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Samuel F. B. Morse

Samuel F. B. MorseAKA Samuel Finley Breese Morse

Born: 27-Apr-1791
Birthplace: Charlestown, MA
Died: 2-Apr-1872
Location of death: New York City
Cause of death: Illness
Remains: Buried, Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn, NY

Gender: Male
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Inventor, Artist

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Telegraph inventor and publicist

Samuel Finley Breese Morse studied art under Benjamin West, and worked as a successful and respected sculptor, painter, and art teacher until, based on a rudimentary understanding and curiosity of electricity, he invented the telegraph. In brief, the telegraph sends electricity over a wire, and the electric flow can be interrupted by holding down the key of the transmission device, resulting in gaps short (dots) or long (dashes), which are recorded on a receiving device and can be interpreted by readers of "Morse code." In 1832 he drew his first sketches of the device's transmission apparatus, with a means for switching an electric circuit on and off, and receiver, which records the signal using an electromagnet. By 1836 he had constructed a working model, which he subsequently revised based on then-recent advances by physicist Joseph Henry.

With further refinements by Alfred Vail (1807-59), Morse filed a patent for the device in 1837, and with extensive financial backing by Vail's cousin Theodore Vail (who was the founder of AT&T) they were able to secure the patent in 1849 against several other inventors of similar devices. With a $30,000 grant from Congress in 1843, the nation's first telegraph wiring was constructed between Washington DC and Baltimore, Maryland, and on 24 May 24 1844, Morse used a transmitter in the US Supreme Court Chambers to send a message to Vail in Baltimore: "What hath God wrought!"

Within a decade more than 20,000 miles of telegraph wire had been posted across America, allowing business to be conducted instantaneously across the continent, making rail travel arrangements more feasible, and facilitating the development of the American West. Morse's patent provided enough money to keep him comfortable for the rest of his life, but he had no desire to run a business, and he had his interest and earnings managed by a friend, former Postmaster General Amos Kendall. Morse was a key underwriter in the founding of Vassar College in 1861.

Father: Jedidiah Morse (minister, geographer, b. 23-Jul-1761, d. 9-Jun-1826)
Mother: Elizabeth Ann Finley Breese (b. 1766. m. 14-Mar-1789, d. 1828)
Brother: Jedediah Edwards Morse (twin b. 4-Oct- 1792, d. infancy)
Brother: Jonathan Edwards Morse (twin b. 4-Oct- 1792, d. infancy)
Brother: Sidney Edwards Morse (geographer, b. 7-Feb-1794, d. 23-Dec-1871)
Brother: Richard Cary Morse (b. 18-Jun-1795, d. infancy)
Brother: Richard Cary Morse (minister, b. 18-Jun-1796, d. 22-Sep-1868)
Brother: Thomas Russell Morse (b. 6-May-1797, d. infancy)
Brother: James Russell Morse (b. 26-Jan-1801, d. infancy)
Sister: Elizabeth Ann Morse (b. 7-Jan-1803, d. infancy)
Sister: stillborn girl (b. d. 15-Mar-1805)
Sister: Mary K. Morse (b. 27-Jan-1807, d. infancy)
Sister: Sarah K. Morse (b. Dec-1808, d. infancy)
Wife: Lucretia Pickering Walker Morse (m. 29-Sep-1819, d. 7-Feb-1825)
Daughter: Susan Walker Morse Lind (b. 2-Sep-1819, d. 1885)
Son: Charles Walker Morse (b. 17-Mar-1823, d. 1887)
Son: James Edwards Findlay Morse (b. 17-Jan-1825, d. after 1896)
Wife: Sarah Elizabeth Griswold Morse (m. 10-Aug-1848, d. 14-Nov-1901)
Son: Samuel Arthur Breese Morse (b. 25-Jul-1849, d. 1876)
Daughter: Cornelia Livingston Morse Rummel (b. 8-Apr-1851, d. 1937)
Son: William Goodrich Morse (b. 25-Jan-1853, d. 1933)
Son: Edward Lind Morse (b. 29-Mar-1857, d. 1923)

    High School: Phillips Academy Andover
    University: Yale University (1810)
    Professor: Art, New York University
    Administrator: Co-Founder, Vassar College (1861)

    Magnetic Telegraph Company Co-Founder (1845)
    French Legion of Honor (1856)
    National Inventors Hall of Fame (1975)
    Royal Academy of Arts
    National Academy of Design Co-Founder & President (1826-45)
    Lunar Crater 22.1 N, 175.1 W, 77 km. diameter

Author of books:
Confessions of a French Catholic Priest (1837, non-fiction)
Samuel F.B. Morse, His Letters and Journals (1914, two volumes)
Lectures on the Affinity of Painting with the Other Fine Arts (1983, posthumous)

Appears on postage stamps:
USA, Scott #890 (2, depicting Morse, issued 7-Oct-1940)


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