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Samuel Morse (1791 – 1872)

Inventor of telegraph, Morse code

Samuel Morse was the great American inventor who gave the world the first single wire telegraph, and helped invent the Morse code (it is a way of transmitting text information through many on-off tones, lights or clicks).

Samuel Morse was born on the 27th of April 1791 to a pastor (who was also a geographer) and his wife. He was their first child.

Morse studied religious philosophy, mathematics and the science of horses at Yale College, and attended lectures on electricity during that time too.

He earned his money through painting, which he was very good at, and graduated from college with honours.

The event that pushed Morse to invent the telegraph was a tragic one. He was apart from his family and got to know too late that his wife had been sick and died a lonely death. There had been no way of receiving the news fast enough.

Until then he had been deeply involved in his paintings and had been very successful in it.

After the death of his wife, he left his paintings to try to find a way of inventing a machine that can communicate over long distances.

Morse observed Charles Thomas Jackson who was conducting many experiments with his electromagnet, and decided to develop a single-wire telegraph.

The problem with these telegraphs in the 1700s was that there were many wires attached to them and that made them very difficult to use.

Morse began working on building a telegraph that used only one wire, and managed to do this in 1836.

This was the beginning of the “Morse Code”, a ‘telegraph language’ that was made up of a series of dots and dashes.

These dots and dashes were represented through the telegraph as two different types of “clicks”. Each dot and dash, and combination represented letters in the alphabet.

Morse’s invention made life easier by allowing people to quickly and easily communicate with people many miles away.

The first telegraph message was between Baltimore and Washington in 1844, and it took only about 17 years to for telegraphs to be up and running in America.

By 1866 telegraphs were possible across the Atlasntci Ocean for transatlantic communication.

Samuel Morse received the patent (licence) for his telegraph in 1847 in Istanbul after the Sultan personally tested it and found it working perfectly.

Morse helped extend his invention to other parts like Latin America like Puerto Rico.

Sadly, despite all of Morse’s great work, America did not recognize him as being the official inventor of the telegraph until very late in his life.

Furthermore, most of the countries that were using his invention had not really recognized him for his work.

He was later awarded compensation from these countries but recognition came from America in the form of a bronze statue of him in New York City, only a year before he died.

Morse also invented a marble cutting machine that could cut three dimensional sculptures from marble or stone. He could not apply for a patent for it though.

For his work in inventing the telegraph, the Morse Code, and for all the great paintings he created during his lifetime, Samuel Morse won many awards and recognitions from kings, queens, presidents and sultans from around the world.

Morse married twice and had seven children altogether.

He passed away on the 2nd of April 1872 of pneumonia just 25 days before his 81st birthday.