Telegraph (Samuel F. B. Morse)

Telegraph (Samuel F. B. Morse)

The American inventor presented his invention revolutionising telecommunication at New York University in 1837.



telegraph, Morse, telegraph system, SOS, Morse alphabet, Morse code, transmitting unit, receiving unit, data transmission, inventor, invention, communication, technology

Related items


  • When did Samuel Morse die?
  • What kind of signals are transmitted by the telegraph line?
  • What was the first sentence transmitted in a Morse telegraph line?
  • When did the world’s first telegraph line start operating?
  • Between which two cities was the world’s first telegraph line built?
  • What was the original profession\nof Samuel Morse?
  • When was Samuel Morse born?
  • In which country was\nSamuel Morse born?
  • What is the Morse code of the\nSOS distress signal?
  • Is it true that Morse telegraphs were used in ships?
  • Is it true that the Morse alphabet is made up of dots and dashes?
  • Was the Morse alphabet used\nby the post?
  • Was the Morse alphabet used\nby the railway?
  • Was the Morse alphabet used\nby the army?
  • Is it true that the telegraph transmits signals through\nan electromagnet?
  • Is it true that both the telegraph and the Morse alphabet were developed by Morse?
  • Is it true that the Morse alphabet is based on the smoke signals of Mohicans?
  • Is it true that Morse and Einstein were friends?
  • How long did it take for a mailcoach to get to Vienna from Pest?
  • Is it true that the Morse alphabet was developed by Marconi?


Telegraph system

Artistic invention

Samuel Morse was born in Charlestown, Massachusetts. He was trained as an artist, after attending Philips Academy, he graduated from Yale College. He first heard of elecromagnetism during a sea voyage, later on he became interested in the topic.
Morse developed the concept of a single-wire electric telegraph in 1832, it took 4 years to put his theories into practice. He introduced his telegraph on 4 September 1837 at New York University, where he worked as a professor at that time. The telegraph traced out the numbers 215 36 2 58 112 04 01837, which, translated by Morse´s telegraphic dictionary, said ‘Successful experiment with telegraph September 4th, 1837.’
The system of dots and dashes (Morse alphabet) was developed in 1839. Later it became the primary language of telegraphy in the world. The first telegram was transmitted between Baltimore and Washington, in 1844.

Samuel F. B. Morse

Samuel Morse

Transmitting unit

How it works

The telegraph can be produced (and operated) simply and cheaply. It works with a one-dimensional (serial) transfer method. One button (switch) is enough for transmission. On the receiving side, a writing device attached to an electromagnet prints the codes received onto a clockwork-driven paper band. For telegraphic data transfer, a channel is necessary that can distinguish two states. This role used to be filled by a metal wire. The combination of letters ‘SOS’ is the most well-known Morse code: the international distress signal. Some say it is an abbreviation of three words (e.g. ‘Save Our Souls!’), but probably these characters were chosen because of their simple use and recognisability (coding and decoding).

One of the first telegraphs

Receiving unit


Morse alphabet

The Morse alphabet

The Morse code is a method of communication, where the transmission of textual information is possible in a two-state channel. Morse created his alphabet based on his experiences during observing one of his relatives (a printer) working. He coded letters and punctuation marks using signal groups of dots and dashes. The most frequent letter of the English alphabet, E received the sign of one dot, and the second most frequent letter, T became one dash.



Samuel Finley Breese Morse was born in Charlestown, Massachusetts. He was trained as a painter. After attending the prestigious Phillips Academy, Morse graduated from Yale College. He first heard of electromagnetism on one of his many sea voyages. It was then that he became fascinated by this new, so far unknown area. His new interest was soon brought to fruition: between 1832 and 1835, he developed the first operational electromagnetic telegraph.

The device consisted of a transmitting unit and a receiving unit connected by wire. The signal was generated by tapping the key on the transmitter. The one-dimensional (or serial) transfer of signals was provided by the wire. On the receiving side, a writing device attached to an electromagnet printed the codes received onto a clockwork-driven paper band.

Interestingly, the inventor's name became well-known not because of the device, but mainly because of the code he developed for transmitting messages through it. In Morse code, letters and numbers are represented by various sequences of short and long signals, that is, dots and dashes; therefore, messages are easy to encode and decode.

When Morse first successfully tested the device, the transmitted message consisted of the following words: ‘Successful experiment with telegraph September 4th, 1837.’

But the best known code is that of the international distress signal: di-di-dit ||dah-dah-dah || di-di-dit, that is, SOS. Initially, Morse’s invention was not successful; investors were not interested in the device. Later, however, it became one of the most important means of communication in the world.

Related items

Telephone (Alexander Graham Bell)

The device that transmits human voice as electrical signals was invented by Bell in 1876.

How does it work? - Mobile phone

This animation demonstrates how mobile phones work.

Nikola Tesla's laboratory (Shoreham, USA)

This physicist-inventor and electrical engineer who mainly dealt with electrotechnics was undoubtedly one of the most brilliant figures of the second...

Phonograph and gramophone

Edison´s invention records and plays sound from a cylinder, while Berliner´s apparatus uses a disc.

Scale exercises

An interesting logical exercise: you have many weights that look the same, you have to find the only one that is different.

The Turk (Automaton Chess Player)

Wolfgang von Kempelen´s best known invention.

Edison’s light bulb

The American electrical engineer Edison invented the incandescent light bulb in 1879, which changed our everyday life.

How does it work? - Radio

This animation demonstrates how radios work.

Added to your cart.