Printing telegraph used to send the first submarine telegraph mesage, 1851.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
This printing telegraph was used to transmit the first submarine telegraph mesage. In 1845, the English chemist Michael Faraday (1791-1867) discovered gutta percha's properties as an electrical insulator. Jacob Brett and John Watkins Brett of Bristol immediately saw its potential for use in submarine telegraphy and in 1849 formed 'The English Channel Submarine Telegraph Company'. On 28 August 1850, the company succesfully laid an underwater cable from Dover to Cap Gris Nez, near Calais, in France. Although the cable was broken within days by chafing on the rocks, it proved that mesages could be conveyed beneath the channel by means of electricity.