Though the necessary elements for constructing an electrical communication system were discovered in the early nineteenth century, it was only in the 1840s, that the first telegraphy system was invented by Samuel Finley Breese Morse in the United states, which was referred to as the Morse code.
Samuel Morse, born on April 27, 1791, in Charlestown, Massachusetts, was a professional painter and the founder of the Royal Academy. He was inspired to work on electromagnets, after a discussion on his return voyage to America in 1832.
Morse worked rigorously for constructing the telegraph, in partnership with Leonard Gail, a professor and Alfred Vail. In 1854, he received the patent for Morse code from the Supreme Court of United States.
Prior to the Morse telegraphy system of communication, there were some electrical systems, like the English "Needle Telegraph", which was used as a means of communication in those times. However, the major drawback of these instruments were a complex configuration and a very slow system.
The Story of Morse Code
Samuel Morse designed the Morse code in such a way, that the letters of the alphabets and the ten numerals were represented by means of short and long pulses. Hence, according to the Morse code, each character of the alphabets, numerals, and punctuation marks were assigned a pattern, unique to the particular character.
As per the Morse code, an operator translated the short and long pulses (characteristic to the message being sent) into electrical signals with the help of a telegraph key.
At the receiving end, a sophisticated operator translated the electrical signals back to the alphabetical and/or numeral characters (whichever were present in the message). This way, the Morse system of telegraphy conveyed a message electrically.
On May 24, 1844, the first telegraph message 'What hath God wrought', was sent electrically from the Supreme Court chamber, in the US Capitol to the railway depot, Baltimore. Since the invention of the Morse code, it was popularly used as a standard means of communication both in the United States and European countries.
In comparison to the electronic communication systems of those times, Morse code was advantageous in two ways; the easy working principle, and secondly, the ability to function efficiently, even with low quality wires.
Nevertheless, a drawback of the Morse code was the use of characters for spaced dots, which was found to be the main cause of error for transmission, especially on undersea cables.
By 1851, a new code, referred to as the international or continental code, was constructed by modifying the Morse code. In the new system, the characters for spaced dots were eliminated.
The Morse code was then replaced with the new code in all telegraph systems, except in North America, where the original system was still used. The Morse code was used for over 160 years, which is comparatively longer than other coding systems.
The basic difference between the Morse code and the present-day telegraph is that in the former case, the codes for each character were sent via a single wire; whereas, a code for each letter is sent through a different wire in case of the telegraph.
Other than the Morse code, Samuel Morse was the first inventor of fire engine pumps and marble-cutting machines. In 1871, the Telegraph honored Samuel Morse by dedicating a statue in Central Park, New York City.
Samuel Morse died of pneumonia on April 2, 1872, in New York City, at the age of 80. Even though Samuel Morse is not a scientist by profession, today, the world remembers him as a great scientist and the inventor of the telegraph.