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Bell Labs Science Experiment Kits

 

Bell Labs produced some very sophisticated kits which included manuals (and books) written by Bell System employees with PhD degrees.  These weren't your typical kits like you buy today where you just snap part A to part B and hook up a 9 Volt battery.  No, these were in a class of their own.  The books themselves go into great depth on the subject material.

 

A flyer titled "Bell System aids to high school science" tells educators to contact their local Bell Telephone company for details on obtaining a limited quantity of kits for free.

Barbara A. Sweeney of the AT&T archives department stated that there were five titles in a series of "Bell System Aids to High School Science Programs".  The first  science kits from the program, which was introduced in 1961, included: "From Sun to Sound", "Speech Synthesis", "Energy from the Sun" and "Experiments with Crystals and Light".  In 1968, another kit was made available called CARDIAC.

 

These kits were designed for classroom use by students who had demonstrated high scientific aptitudes. Program materials were distributed to high schools by the local Bell System telephone companies.  Figures are not available on the number of kits that were made. 

 

 

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An article appeared in the February 27, 1965 issue of "The Journal of the Telephone Industry" about the Bell Labs teaching aids.  The article can be viewed by clicking HERE (in PDF format).

 

A 1963 Bell System advertisement mentioned some other kits as well but I don't know if they ever actually made them.  (A big thanks to Jim Shaughnessy who was selling an original copy of this ad on eBay!)  In that advertisement it states the following:

"Three other aids offered to America’s schools:

Wave Motion Machine, which illustrates behavior common to sound, light, electricity. Unit also includes film, books, lecture.

Ferromagnetic Domains, a basic approach to the study of magnetism, including books, a motion picture and four demonstration units.

Solar Energy Experiment for advanced students containing all the materials necessary to turn silicon slabs into working solar cells.

The Speech Chain, various classroom materials for physics and biology teachers on the interdisciplinary study of speech and hearing.

Speech Synthesis, for advanced students. Circuitry, electronic components, biology. Completed unit simulates speech sounds."

As you probably already know, Bell Labs invented the transistor and the solar cell (solar battery as it was sometimes called).  Two of these experiments involve converting light into electricity by using a solar cell; one of these solar kits involve making your own solar cell while the other one comes with a solar cell that you use to power an audio oscillator using a Western Electric transistor (a beautiful gold color as you will see later).  The other two kits that I own in the series are "Speech Synthesis" and "Crystals and Light".

 

The first four kits were purchased from a seller on eBay and, from what I can tell, these kits were never used and all parts are present.  There is some kind of water and/or chemical spill damage to the cardboard of the boxes and some torn corners of the boxes, but otherwise they are in fair condition for being over 35 years old.  I also purchased a second Speech Synthesis kit on eBay that was still in it's original sealed shipping cartoon including the original ten cent postal stamp!

The fifth kit, called the CARDIAC, was sent to me by Morgan Bright.

 

To view some photos and brief descriptions of these kits, click on a picture of one of the four kits below.  To return to this page, click your browser's "Back" button or click on the "Bell Labs Science Experiment Kits" link in the title bar at the top of each of the four pages representing the individual kits.

 

 

 

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