WORK will start today on a £6.5 million life science centre in Moray which will bear the name of the man most famous for inventing the telephone.
The first sod of the Alexander Graham Bell Centre will be cut by Moray MSP Richard Lochhead on the Moray College UHI campus in Elgin.
The Bell family have agreed that the centre can use his name.
The centre is being developed by "Digital Moray", a joint project between NHS Grampian, Moray Council, the Scottish Government, Highlands & Islands Enterprise, academia and industry.
It will take around 15 months to construct the centre, and the project has been awarded to UK construction firm Morgan Sindall, which has offices in Inverness.
The centre will provide training, research, conferencing and research space for health and care professionals and members of the public. It will also provide dedicated space for health professionals to learn including a mock ward and surgical training.
It is the first rural life science centre in Europe and the first innovation centre in health and care.
It will develop the use of TV, Internet and mobile devices to promote healthier living and track health status changes.
Andrew Fowlie of NHS Grampian, said: "Moray is leading the way in using digital technologies to create unique health services improving the lives of our patients and the industry of our medical practitioners."
Mike Devenney, principal of Moray College, added: "Moray College is delighted to be the new home of the Alexander Graham Bell Centre."
Funding for the project has come from the college, NHS Grampian, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and the European Regional Development Fund.
David Oxley, HIE area manager for Moray, said: “The creation of the Alexander Graham Bell Centre is an exciting step in providing the facilities Moray needs to be at the forefront of delivering innovative health care systems for the future.
"It will develop ambitious partnership training, business and research opportunities in Moray which will strengthen the area’s international reputation in the digital health sector.”
The three storey building will include a 140-capacity conference facility, reception area and community hub on the ground floor, new teaching classrooms and video conferencing facilities, and specialist life science facilities.
Alexander Graham Bell was a Scottish-born scientist and inventor, most famous for his pioneering work on the development of the telephone.
He was born on 3 March, 1847 in Edinburgh and educated there and in London. His father and grandfather were both authorities on elocution and at the age of 16 Bell himself began researching the mechanics of speech.
He taught in Elgin for a period at a young age. The famous Scot is said to have first conceived his vision for the telephone while teaching in the town.
Bell came to Elgin in 1863 aged 16, to teach music and elocution at Weston House Academy.
While at the academy, a site which now houses electrical outlet Comet, Bell was already researching and investigating speech and sound.
His roommate Dr George Whyte was later reported in the Elgin Courier and Courant, on July 17 1931, as saying that Bell had stated to him during his time in Elgin that one day people would be able to speak by telegraph. before emigrating with his family to Canada in 1870.
There he pioneered a system called visible speech, developed by his father, to teach deaf-mute children. In 1872 Bell founded a school in Boston to train teachers of the deaf. The school subsequently became part of Boston University, where Bell was appointed professor of vocal physiology in 1873. He became a naturalised U.S. citizen in 1882.
Bell had long been fascinated by the idea of transmitting speech, and by 1875 had come up with a simple receiver that could turn electricity into sound. Others were working along the same lines, including an Italian-American Antonio Meucci, and debate continues as to who should be credited with inventing the telephone.
However, Bell was granted a patent for the telephone on March 7, 1876 and it developed quickly. Within a year the first telephone exchange was built in Connecticut and the Bell Telephone Company was created in 1877, with Bell the owner of a third of the shares, quickly making him a wealthy man.
In 1880, Bell was awarded the French Volta Prize for his invention and with the money, founded the Volta Laboratory in Washington, where he continued experiments in communication, in medical research, and in techniques for teaching speech to the deaf, working with Helen Keller among others.
In 1888, Bell was one of the founding members of the National Geographic Society, and served as its president from 1896 to 1904, also helping to establish its journal.
He died on August 2, 1922 at his home in Nova Scotia.