Meet Samuel Finley Breese Morse.
He was smiling at me from a black and white handout. The paper was sitting on top of a counter, in an unattended corner. It was the only piece of paper and it took me a while to find an attendant. Eventually the information was mine.
The paper asked who he was. Then listed a few persons he is not. Now we know he is:
Samuel Finley Breese Morse was born in Charlestown, Massachusetts, April 27th, 1791. His parents gave him a good education. Samuel preferred drawing to books. He developed talent for portraits on ivory. He continued his education, graduating Yale in 1810. Samuel worked as a bookstore clerk and continued working on his art.
Art isn’t always the easiest path for financial security. Making a living proved challenging but his skill was remarkable and there are a couple of his works in the Smithsonian.
In 1832 he met Charles Thomas Jackson, a doctor and inventor. The two of them discussed the idea of electromagnetism. Morse thought “if this be so, and the presence of electricity can be made visible in any desired part of the circuit, I see no reason why intelligence might not be instantaneously transmitted by electricity to any distance.”
Samuel Morse began the quirky quest of developing “electronic intelligence signaling.”
Which people considered a “silly invention.”
Morse had strong opinions about the world around him. Plenty of folk, even today, refer to him as a ‘strange duck.’
Still, the kept working on this one idea. He and Albert Vail worked together on this long distance communication until Mr. Vail needed to find secure employment.
May 24th, 1844
On May 24th, 1844 a message was sent from Baltimore to Washington DC, 40 miles, and changed the world forever.
Western Union, Associated Press, Railroads all adopted the telegraph. Using a system of long and short sounds, the world was connected.
Mr. Morse died of pneumonia, April 2nd, 1872 in new York City. He was 80 years old.