Articles/Biographies/Other/Morse, Samuel

Samuel Morse was born on April 27, 1791 in Charlestown, Massachusetts. His father, Jedidiah, was a pastor, and his mother was Elizabeth Ann Breese Morse. As a youth, Samuel studied at Phillips Academy before going on to Yale University at the age of fourteen.

Morse's initial interest was art and he studied under Washington Allston, a famous painter. However, he also took time to listen to lectures about electricity and its applications, something that he found fascinating. To support himself, he painted portraits of people for money.

In 1810, Morse graduated from Yale and left with his mentor, Allston, on a trip to Europe. There, they studied art at the various museums and took time to paint scenery and cities. Morse also worked on inventing useful tools.

His first innovation was a marble-cutting machine that was capable of carving in three dimensions. However, when he attempted to patent his idea, he discovered that it was already covered by a patent issued to Thomas Blanchard in 1820. Despite this, he was not deterred and continued working on new ideas.

In 1837, Morse claimed invention of a new communication system known as the telegraph. The device transmitted pulses of electricity that, when pulsed in an organized fashion, could be interpreted as characters in the alphabet. This allowed people to communicate over wire and took the world by storm.

Although Morse received the patent for the device, he was challenged by several other inventors. During a lawsuit brought by a Mr. O' Reilly, Morse claimed that the early papers regarding the invention had been lost in a fire. Dr. Charles Jackson claimed that Morse had shown him conceptual drawings and his "Morse Code" as early as 1932. Morse Code was a standard method for converting alphanumeric characters into short and long pulses on the telegraph.

On February 8, 1838, Morse made the first public demonstration of the telegraph system in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. News of the discovery even interested Martin Van Buren, who had a private demonstration on February 21st. An interested member of the House of Representatives even proposed a bill that would fund the construction of a $30,000 telegraph line. Morse set up a long range telegraph test on May 24, 1844, in which he transmitted the message "What hath God wrought" from Washington D.C. to Baltimore, Maryland.

As telegraphy was implemented over the next several decades, Morse failed to produce any other new inventions. During the slavery controversy of the 1860s, Morse became an outspoken supporter for slavery, declaring it to be sanctioned by God. He died on April 2, 1872 in his home in New York City.