Morse Code: What Hath God Wrought! – By Daniel Sheridan
On this day, May 24, 1844, the most significant discovery in the methods of communication, an invention born out of personal tragedy, was successfully put to the test, thus launching the worldwide communications revolution and marking a turning point in the advancement of human civilization.
Professor Samuel Morse was born in Massachusetts in 1791. After graduating from Yale, he became a famous portrait painter, capturing the images of men like John Adams and James Monroe. In 1825, while working in Washington D.C. on a painting of America’s French revolutionary ally Lafayette, Morse received a letter stating that his wife was very sick. She was already dead and buried by the time he made it home. She was only 25.
Morse was devastated. The snail’s pace of news travel prevented him from responding quickly enough to be by his wife’s side. The memory haunted him. Morse turned his attention to the study of electricity, hoping to improve communications. By 1835 he had invented the electric telegraph. He tested the new technology on May 24, 1844, setting up his telegraphic sounder at the Federal Supreme Court. The inventor sat before the contraption and ticked off the Biblical words: “What hath God wrought.” Seconds later, Morse’s assistant in Baltimore responded to everyone’s astonishment.
Professor Morse believed this was only the beginning, predicting his wires would encircle the earth carrying messages across America and under the ocean to Europe. In 1844, Morse’s invention brought the news of the election of James K Polk from Baltimore to Washington D.C., a forerunner of today’s election night coverage with its instant results. Telegraph lines started spreading rapidly throughout the country. Morse lived to see his invention change the world.
In 1871, the elder Morse published his final words through his invention when he dictated to the operator these words: “Greeting and thanks to the Telegraph fraternity throughout the world. Glory to God in the Highest, on Earth Peace, Goodwill to men.” He died shortly after.
“In a sense, social media began on May 24, 1844, with a series of electronic dots and dashes tapped out by hand on a telegraph machine.” Morse’s invention is probably the most significant discovery in the methods of communication, launching the worldwide communications/social revolution and marking a turning point in the advancement of human civilization.