Samuel Finley Breese Morse (April 27, 1791 – April 2, 1872) was an American painter who turned inventor.After having established his reputation as a portrait painter, in his middle age Morse contributed to the invention of a single-wire telegraph system based on European telegraphs. He was a co-developer of the Morse code, and helped to develop the commercial use of telegraphy. Born in Charlestown, Massachusetts, the first child of the pastor Jedidiah Morse, who was also a geographer, and his wife Elizabeth Ann Finley Breese.
Although Samuel Morse respected his father's religious opinions, he sympathized with the Unitarians.Among the converts to Unitarianism were the prominent Pickerings of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, whom Morse had painted. Some critics thought his sympathies represented his own anti-Federalism. Morse was commissioned to paint President James Monroe in 1820. He embodied Jeffersonian democracy by favoring the common man over the aristocrat.
While returning by ship from Europe in 1832, Morse encountered Charles Thomas Jackson of Boston, a man who was well schooled in electromagnetism. Witnessing various experiments with Jackson's electromagnet, Morse developed the concept of a single-wire telegraph. The original Morse telegraph, submitted with his patent application, is part of the collections of the National Museum of American History at the Smithsonian Institution. In time the Morse code, which he developed, would become the primary language of telegraphy in the world. It is still the standard for rhythmic transmission of data.
Morse lent his support to Cyrus West Field’s ambitious plan to construct the first transoceanic telegraph line. Morse had experimented with underwater telegraph circuits since 1842. He invested $10,000 in Field’s Atlantic Telegraph Company, took a seat on its board of directors, and was appointed honorary "Electrician". In 1856, Morse traveled to London to help Charles Tilston Bright and Edward Whitehouse test a 2,000-mile-length of spooled cable. After the first two cable-laying attempts failed, Field reorganized the project, removing Morse from direct involvement. Though the cable broke three times during the third attempt, it was successfully repaired, and the first transatlantic telegraph messages were sent in 1858.
- US Patent 1,647, Improvement in the mode of communicating information by signals by the application of electro-magnetism, June 20, 1840
- US Patent 1,647 (Reissue #79), Improvement in the mode of communicating information by signals by the application of electro-magnetism, January 15, 1846
- US Patent 3,316, Method of introducing wire into metallic pipes, October 5, 1843
- US Patent 4,453, Improvement in Electro-magnetic telegraphs, April 11, 1846
- US Patent 6,420, Improvement in electric telegraphs, May 1, 1849