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´╗┐Title: Heroes of the Telegraph
Author: Munro, John, 1849-1930
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Heroes of the Telegraph" ***

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By J. Munro

Author Of 'Electricity And Its Uses,' Pioneers Of Electricity,'
'The Wire And The Wave'; And Joint Author Of 'Munro And Jamieson's
Pocket-Book Of Electrical Rules And Tables.'

(Note: All accents etc. have been omitted. Italics have been converted
to capital letters. The British 'pound' sign has been written as 'L'.
Footnotes have been placed in square brackets at the place in the text
where a suffix originally indicated their existence.)


The present work is in some respects a sequel to the PIONEERS OF
ELECTRICITY, and it deals with the lives and principal achievements of
those distinguished men to whom we are indebted for the introduction
of the electric telegraph and telephone, as well as other marvels of
electric science.





The history of an invention, whether of science or art, may be compared
to the growth of an organism such as a tree. The wind, or the random
visit of a bee, unites the pollen in the flower, the green fruit forms
and ripens to the perfect seed, which, on being planted in congenial
soil, takes root and flourishes. Even so from the chance combination of
two facts in the human mind, a crude idea springs, and after maturing
into a feasible plan is put in practice under favourable conditions, and
so develops. These processes are both subject to a thousand accidents
which are inimical to their achievement. Especially is this the case
when their object is to produce a novel species, or a new and great
invention like the telegraph. It is then a question of raising, not one
seedling, but many, and modifying these in the lapse of time.

Similarly the telegraph is not to be regarded as the work of any one
mind, but of many, and during a long course of years. Because at length
the final seedling is obtained, are we to overlook the antecedent
varieties from which it was produced, and without which it could not
have existed? Because one inventor at last succeeds in putting the
telegraph in operation, are we to neglect his predecessors, whose
attempts and failures were the steps by which he mounted to success? All
who have extended our knowledge of electricity, or devised a telegraph,
and familiarised the public mind with the advantages of it, are
deserving of our praise and gratitude, as well as he who has entered
into their labours, and by genius and perseverance won the honours of
being the first to introduce it.

Let us, therefore, trace in a rapid manner the history of the electric
telegraph from the earliest times.

The sources of a river are lost in the clouds of the mountain, but it
is usual to derive its waters from the lakes or springs which are
its fountain-head. In the same way the origins of our knowledge of
electricity and magnetism are lost in the mists of antiquity, but there
are two facts which have come to be regarded as the starting-points
of the science. It was known to the ancients at least 600 years before
Christ, that a piece of amber when excited by rubbing would attract
straws, and that a lump of lodestone had the property of drawing iron.
Both facts were probably ascertained by chance. Humboldt informs us that
he saw an Indian child of the Orinoco rubbing the seed of a trailing
plant to make it attract the wild cotton; and, perhaps, a prehistoric
tribesman of the Baltic or the plains of Sicily found in the yellow
stone he had polished the mysterious power of collecting dust. A Greek
legend tells us that the lodestone was discovered by Magnes, a shepherd
who found his crook attracted by the rock.

However this may be, we are told that Thales of Miletus attributed the
attractive properties of the amber and the lodestone to a soul within
them. The name Electricity is derived from ELEKTRON, the Greek for
amber, and Magnetism from Magnes, the name of the shepherd, or, more
likely, from the city of Magnesia, in Lydia, where the stone occurred.

These properties of amber and lodestone appear to have been widely
known. The Persian name for amber is KAHRUBA, attractor of straws, and
that for lodestone AHANG-RUBA attractor of iron. In the old Persian
romance, THE LOVES OF MAJNOON AND LEILA, the lover sings--

     'She was as amber, and I but as straw:
      She touched me, and I shall ever cling to her.'

