The invention of the telegraph

The invention of the telegraph

Today we all have a mobile phone in hand and we know hundreds of telephone companies that operate throughout the world.

But have you ever thought about the path that had to be traveled to get to have the phones we have today?

We will not talk about the entire history of telephony, but about the invention that gave rise to everything, which allowed the development of the later telephone and its evolution until as we know it today. We are talking about the telegraph.

Summary of the invention of the Telegraph

The Telegraph was one of the inventions thatrevolutionized communications, since it allowed theinstant long distance communication, something unthinkable in those years.

Authorship is usually given to a single man,Samuel Finley Beese Morse, but it was really the result of a chain of contributions made by various researchers.

The contribution of Jean Antoine Nollet

The first, less known but which is undoubtedly a huge curiosity, we found in 1746 and the protagonist is the French religious and scientist Jean Antoine Nollet.

In that year, he created a circle with 200 monks 1.6 kilometers in circumference, and connected them together with iron wires.

Once everything was ready, he discharged a battery of Leyden bottle (or Leiden), a glass bottle that allows you to store electrical charges.

The experiment allowed him to check the high speed of propagation of electricity, seeing that all the monks reacted simultaneously to the shock.

Alessandro volta

The appearance of the voltaic cell in 1800, invented by Alessandro Volta, made it possible to improve the artificial source of electricity (the Leyden battery) with the cell itself, becoming the new source of low voltage currents.

Other inventors

If we go forward in time, we find Francisco Calvá and Campillo, which managed to send a part thanks to the discharges of a capacitor,Guillermo Eduardo Weber and Carlos Federico Gauss, who installed an electric telegraph between the University and the Góttingen Observatory consisting of an arrow pointing the direction of the current, orCarlos Augusto Steinhel, which created a system for a needle to strike two bells with different pitch.

David Alter and the first telegraph?

Another historical figure who has also played a very important role in the history of the telegraph was David Alter, however, few have heard of him.

Alter actually invented the first known electric telegraph in Elderton, Pennsylvania, a year before Morse invented it.

Although he demonstrated its operation to witnesses, he was unable to turn his idea into a truly practical system, so he did not go ahead with it.

Alter was a renowned scientist and inventor, which earned him to be included in the Historical Encyclopedia of Indiana and the Armstrong Counties, for which he mentions his invention of the telegraph and talks about Morse. Expressed that

I can say that there is no connection between the telegraph of Morse and others, and mine…. Professor Morse has probably never heard of me or my Elderton telegraph.

Now yes, we come to the photographer, inventor and painterSamuel F. B. Morsewho gotcreate in 1837 the first telegraph, in addition to creating an alphabet to transmit the information that would later bear his name, theMorse code.

Biography of Samuel Morse: the inventor of the telegraph

Samuel F.B. Morse He was born in Boston on April 27, 1791 and died in New York on April 2, 1872.

In addition to being a painter, he was an inventor and responsible for create and install the first telegraphy system in the United States, for which he also devised the well-known Morse code, which allowed messages to be sent using encrypted electrical pulses.

The idea of ​​the telegraph arose due to atragic fact. Morse was painting a portrait of General Lafayette in Washington whenhis wife passed away in Connecticut.

The news reached hima week later.

Due to the delay with which the information had arrived, he decided to try to invent a device that would allow maintaining acommunication without barriers of space or time.

The first thing he did was to become interested in discoveries that had occurred in Europe such as theelectromagnet and electromagnetism.

After his trip to the Old Continent, he returned to the United States and there he began todevelop the bases of the electric telegraph, and also had the help ofHenry and Alfred Vail for creating the alphabet I would use.

For this, two types of electrical signals were used,a short, or point, and a long, or stripe. Each of the letters would be composed of acombination of these signals.

Both the apparatus and the alphabet began to be used7 years after its invention. The first communication was made betweenWashington and Baltimore, separated by just 60 kilometers.

The communication was made on May 24, 1844 and the message that was sent was “What God has created”.

The invention was everythingexit and began to spread throughout the world over the next two decades, known as Morse-Vail telegraph.

Alfred Vail

Alfred Vail was an American machinist and inventor who helped Morse not only with the code, but with the creation of powerful electromagnets that were implemented in the telegraph, and that allowed a much greater range than the original Morse telegraph, which was only 12 meters .

Evolution of the telegraph in the world

In 1850 an attempt was made to establish asubmarine connection between France and England, which led toin 1866 they were able to unite Europe with America thanks to submarine cables that would pass under the Atlantic Ocean.

The ticker

There were a lot of evolutions of the telegraph (Cooke and Wheatstone Telegraph, Hughes Printing Telegraph or Baudot Telegraph), but certainly one that changed the course of history was the ticker.

Its creator was the Canadian Frederick G. Creed, a worker for the Central and South American Telegraph and Cable Company, which was in a subsidiary of the latter in Chile.

There he created equipment very similar to a typewriter, which allowed him to punch morse code signals into paper when the appropriate character was pressed on the keyboard.

With this idea in mind, he decided to quit his company and move to Glasgow, where he modified a typewriter so that it pierced every time it was pressed, while creating a reperforator and a printer.

Each time the Reperforator punched the Morse code into the tape, the printer would decode that code and reproduced on paper the translation in alphanumeric characters.

This not only earned him the founding of his Creed & Company automatic printer business, but the Daily Mail newspaper adopted this system to be able to transmit its contents daily, and after a few years almost every major news agency owned one.

This invention allowed telegraphic coding to be fully automated and messages began to become widespread in the 1930s and 1940s.

The telegraph and its evolution in other devices, was the one that sowed the seed for decades laterthe phone came up.

Who knows what the history of mobile telephony and telephony in general would have been like if Samuel Morse and his predecessors had not invented the telegraph ...

Graduated in Journalism and Audiovisual Communication, since I was little I have been attracted to the world of information and audiovisual production. Passion for informing and being informed of what is happening in every corner of the planet. Likewise, I am pleased to be part of the creation of an audiovisual product that will later entertain or inform people. My interests include cinema, photography, the environment and, above all, history. I consider it essential to know the origin of things to know where we come from and where we are going. Special interest in curiosities, mysteries and anecdotal events in our history.


Video: The Telegraph A History