First morse telegraph, 1835.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Replica. Samuel Morse (1791-1872) was an American artist who turned to invention in 1832 when a fellow passenger on an Atlantic crossing demonstrated some electrical apparatus acquired in Europe. Morse discussed the idea of the telegraph and by the end of the year he had developed the three basic concepts. These were: a transmitting apparatus based on the interruption of an electric circuit; a receiving apparatus using an electromagnet to operate a pen on a moving strip of paper; and a code for translating the signals into numbers and letters. The idea took off in America in 1843, but Morse is still chiefly known as the inventor of Morse code.