The Chinese philosopher, Kuopho, who flourished in the fourth century,
writes that, 'the attraction of a magnet for iron is like that of amber
for the smallest grain of mustard seed. It is like a breath of wind
which mysteriously penetrates through both, and communicates itself with
the speed of an arrow.' [Lodestone was probably known in China before
the Christian era.] Other electrical effects were also observed by the
ancients. Classical writers, as Homer, Caesar, and Plutarch, speak of
flames on the points of javelins and the tips of masts. They regarded
them as manifestations of the Deity, as did the soldiers of the Mahdi
lately in the Soudan. It is recorded of Servius Tullus, the sixth king
of Rome, that his hair emitted sparks on being combed; and that sparks
came from the body of Walimer, a Gothic chief, who lived in the year 415

During the dark ages the mystical virtues of the lodestone drew more
attention than those of the more precious amber, and interesting
experiments were made with it. The Romans knew that it could attract
iron at some distance through an intervening fence of wood, brass, or
stone. One of their experiments was to float a needle on a piece of
cork, and make it follow a lodestone held in the hand. This arrangement
was perhaps copied from the compass of the Phoenician sailors, who
buoyed a lodestone and observed it set towards the north. There is
reason to believe that the magnet was employed by the priests of the
Oracle in answering questions. We are told that the Emperor Valerius,
while at Antioch in 370 A.D., was shown a floating needle which pointed
to the letters of the alphabet when guided by the directive force of
a lodestone. It was also believed that this effect might be produced
although a stone wall intervened, so that a person outside a house or
prison might convey intelligence to another inside.

This idea was perhaps the basis of the sympathetic telegraph of the
Middle Ages, which is first described in the MAGIAE NATURALIS of John
Baptista Porta, published at Naples in 1558. It was supposed by Porta
and others after him that two similar needles touched by the same
lodestone were sympathetic, so that, although far apart, if both
were freely balanced, a movement of one was imitated by the other.
By encircling each balanced needle with an alphabet, the sympathetic
telegraph was obtained. Although based on error, and opposed by Cabeus
and others, this fascinating notion continued to crop up even to the
days of Addison. It was a prophetic shadow of the coming invention. In
the SCEPSIS SCIENTIFICA, published in 1665, Joseph Glanvil wrote, 'to
confer at the distance of the Indies by sympathetic conveyances may
be as usual to future times as to us in literary correspondence.' [The
Rosicrucians also believed that if two persons transplanted pieces of
their flesh into each other, and tattooed the grafts with letters, a
sympathetic telegraph could be established by pricking the letters.]

Dr. Gilbert, physician to Queen Elizabeth, by his systematic researches,
discovered the magnetism of the earth, and laid the foundations of
the modern science of electricity and magnetism. Otto von Guericke,
burgomaster of Magdeburg, invented the electrical machine for generating
large quantities of the electric fire. Stephen Gray, a pensioner of
the Charterhouse, conveyed the fire to a distance along a line of pack
thread, and showed that some bodies conducted electricity, while others
insulated it. Dufay proved that there were two qualities of electricity,
now called positive and negative, and that each kind repelled the like,
but attracted the unlike. Von Kleist, a cathedral dean of Kamm, in
Pomerania, or at all events Cuneus, a burgher, and Muschenbroek, a
professor of Leyden, discovered the Leyden jar for holding a charge of
electricity; and Franklin demonstrated the identity of electricity and

The charge from a Leyden jar was frequently sent through a chain of
persons clasping hands, or a length of wire with the earth as part of
the circuit. This experiment was made by Joseph Franz, of Vienna, in
1746, and Dr. Watson, of London, in 1747; while Franklin ignited spirits
by a spark which had been sent across the Schuylkill river by the same
means. But none of these men seem to have grasped the idea of employing
the fleet fire as a telegraph.

The first suggestion of an electric telegraph on record is that
published by one 'C. M.' in the Scots Magazine for February 17, 1753.
The device consisted in running a number of insulated wires between
two places, one for each letter of the alphabet. The wires were to be
charged with electricity from a machine one at a time, according to the
letter it represented. At its far end the charged wire was to attract a
disc of paper marked with the corresponding letter, and so the message
would be spelt. 'C. M.' also suggested the first acoustic telegraph,
for he proposed to have a set of bells instead of the letters, each of a
different tone, and to be struck by the spark from its charged wire.

The identity of 'C. M.,' who dated his letter from Renfrew, has not been
established beyond a doubt. There is a tradition of a clever man living
in Renfrew at that time, and afterwards in Paisley, who could 'licht a
room wi' coal reek (smoke), and mak' lichtnin' speak and write upon
the wa'.' By some he was thought to be a certain Charles Marshall,
from Aberdeen; but it seems likelier that he was a Charles Morrison, of
Greenock, who was trained as a surgeon, and became connected with
the tobacco trade of Glasgow. In Renfrew he was regarded as a kind of
wizard, and he is said to have emigrated to Virginia, where he died.

