- From the Greek word meaning distant writing - tele distant, graphein to write - the invention of telegraphy revolutionized communications as it was adopted by government offices, press, business, military, and the travel industry. Count Alessandro Volta (1745–1827) invented in 1800 the voltaic pile (battery) for producing continuous electric current. Hans Christian Oersted (1777–1851) discovered the relationship between electric current and magnetism. An electromagnetic telegraph was developed by Paul Schilling (1768–1837) in 1832, and Joseph Henry (1797–1878) operated the electromagnetic telegraph. Charles Wheatstone and William F. Cook made significant advances in the 1830s. Much of the credit is given to Samuel Finley Morse (1791–1872) as “father of the telegraph.” Morse applied existing technology commercially, particularly that of Joseph Henry, and worked out a viable communication system using combinations of short clicks (dots) and long clicks (dashes) for the letters of the alphabet. These were transmitted by electrical pulses from a sender along a wire. By means of an electromagnetically controlled pencil, the receiver prepared dots and dashes equivalent to the extent of the current. On May 24, 1844, Morse sent the message, What hath God wrought, the first one over long distance between Washington and Baltimore. In spite of strong opposition in some quarters, like the office of postmaster-general of the United States, Congress approved the Morse Bill. Skilled operators sent and received messages with great speed with Morse code. As it was difficult to convert Morse code into plain language, David E. Hughes (1831–1900) solved the problem by inventing a printing telegraph having a rotating wheel with alphabets. The use of punched paper tape began in 1858, and a new era in telecommunications was ushered in by the Atlantic cable of 1866 joining Europe and the United States.The Crimean War witnessed the first military use of the telegraph, when a submarine cable running from the Crimea to Varna, Bulgaria, and standard cable from Varna to London and Paris gave the allies direct communication with the theater of war. Telegraph was also used during the Indian Mutiny, American Civil War, and the Franco-Prussian War. The telegraph also changed diplomatic communication, but its most famous use before 1914 was in the most undiplomatic use of the Ems Telegram by Otto von Bismarck to provoke the Franco-Prussian conflict.See also <
>.FURTHER READING:Brooks, John. Telephone: The First Hundred Years . New York: Harper & Row, 1976;Gordon, John Steele. A Thread across the Ocean: The Heroic Story of the Transatlantic Cable . New York: Perennial, 2003;Standage, Tom. The Victorian Internet: The Remarkable Story of the Telegraph and the Nineteenth Century’s On-Line Pioneers . New York: Berkley, 1999.PATIT PABAN MISHRA
Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.