Samuel Finley Breese Morse, inventor of the practical electromagnetic telegraph, was born in Charlestown, Massachusetts, to Jedidiah Morse and Elizabeth Ann Finley Breese On April 27, 1791. He was graduated from Yale College. Morse’s father was a geographer and a co-inventor of cerographic stereotypy, and improved the bathometer. Morse married Lucretia Pickering Walker. She died when she was 25 years old and later Morse married Elizabeth Griswold. He had seven children.
Morse was a very good artist. At a young age, he started earning money through his small portraits. In 1812, Morse’s model statuette of the Dying Hercules won a gold medal at the Adelphi Society of Arts exhibition in London. He owned an art studio at Boston and New York. He was the founder and the first president of the National Academy of Design. He also helped to launch the New York Journal of Commerce. He also served as a United States Commissioner at the Paris Universal Exposition.
Professor James Freeman Dana of Columbia College was a best friend of Morse who helped Morse to have a better conceptual idea about electricity. Morse had started to contemplate the concept of transmitting messages instantaneously by using electricity. He realized that pulses of electrical current could convey information over wires. It was then, Morse wrote his ideas on the electromagnetic recording telegraph and dot-and-dash code system in his sketchbook.
The early telegraph was a machine requiring 26 separate wires, one for each letter of the alphabet. Around that time two German engineers had invented a five-wire model, but Morse wanted to be the first to reduce the number of wires to one.
Between 1832 and 1837 he developed a working model of an electric telegraph, using crude materials such as a home-made battery and old clock-work gears. In the year 1835, he constructed the recording telegraph with a moving paper ribbon and demonstrated it to his friends and Dr.Leonard Gale. The message transmission was in the form of a code represented in the form of dots and dashes printed out on the paper tape moved by the clockworks.
Morse worked four years to produce his first model of the telegraph. His first telegraph device used a one-wire system, which produced an EKG-like line on ticker tape. The dips in the line had to be de-coded into letters and numbers using a dictionary composed by him. By the following year, he formulated a code where the letters and numbers were represented by combinations of dot and dash symbols. The symbols have to be encoded and decoded before they are transmitted. Dr.Gale assisted him on developing the relay switch where one electric circuit is used to open and close a switch on another electric circuit further away.
In 1838, Morse paid his attention towards developing a unique code for message transmission. He used individual codes for each letter. This eliminated the need to encode and decode each word when it is transmitted. This code was named as the Morse code. He later carried out his experiments with underwater transmissions where signals were send in a two mile cable submerged under water. It was in the year 1844; he had developed the telegraph register and the first message was transmitted through the telegraph where Morse had send the message; What hath God wrought.
With the help of Alfred Vail, the telegraph was greatly improved to help in printing the Morse code during transmission. In 1846, Morse further developed his telegraph and found the recording register device with which he was able to record sounds and signals. It required two people to operate, one to read the tape, the other to write the message. With the advent of the telegraph, the governments were able to communicate directly with the commanders in the field, and the newspaper correspondents were able to wire reports from the front. Later years, Samuel Morse served as an electrician for Cyrus W. Field’s company during its attempts to lay the first transatlantic telegraph cable.
On April 2nd 1872, Samuel Morse died of pneumonia in New York City at eighty-one years of age. He was buried in Greenwood Cemetery, Brooklyn. A century after the invention of the telegraph, biographer Carleton Mabee called Morse the American Leonardo. But Morse had once written to Cooper, I have no wish to be remembered as a painter, for I never was a painter.