In the latter half of the eighteenth century, many other suggestions
of telegraphs based on the known properties of the electric fire were
published; for example, by Joseph Bozolus, a Jesuit lecturer of Rome, in
1767; by Odier, a Geneva physicist, in 1773, who states in a letter to
a lady, that he conceived the idea on hearing a casual remark, while
dining at Sir John Pringle's, with Franklin, Priestley, and other great
geniuses. 'I shall amuse you, perhaps, in telling you,' he says,'that I
have in my head certain experiments by which to enter into conversation
with the Emperor of Mogol or of China, the English, the French, or any
other people of Europe... You may intercommunicate all that you wish at
a distance of four or five thousands leagues in less than half an hour.
Will that suffice you for glory?'

George Louis Lesage, in 1782, proposed a plan similar to 'C. M.'s,'
using underground wires. An anonymous correspondent of the JOURNAL DE
PARIS for May 30, 1782, suggested an alarm bell to call attention to the
message. Lomond, of Paris, devised a telegraph with only one wire; the
signals to be read by the peculiar movements of an attracted pith-ball,
and Arthur Young witnessed his plan in action, as recorded in his diary.
M. Chappe, the inventor of the semaphore, tried about the year 1790 to
introduce a synchronous electric telegraph, and failed.

Don Francisco Salva y Campillo, of Barcelona, in 1795, proposed to
make a telegraph between Barcelona and Mataro, either overhead or
underground, and he remarks of the wires, 'at the bottom of the sea
their bed would be ready made, and it would be an extraordinary casualty
that should disturb them.' In Salva's telegraph, the signals were to be
made by illuminating letters of tinfoil with the spark. Volta's great
invention of the pile in 1800 furnished a new source of electricity,
better adapted for the telegraph, and Salva was apparently the first
to recognise this, for, in the same year, he proposed to use it
and interpret the signals by the twitching of a frog's limb, or the
decomposition of water.

In 1802, Jean Alexandre, a reputed natural son of Jean Jacques Rousseau,
brought out a TELEGRAPHE INTIME, or secret telegraph, which appears to
have been a step-by-step apparatus. The inventor concealed its mode of
working, but it was believed to be electrical, and there was a needle
which stopped at various points on a dial. Alexandre stated that he
had found out a strange matter or power which was, perhaps generally
diffused, and formed in some sort the soul of the universe. He
endeavoured to bring his invention under the eye of the First Consul,
but Napoleon referred the matter to Delambre, and would not see it.
Alexandre was born at Paris, and served as a carver and gilder at
Poictiers; then sang in the churches till the Revolution suppressed this
means of livelihood. He rose to influence as a Commissary-general, then
retired from the army and became an inventor. His name is associated
with a method of steering balloons, and a filter for supplying Bordeaux
with water from the Garonne. But neither of these plans appear to have
been put in practice, and he died at Angouleme, leaving his widow in
extreme poverty.

Sommering, a distinguished Prussian anatomist, in 1809 brought out a
telegraph worked by a voltaic battery, and making signals by decomposing
water. Two years later it was greatly simplified by Schweigger, of
Halle; and there is reason to believe that but for the discovery of
electro-magnetism by Oersted, in 1824 the chemical telegraph would have
come into practical use.

In 1806, Ralph Wedgwood submitted a telegraph based on frictional
electricity to the Admiralty, but was told that the semaphore was
sufficient for the country. In a pamphlet he suggested the establishment
of a telegraph system with public offices in different centres. Francis
Ronalds, in 1816, brought a similar telegraph of his invention to the
notice of the Admiralty, and was politely informed that 'telegraphs of
any kind are now wholly unnecessary.'

In 1826-7, Harrison Gray Dyar, of New York, devised a telegraph in
which the spark was made to stain the signals on moist litmus paper by
decomposing nitric acid; but he had to abandon his experiments in Long
Island and fly the country, because of a writ which charged him with
a conspiracy for carrying on secret communication. In 1830 Hubert
Recy published an account of a system of Teletatodydaxie, by which the
electric spark was to ignite alcohol and indicate the signals of a code.

