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Google Celebrates The Birthday Of Samual Morse.

Date : 27 / 04 / 2009
Author : Robert Broomhead - VK3DN

Today Monday the 27th of April, Google celebrated the birthday of Samual Morse through a custom Google Banner on the Google home page with the word GOOGLE displayed in Morse Code. Click the image right for a larger view.

Samuel F.B. Morse was born on April 27, 1791 in Charlestown, Massachusetts, the first child of geographer and Pastor Jedidiah Morse (1761-1826) and Elizabeth Ann Finley Breese (1766-1828). Jedidiah was a great preacher of the Calvinist faith and supporter of the American Federalist party. He not only saw it as a great preserver of Puritan traditions (strict observance of the Sabbath), but believed in its idea of an alliance with English in regards to a strong central government. Jedidiah strongly believed in education within a Federalist framework alongside the instillation of Calvinist virtues, morals and prayers for his son. After attending Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, Samuel Morse went on to Yale College to receive instruction in the subjects of religious philosophy, mathematics and science of horses. While at Yale, he attended lectures on electricity from Benjamin Silliman and Jeremiah Day. He earned money by painting. In 1810, he graduated from Yale with Phi Beta Kappa honors.

On the sea voyage home in 1832, Morse encountered Charles Thomas Jackson of Boston who was well schooled in electromagnetism. Witnessing various experiments with Jackson's electromagnet, Morse developed the concept of a single wire telegraph, and The Gallery of the Louvre was set aside. The original Morse telegraph, submitted with his patent application, is part of the collections of the National Museum of American History at the Smithsonian Institution. In time the Morse code would become the primary language of telegraphy in the world, and is still the standard for rhythmic transmission of data.

William Cooke and Professor Charles Wheatstone reached the stage of launching a commercial telegraph prior to Morse, despite starting later. In England, Cooke became fascinated by electrical telegraph in 1836, four years after Morse, but with greater financial resources. Cooke abandoned his primary subject of anatomy and built a small electrical telegraph within three weeks. Wheatstone also was experimenting with telegraphy and (most importantly) understood that a single large battery would not carry a telegraphic signal over long distances, and that numerous small batteries were far more successful and efficient in this task (Wheatstone was building on the primary research of Joseph Henry, an American physicist). Cooke and Wheatstone formed a partnership and patented the electrical telegraph in May 1837, and within a short time had provided the Great Western Railway with a 13-mile (21 km) stretch of telegraph. However, Cooke and Wheatstone's multiple wire signaling method would be overtaken by Morse's superior method within a few years.

Morse encountered the problem of getting a telegraphic signal to carry over more than a few hundred yards of wire. His breakthrough came from the insights of Professor Leonard Gale, who taught chemistry at New York University (a personal friend of Joseph Henry). With Gale's help, Morse soon was able to send a message through ten miles (16 km) of wire. This was the great breakthrough Morse had been seeking. Morse and Gale were soon joined by a young enthusiastic man, Alfred Vail, who had excellent skills, insights and money. Morse's telegraph now began to be developed very rapidly.

In 1838 a trip to Washington, D.C. failed to attract federal sponsorship for a telegraph line. Morse then traveled to Europe seeking both sponsorship and patents, but in London discovered Cooke and Wheatstone had already established priority. Morse would need the financial backing of Maine congressman Francis Ornand Jonathan Smith.

Morse made one last trip to Washington, D.C., in December 1842, stringing "wires between two committee rooms in the Capitol, and sent messages back and forth" to demonstrate his telegraph system. Congress appropriated $30,000 in 1843 for construction of an experimental 38-mile (61 km) telegraph line between Washington, D.C., and Baltimore, Maryland, along the right-of-way of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. An impressive demonstration occurred on May 1, 1844, when news of the Whig Party's nomination of Henry Clay for U.S. President was telegraphed from the party's convention in Baltimore to the Capitol Building in Washington. On May 24, 1844, the line was officially opened as Morse sent his famous words "What hath God wrought" from the B&O's Baltimore station to the Capitol Building along the wire.

The first telegraph office
In May 1845 the Magnetic Telegraph Company was formed in order to radiate telegraph lines from New York City towards Philadelphia, Boston, Buffalo, New York and the Mississippi.4

Morse also at one time adopted Wheatstone and Carl August von Steinheil's idea of broadcasting an electrical telegraph signal through a body of water or down steel railroad tracks or anything conductive. He went to great lengths to win a lawsuit for the right to be called "inventor of the telegraph", and promoted himself as being an inventor, but Alfred Vail played an important role in the invention of the Morse Code, which was based on earlier codes for the electromagnetic telegraph.

Samuel Morse received a patent for the telegraph in 1847, at the old Beylerbeyi Palace (the present Beylerbeyi Palace was built in 1861-1865 on the same location) in Istanbul, which was issued by Sultan Abdülmecid who personally tested the new invention.

In the 1850s, Morse went to Copenhagen and visited the Thorvaldsens Museum, where the sculptor's grave is in the inner courtyard. He was received by King Frederick VII, who decorated him with the Order of the Dannebrog. Morse expressed his wish to donate his portrait from 1830 to the king. The Thorvaldsen portrait today belongs to Margaret II of Denmark.

The Morse telegraphic apparatus was officially adopted as the standard for European telegraphy in 1851. Britain (with its British Empire) remained the only notable part of the world where other forms of electrical telegraph were in widespread use (they continued to use the needle telegraph invention of Cooke and Wheatstone).

Later years
In the United States, Morse had his telegraph patent for many years, but it was both ignored and contested. In 1853 the case of the patent came before the Supreme Court where, after very lengthy investigation, Chief Justice Roger B. Taney ruled that Morse had been the first to combine the battery, electromagnetism, the electromagnet and the correct battery configuration into a workable practical telegraph.6 Nevertheless, in spite of this clear ruling, Morse still received no official recognition from the United States government. Assisted by the American ambassador in Paris, the governments of Europe were approached regarding how they had long neglected Morse while using his invention. There was then a widespread recognition that something must be done, and "in 1858 Morse was awarded the sum of 400,000 French francs (equivalent to about $80,000 at the time) by the governments of France, Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands, Piedmont, Russia, Sweden, Tuscany and Turkey, each of which contributed a share according to the number of Morse instruments in use in each country.

There was still no such recognition in the U.S. This remained the case until June 10, 1871, when a bronze statue of Samuel Morse was unveiled in Central Park, New York City.

In the 1850s, Morse became well known as a defender of America's institution of slavery, considering it to be sanctioned. In his treatise "An Argument on the Ethical Position of Slavery," he wrote:

My creed on the subject of slavery is short. Slavery per se is not sin. It is a social condition ordained from the beginning of the world for the wisest purposes, benevolent and disciplinary, by Divine Wisdom. The mere holding of slaves, therefore, is a condition having per se nothing of moral character in it, any more than the being a parent, or employer, or ruler.

Samuel Morse was a generous man who gave large sums to charity. He also became interested in the relationship of science and religion and provided the funds to establish a lectureship on 'the relation of the Bible to the Sciences' Morse was not a selfish man. Other people and corporations made millions using his inventions, yet most rarely paid him for the use of his patented telegraph. He was not bitter about this, though he would have appreciated more rewards for his labors. Morse was comfortable; by the time of his death, his estate was valued at some $500,000.

Death Of Samual Morse
Morse died on April 2, 1872 at his home at 5 West 22nd Street, New York City, at the age of 80, and was buried in the Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York.

History courtesy of Wikipedia


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