Have you wondered
- who invented the first electric telegraph?
- who made the first electric telegraph?
- When was the first electric telegraph invented?
Some inventors are looking for fame and fortune. Others are motivated by a desire to improve the world. Heartbreak is what inspired Samuel Morse.
In 1825, Morse, an American painter, was working on a portrait in Washington, D.C., when he received a letter saying his wife was ill in New Haven, Connecticut. By the time Morse got there, she was dead. Morse was devastated that he had come too late. His wife’s death inspired him to find a way to speed up long-distance communication.
Thousands of years ago, people communicated with others far away by using smoke signals, drumbeats or messengers. But even up to the 1800s, the fastest a message could move was the speed of the person carrying it.
In the early 1800s, experiments in electricity had shown scientists a way to transmit electrical signals through wires. But this electrical telegraph, as it was called, was inefficient and hard to use.
Morse developed his own telegraph in 1835. What was special about his system was the easy-to-use code. In Morse code, every letter or number is represented by a unique sequence of dots and dashes. The dots are short and the dashes are long, and the telegraph operator taps them out.
In 1844, Morse gave the first public demonstration of his telegraph. The invention immediately sped up communication. Messages that once would have taken days or even weeks to reach their destination now arrived in minutes.
Wires were strung up all over to carry the messages. Alexander Graham Bell used telegraph wires to carry messages when he was developing the telephone. He was actually working on a way to improve the telegraph when he invented his world-changing invention in 1876.
Morse code has saved many lives. For instance, the international distress signal is a series of three dots, followed by three dashes, then three more dots. This spells out “SOS” in Morse code. People in trouble have found clever ways to send this signal. They’ve flashed mirrors and turned radios on and off to summon help.
Practiced senders of Morse code each have a unique style, almost like an accent. During World War II, people receiving messages from spies could tell if the sender really was who she said she was by her style, or what Morse coders call her “fist.”
Morse code allows people with severe movement disabilities to communicate. Some suck or blow on a plastic tube to spell out words in the code. Others merely blink. People who are deaf or blind can receive the code with the help of a buzzer on their skin.