Samuel Morse was born on the 27th April 1791 in Charlestown, Massachusetts. He went to Yale College and studied a wide range of subjects including mathematics, religious philosophy and the science of horses. He also had a flair for art and was able to support himself in college by painting portraits and other commissions.
Although Morse continued to make a reputation as an artist, it would be telegraphy that he would be best remembered. And it was to come about in part due to his marriage to Lucretia Pickering Walker in 1818. He was away from home painting a portrait of the Marquis de Lafayette when he received news that his wife was recovering after the birth of their third child. However, a day later he received further news from a messenger on horseback that she had suddenly died. By the time he had returned home she had already been buried.
He had not been able to attend her because of the slow methods of communication. So he decided to do something about it. Wireless telegraphy appeared to be the answer and with the help of Professor Leonard Gale, Joseph Henry and Alfred Vail they produced a quick, simple and cheap method of communication. Their method was to send electrical pulses down telegraph wires which were controlled by electromagnets at the receiving end.
Words were not suitable for this type of transmission and so they came up with a series of signals with gaps of silence in between. Each set of “dots and dashes” represented a letter. This was essentially a code and to this day it is still used in certain circumstances such as aviation and shipping. It is known as the International Morse Code.
Morse became a rich man and donated much of his wealth to charities. He married again in 1848 and had four children. He died in New York on the 2nd April 1872.