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Biography Samuel Morse

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Samuel Finley Breese Morse (born April 27, 1791 in Charlestown, Massachusetts, U.S. - died April 2, 1872 in New York, New York, U.S.) is an American painter and inventor. He is most famous for devising the Morse Code, a method for transmitting telegraphic information using standardized sequences of short and long elements (those elements are commonly known as "dots" and "dashes" or "dits" and "dahs"), together with Alfred Vail. He also invented a single wire telegraph system. Morse is somewhat less known as an artist but painting was indeed his means of living for most of his life and his artistic reputation was good in his lifetime.

Samuel Morse is the first child of Jedidiah Morse, a distinguished geographer and Congregational clergyman, and Elizabeth Ann Breese Morse. Although he attended Yale College to study religious philosophy and mathematics, he developed interest in electricity and art instead. After graduating, he worked as a clerk for a Boston publisher at first but painting gradually became his profession. In 1811, with the help from his parents, he travelled to England to study art. He returned to the U.S. in 1815 and earned a living with portraiture albeit reluctantly because the American did not appreciate his historical works. Morse settled in New York City after working in New England, New York and South Carolina. Morse was sociable among the intellectual and among his friends there are notable names like the marquis de Lafayette and the writer James Cooper.

In 1832, Morse conceived the idea of an electric telegraph on his home returning trip from Europe. However, not until 1837 did he turn full attention into this invention. By 1838 he developed what is known today as the Morse Code. After several failed attempts to secure interest in constructing a telegraph line in both Europe and the the U.S., he succeeded in obtaining financial support from the Congress for the first telegraph line from Baltimore to Washington and in 1844, he sent the first message "What hath God wrought!" with this line. Morse had to face legal disputes before a Supreme Court decision established his patent rights in 1854.

The telegraph considerably changed the world even within Morse's lifetime and the Morse Code is still widely in use nowadays in radio transmission and as an assistive technology for people with disabilities to communicate. Morse's 1837 telegraph instrument is preserved in Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. and his estate is designated a historic landmark.

Morse, Samuel F.B.. (2008). In Encyclopdia Britannica. Retrieved February 1, 2008, from Encyclopdia Britannica Online at

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