12, 1888 saw the Children’s Blizzard of 1888. It’s called the Children’s Blizzard because it ambushed so many rural children walking home from school, and as many as 400 people died. [11] Two months later, from March 10 to 13, 1888 the Great White Hurricane hit the East Coast, where another 400 people died amid cold temperatures around 6 °F and high winds up to 80 MPH which drifted the snow to 52 feet in places. New York was paralyzed with the snow drifts, and people unaccustomed to the dangers of going outdoors in blizzard conditions became lost and froze to death. The web of overhead electrical and telephone wires presented an unexpected new hazard when the wind and the weight of the snow brought many of them down.
Vox’s Take: It’s a little hard to compare the severity of a winter 123 years ago with one today, since we have so much better technology now to deal with the cold and snow. I can go from my centrally-heated house to my heated four-wheel-drive truck to my heated office building in relative comfort – not exactly like having to hitch the team to the sleigh in the blowing snow. However, the historical record gives credence to the idea that winters really used to be harder, (how many times recently have we heard of New York Harbor freezing over, or 52-foot snow drifts?) and all the more so given people’s ability to cope with them.

Sources:
[1] The Little Ice Age, Environmental Resources
[2] Little Ice Age, Wikipedia
[3] River Thames Frost Fairs, Wikipedia
[4] The Jamestown “Starving Time”, Colonial Williamsburg
[5] Morristown, Where America Survived, NJN Public Television and Radio
[6] Winter of 1779-80 In New Jersey, Sons of the American Revolution
[7] Soldiers face starvation at Jockey Hollow, The Star-Ledger
[8] Morristown: Worse than Valley Forge, Washington Association of New Jersey
[9] Autobiography of Mark Twain, Volume 1, (see page 353), The Mark Twain Project
[10] The Hard Winter of 1880-81, History of South Dakota by Doane Robinson
[11] Winter: Blizzard of 1888 puts winter in perspective, Rocky Mountain News
[12] Homesteading, Eliza Jane Wilder, Prologue Magazine, National Archives
[13] Blizzard of 1888 makes our winter woes look like tempests in a teapot, The Star-Ledger
[14] Blizzard of 1888, Celebrate Boston
[15] Great White New York, The New Yorker
[16] America’s Worst Winter Ever, American History Magazine, April 2010

Bell and the Telephone Controversy

January 30th, 2011 No comments

Every schoolkid knows that Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone. Right? Well, not according to some. You see, there has been a controversy about who invented the telephone, right from the very beginning. There are actually several claimants. In this post we’ll consider the main controversy, between Bell and Elisha Gray, co-founder of the Western Electric Manufacturing Company.
A little background is in order here. The demonstration of the telegraph by Samuel F.B. Morse in 1844 proved the ability to transmit electronic signals over long distances, even across the Atlantic. It wasn’t too much of a conceptual stretch to consider transmitting sounds over telegraph wires, and many people began working on the idea.

Bell speaking into his telephone, 1876

Bell speaking into his telephone, 1876

Bell, a teacher of deaf children and professor of Vocal Physiology and Elocution at the Boston University School of Oratory, had an extensive background in speech and vocalization. He was not an experienced mechanical engineer, however, and while he had a design for a telephone, he did not have a resolution for the problem of reproducing sound. Consider this: Bell’s attorney, Marcellus Bailey, filed Bell’s patent application for the telephone on February 14, 1876. This is the very same day that a patent caveat (announcement of an invention, something like a provisional application today) was filed by William D. Baldwin, the attorney for Gray. According to popular myth, Bell beat Gray to the patent office by a couple of hours and so was awarded the patent. But that is not how the patent office worked. Under patent law of the time, patents were awarded on the basis of who was first to invent, not who was first to file, so the order in which the two applications was received was not important.
What is more interesting is that the patent examiner, Zenas Fisk Wilber, was a war buddy of Marcellus Bailey and owed him money. Wilber testified later that, contrary to Patent Office rules, he showed Bailey Gray’s patent caveat and discussed technical details of it, in particular the idea for a water transmitter for electrically reproducing sound. Wilber also stated that he showed the caveat to Bell himself, and that Bell gave him $100. Bell denied the $100 bribe, but does admit that he and Wilber talked about Gray’s caveat “in general terms”. To add fuel to the controversy, Bell’s patent drawings do not show a transmitter, but the narrative discusses a water transmitter in seven sentences which were “added at the last moment”.
Neither Bell nor Gray had a working prototype on February 14. Wilber, the examiner, did have doubts about Bell’s application and held up Bell’s patent application. Bell met with Wilber to answer questions about the application and satisfy him that Bell’s application was genuine. Wilber was satisfied, and Bell was awarded the patent, number 174,465, on March 7, 1876. Three days later, on March 10, Bell was working with his assistant Thomas Watson, using a water transmitter as a proof of concept. Bell spilled some acid while Watson was in another room and uttered the famous words into his new device “Mr. Watson – come here – I want to see you.” This was the first successful transmission of speech electronically. Bell did not continue using the water transmitter (it was impractical for production purposes) and by the time he first demonstrated the telephone publicly at the Centennial Exhibition three months later, in June 1876, he was using an electromagnetic transmitter of his own design. Bell made many public demonstrations in 1876 and 1877, proving that the telephone could transmit speech over long distances.
In late 1877 Gray, after allowing his caveat to expire, challenged Bell’s patent on the grounds that the water transmitter was his idea, not Bell’s. The Patent Office ruled that, while the water transmitter was undoubtedly Gray’s idea, Gray’s failure to take any action until Bell had conclusively proved the utility of the invention deprived him of the right to have his claim considered. Further litigation from Gray and others followed, an astonishing 600 lawsuits in the first 18 years of the Bell Telephone Company’s existence, but Bell’s patent held every time. Thus it was that Bell won the patent controversy and became the father of the telephone, and it’s his name that is known to every schoolkid.
Vox’s Take: It seems to me likely that Bell did indeed “borrow” from Gray’s water transmitter design, at least for a little while as he struggled to get his contraption working. Bell’s dependence on Grays’ water transmitter was short-lived, and he was past it before any public exhibition, but there it was nonetheless and it helped him get past a crucial stage in his efforts. Regardless of the legal implications, I think that Gray should at least be mentioned as a contributor to the invention of the telephone, vs. textbooks giving the impression that Bell was the only person thinking about this marvelous invention and that he came up the design completely on his own. What’s your take?
P.S. The U.S. House of Representatives passed House Resolution 269 in 2002, claiming that it is neither Bell nor Gray, but an Italian-American named Antonio Meucci who should be credited with the invention of the telephone. This resolution, coincidentally introduced by an Italian-American, Rep. Vito Fossella, is just the latest in what appears to be an unsolvable debate.

Sources:
[1] Who is credited as inventing the telephone?, Library of Congress
[2] Elisha Gray – The Race to Patent the Telephone, about.com Inventors
[3] Elisha Gray and Alexander Bell telephone controversy, Wikipedia
[4] News Flash: U.S. House of Representatives Says Alexander Graham Bell Did Not Invent the Telephone, History News Network