Morse, Samuel F. B.

Morse, Samuel F. B. (Finley Breese)

(1791–1872) painter, inventor; born in Charlestown, Mass. He began as a painter, studying in England under Washington Allston and Benjamin West (1811). He returned to New England (1815), and settled in New York City (1823), where he founded the American Academy of Design (1826). His historical painting, The Old House of Representatives (1822), and his well-received portrait of Lafayette (1825–26), did not lead to the government art commissions he sought. His last major work, The Exhibition Gallery of the Louvre (1832), was based on another trip abroad (1829–32). In New York again (1832), he began his many electrical experiments. From 1835 to 1838 he invented the telegraph, a method of transmitting a series of dots and dashes, representing the alphabet, over telegraph lines by means of electromagnets. Special telegraph lines were constructed to carry messages using the Morse code from Washington, D.C., to Baltimore, Maryland (1844), to prove the practical worth of the invention. He also introduced the daguerreotype, a photographic process, to America (1839). Today he is honored for his work as both a painter and an inventor.