On Jan. 6, 1844, artist turned inventor Samuel F.B. Morse sent out the first message on the telegraph, which ended up revolutionizing long-distance communication. See how much you know about the man who became one of the world's most famous inventors.
How Did Morse Get the Idea to Invent the Telegraph? Sending messages before the invention of the telegraph was difficult. In ancient times, smoke signals, drums or runners were used to transmit messages. This was followed by the use of semaphore signals using flags, which people waved from hilltops. All of these methods were dependent on decent weather. After receiving a message that his wife was seriously ill, Morse went home to discover that she had passed away. This spurred Morse to search for a better, faster means of communication. Western Union stopped its telegram service in 2006, but for many years, the telegram was commonly used for urgent messages.
Why Did the Invention of the Telegraph Take So Long? Two previous inventions were necessary for Morse's telegraph to work. One was the invention of the battery in 1800 by Alessandro Volta. The other was proving the relationship between the magnet and electricity, as demonstrated in 1820 by Hans Christian Oersted. Oersted's discovery proved electromagnetism, the force that causes electricity to run through wires.
How Did the Telegraph Work? Morse's invention was relatively simple, consisting of a key, line of poles connected by a single wire, a battery and a receiver on the other end of the line. To send messages, Morse, along with Leonard Gale and Alfred Vale, invented the ability to send messages by assigning each letter of the alphabet a specific set of dots, dashes or a combination of the two. The person who received this message would write down the corresponding letters that would result in the message. At first, the messages sent using Morse code were received on paper, which was marked with the series of dots and dashes. However, when it was determined that operators could understand the dots and dashes without the use of paper, the sound the transmissions made was increased by using a receiver, and the use of paper was discontinued.
What Was the First Message Sent By Telegraph? The first message was supplied by Annie Ellsworth, the daughter of a friend of Morse, and Morse transmitted the message on May 24, 1844. This world-changing event took place from the chamber that housed the Supreme Court with members of Congress watching. The 19-letter message, transmitted on a strip of paper, was sent from Morse in Washington, D.C. to his assistant Albert Vail in Baltimore, who then sent the same message back to Morse. The message read "What hath God wrought." Annie Ellsworth took the statement from the Book of Numbers in the Old Testament.