Site is under maintenance mode. Please wait few min!

Samuel Morse

Samuel Morse Photo

Samuel F. B. Morse was born on 27th April, 1791 to a Calvinist clergyman Jedidiah Morse and Elisabeth Finley Morse. Although his parents were committed to his education, Morse did not show much promise in his early years of education. Even when his parents sent him to Yale College, his performance did not improve and the only thing he was truly interested in was art and lectures on electricity.

In 1810, Morse graduated from Yale and although he wished to pursue art and painting as a career, his father planned for him to have a more stable career. Therefore, Morse was sent to Massachusetts to apprentice at a publisher in Boston. However, it was hard to deny Morse’s passion for painting and eventually his father gave him permission to travel to England to study art formally.

Career as an Artist

In England Morse worked with a number of British maestros and even got to work with a highly revered American artist Benjamin West at the Royal Academy. By 1815, Samuel Morse had returned to America and set up his studio in Boston. It did not take Morse long to realize that while his expansive painting depicting historical events and landscapes attracted much appreciation and attention; they were not attracting any sales. This forced Morse to start painting portraits which were commercially more viable at the time. For this purpose, he traveled far and wide looking for commissions. This was an extremely difficult time for Morse, yet from adversity sprung out his excellence, and he produced some of his most acclaimed masterpieces during this period such as the portraits of George Washington and Marquis de Lafayette.

Blessings in Disguise

The decade of 1825 to 1835 transformed Morse’s life completely. While Morse was engulfed by grief by one misfortune after another, fate was bringing him closer to his destiny. In February 1825, while Morse was away working on a commission, his wife died while giving birth to their third child. The next year in 1826, his father passed away and three years later his mother. Broken by such profound grief, Morse traveled to Europe to recover and on his voyage back home in 1832; he came across the inventor Charles Thomas Jackson. Soon the two got engulfed in a discussion about how an electronic impulse can be sent long distance on a wire. This idea greatly intrigued Morse who instantly sketched a device which could accomplish this.

Inventing the Telegraph

This discussion led Morse on to his greatest achievement in life; the Telegraph. After reading the research of American physicist Joseph Henry, Morse came up with the prototype of a telegraph. By 1836, other scientists were also busy exploring and developing this idea but no one had yet developed a fully functional device that could successfully transmit over long distances. In 1838, Morse joined hands with Alfred Vail, who not only invested in the idea financially but also helped develop the complicated system of dots and dashes which would eventually be known as the Morse code.

In 1842, Morse gave a live demonstration of his invention by setting wires between two committee rooms and sending messages back and forth. With the support of Maine Congressman Francis Ormand Jonathan Smith, this demo earned him a $30,000 Congressional backing to lay down a 38-mile telegraph line between Washington, D.C., and Baltimore, Maryland. It was on 24th May 1844, that the historical first message” What hath God wrought!” was tapped out by Morse himself. However, as soon as Morse got patent for his telegraph in 1847, a flurry of litigious claims from partners and rivals broke out. While the U.S. Supreme Court granted that Morse was the first to develop a workable telegraph, he received no official recognition from the U.S. government for this achievement.

On 2nd April 1872, Samuel Morse died of pneumonia in New York at the age of 80.

Write About Samuel Morse