Ocean Liner Talk Spurs Telegraph Invention

Ocean Liner Talk Spurs Telegraph Invention


The importance of the Morse code and the telegraph (and, later, radio telegraphy) to maritime safety is well established. Less well known is the fact that Samuel Morse began developing the technology while crossing the Atlantic on an ocean liner.

Sailing from Le Havre to New York on the packet Sully in the autumn of 1832, Morse conceived the idea of an electromagnetic telegraph during talks with another passenger, Charles T. Jackson of Boston. Jackson described to Morse, who at the time was best known as a portrait painter, European experiments with electromagnetism. Inspired by the discussions, Morse wrote the description of a basic electromagnetic recording telegraph and dot-and-dash code system in his sketchbook.

“He sailed from Havre on the 1st of October in the packet-ship Sully.  The name of the ship has now become historic, and a chance conversation in mid-ocean was destined to mark an epoch in human evolution.”  —Edward Lind Morse, Samuel Morse’s son.