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Frederick Perry Fish (13 January 1855 – 6 November 1930) was an American lawyer and executive who served as president of American Telephone & Telegraph Corporation from 1901 to 1907. One of the leading patent attorneys of his age representing such famous clients as Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, and The Wright Brothers, by the time of his death he was believed to have appeared in more patent cases at the Supreme Court than any other lawyer. He was the founder of the law firm now known as Fish & Richardson.[1]

Frederick Perry Fish
Frederick Perry Fish circa 1920.jpg
BornJanuary 13, 1855
Taunton, Massachusetts, U.S.
DiedNovember 6, 1930(1930-11-06) (aged 75)
Brookline, Massachusetts, U.S.
EducationHarvard College
Harvard Law School
OccupationPatent Lawyer


He was born on 13 January 1855 in Taunton, Massachusetts. Fish attended Harvard College and Harvard Law School. He was admitted to the bar in 1878. He worked at the law firm of Thomas L. Livermore and Senator Bainbridge Wadleigh in Boston. During his lifetime, the law firm was successively named Wadleigh & Fish (1878); Livermore & Fish (1885); Livermore, Fish & Richardson (1889); Fish, Richardson & Storrow (1890); Fish, Richardson, Herrick & Storrow (1899); Fish Richardson, Herrick & Neave (1900); Richardson, Herrick & Neave (1901); Fish, Richardson, Herrick & Neave (1907); and Fish, Richardson & Neave (1916). In 1969, after Fish's death, the firm adopted its current name, Fish & Richardson.

Fish's specialty was patent law. He was involved in key patent litigation during development of the telephone, the air brake, the steam turbine, the automobile, the airplane and the radio, as well as other electric appliances.

In 1901, Fish took leave from the law practice to serve as the president of AT&T. During his tenure at AT&T, Fish oversaw completion of a unified network of telephone lines nationwide.

He turned down the presidency of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and returned to law in 1907. That year, Fish first credited Thomas Edison with suggesting "hello" as a more efficient telephone greeting than "Are you there?" or "Are you ready to talk?" Alexander Graham Bell had proposed "ahoy".[2]

In 1906, Fish helped the Wright Brothers secure their patent on wing warping. In 1913, Fish helped the Wright Brothers prevail over Glenn Curtiss in an infringement case involving the 1906 “Flying Machine” patent. Wilbur Wright's last known letter before his death was to Frederick Fish.[3]

He served as Vice-President of the Bar Association of the City of Boston from 1909 to 1920, and President of the Massachusetts State Bar Association for the year 1919–1920. He served on the Corporation of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Governing Board of Radcliffe College. He was also an Overseer of Harvard College, a trustee of the American School of Classical Studies in Athens, and Chairman of the Massachusetts State Board of Education.

Fish died at his home in Brookline, Massachusetts on 6 November 1930.[1]


Firm partner William King Richardson wrote a eulogy about Fish as follows: “He was a great lawyer and a great scholar, but above all he was a great human being. Each of the thousands who came in contact with him during his extraordinarily active life is better for having known him. He radiated kindliness, sympathy and courage.”[citation needed]


  1. ^ a b "Frederick P. Fish, Noted Lawyer, Dies. Was President of American Telephone and Telegraph Co. for Many Years. An Overseer of Harvard. Also a Leading Member of Massachusetts 'Tech's' Board and a Bank Director". New York Times. November 7, 1930.
  2. ^ Grimes, William (March 5, 1992). Great 'Hello' Mystery Is Solved. New York Times
  3. ^ Johnson, James Clayton, Flights Past: The Wright Brothers' Legacy and Dayton, Ohio, Dissertation, Western Michigan University, at p. 97 n. 70 (ProQuest 2007)