Samuel Morse

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Samuel Morse

Samuel Finley Breese Morse (April 27, 1791 " April 2, 1872) was an American contributor to the invention of a single-wire telegraph system based on European telegraphs, co-inventor of the Morse code, and an accomplished painter.

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Samuel Morse
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Birthplace of Morse

Samuel F.B. Morse was born in Charlestown, Massachusetts, the first child of the pastor Jedidiah Morse, who was also a geographer and Elizabeth Ann Finley Breese. After attending Phillips Academy in Massachusetts, Samuel Morse went on to Yale College to receive instruction in the subjects of religious philosophy, mathematics and science of horses. While at Yale, he attended lectures on electricity from Benjamin Silliman and Jeremiah Day. He supported himself by painting.

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Birthplace of Morse
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Morse in his Youth

Morse expressed some of his Calvinist beliefs in his painting Landing of the Pilgrims, through the depiction of simple clothing as well as the people's austere facial features. His image captured the psychology of the Federalists; Calvinists from England brought to North America ideas of religion and government, thus linking the two countries.

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Morse in his Youth
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Dying Hercules, Morse's Early Masterpiece

His work attracted the attention of the notable artist Washington Allston. Allston wanted Morse to accompany him to England. After observing and practicing life drawing and absorbing its anatomical demands, Morse produced his masterpiece, the Dying Hercules. He first made a sculpture as a study for the painting. The Dying Hercules seemed to represent a political statement against the British and also the American Federalists. The muscles symbolized the strength of the young and vibrant United States versus the British and British-American supporters.

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Dying Hercules, Morse's Early Masterpiece
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Chart of Colors

Chart of Colors, drawn by Morse in sanguine and graphite to illustrate his palette of colors.

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Chart of Colors
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John Adams

The years 1815"1825 marked significant growth in Morse’s paintings, as he sought to capture the essence of America’s culture and life. He painted the Federalist former President John Adams. He hoped to become part of grander projects.

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John Adams
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Morse Telegraph Machine

In 1825, the city of New York commissioned Morse to paint a portrait of Gilbert du Motier. While Morse was painting, a messenger delivered a letter about his wife's illness. Morse immediately left Washington for his home by the time he arrived, his wife had already been buried. Heartbroken in the knowledge that for days he was unaware of his wife's failing health and her lonely death, he moved on from painting to pursue a means of rapid long distance communication. Witnessing various experiments with Jackson's electromagnet, Morse developed the concept of a single-wire telegraph. In time the Morse code would become the primary language of telegraphy in the world, and is still the standard for rhythmic transmission of data.

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Morse Telegraph Machine
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Leonard D. Gale

Leonard Gale, who helped Morse achieve the technological breakthrough of getting the telegraphic signal to travel long distances over wire.

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Leonard D. Gale
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The First Telegraph Office

Morse at one time adopted Wheatstone and Carl August von Steinheil's idea of broadcasting an electrical telegraph signal through a body of water or down steel railroad tracks or anything conductive. He went to great lengths to win a lawsuit for the right to be called "inventor of the telegraph", and promoted himself as being an inventor, but Alfred Vail played an important role in the invention of the Morse Code, which was based on earlier codes for the electromagnetic telegraph.

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The First Telegraph Office
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Morse Code

Morse code is a method of transmitting textual information as a series of on-off tones, lights, or clicks that can be directly understood by a skilled listener or observer without special equipment. Morse code speed is measured in words per minute (wpm) or characters per minute (cpm). Characters have differing lengths because they contain differing numbers of dots and dashes. The Morse code was developed so that operators could translate the indentations marked on the paper tape into text messages.

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Morse Code
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Statue of Samuel F. B. Morse

Morse was the founder and first president of the National Academy of Design. This sculpture by Byron M. Picket was commissioned by a group of telegraph operators and unveiled in 1871. The statue depicts Morse with one hand on a telegraph machine and the other holding a strip of paper from the machine.

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Statue of Samuel F. B. Morse
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