But spark or frictional electric telegraphs were destined to give way
to those actuated by the voltaic current, as the chemical mode of
signalling was superseded by the electro-magnet. In 1820 the separate
courses of electric and magnetic science were united by the connecting
discovery of Oersted, who found that a wire conveying a current had the
power of moving a compass-needle to one side or the other according to
the direction of the current.

La Place, the illustrious mathematician, at once saw that this fact
could be utilised as a telegraph, and Ampere, acting on his suggestion,
published a feasible plan. Before the year was out, Schweigger, of
Halle, multiplied the influence of the current on the needle by coiling
the wire about it. Ten years later, Ritchie improved on Ampere's method,
and exhibited a model at the Royal Institution, London. About the same
time, Baron Pawel Schilling, a Russian nobleman, still further modified
it, and the Emperor Nicholas decreed the erection of a line from
Cronstadt to St. Petersburg, with a cable in the Gulf of Finland but
Schilling died in 1837, and the project was never realised.

In 1833-5 Professors Gauss and Weber constructed a telegraph between the
physical cabinet and the Observatory of the University of Gottingen.
At first they used the voltaic pile, but abandoned it in favour of
Faraday's recent discovery that electricity could be generated in a wire
by the motion of a magnet. The magnetic key with which the message was
sent Produced by its action an electric current which, after traversing
the line, passed through a coil and deflected a suspended magnet to
the right or left, according to the direction of the current. A mirror
attached to the suspension magnified the movement of the needle,
and indicated the signals after the manner of the Thomson mirror
galvanometer. This telegraph, which was large and clumsy, was
nevertheless used not only for scientific, but for general
correspondence. Steinheil, of Munich, simplified it, and added an alarm
in the form of a bell.

In 1836, Steinheil also devised a recording telegraph, in which the
movable needles indicated the message by marking dots and dashes
with printer's ink on a ribbon of travelling paper, according to an
artificial code in which the fewest signs were given to the commonest
letters in the German language. With this apparatus the message was
registered at the rate of six words a minute. The early experimenters,
as we have seen, especially Salva, had utilised the ground as the return
part of the circuit; and Salva had proposed to use it on his telegraph,
but Steinheil was the first to demonstrate its practical value. In
trying, on the suggestion of Gauss, to employ the rails of the Nurenberg
to Furth railway as the conducting line for a telegraph in the year
1838, he found they would not serve; but the failure led him to employ
the earth as the return half of the circuit.

In 1837, Professor Stratingh, of Groninque, Holland, devised a telegraph
in which the signals were made by electro-magnets actuating the hammers
of two gongs or bells of different tone; and M. Amyot invented an
automatic sending key in the nature of a musical box. From 1837-8,
Edward Davy, a Devonshire surgeon, exhibited a needle telegraph in
London, and proposed one based on the discovery of Arago, that a piece
of soft iron is temporarily magnetised by the passage of an electric
current through a coil surrounding it. This principle was further
applied by Morse in his electro-magnetic printing telegraph. Davy was a
prolific inventor, and also sketched out a telegraph in which the
gases evolved from water which was decomposed by the current actuated a
recording pen. But his most valuable discovery was the 'relay,' that is
to say, an auxiliary device by which a current too feeble to indicate
the signals could call into play a local battery strong enough to make
them. Davy was in a fair way of becoming one of the fathers of the
working telegraph, when his private affairs obliged him to emigrate to
Australia, and leave the course open to Cooke and Wheatstone.


The electric telegraph, like the steam-engine and the railway, was a
gradual development due to the experiments and devices of a long
train of thinkers. In such a case he who crowns the work, making it
serviceable to his fellow-men, not only wins the pecuniary prize, but
is likely to be hailed and celebrated as the chief, if not the sole
inventor, although in a scientific sense the improvement he has made is
perhaps less than that of some ingenious and forgotten forerunner. He
who advances the work from the phase of a promising idea, to that of a
common boon, is entitled to our gratitude. But in honouring the keystone
of the arch, as it were, let us acknowledge the substructure on which
it rests, and keep in mind the entire bridge. Justice at least is due to
those who have laboured without reward.

Sir William Fothergill Cooke and Sir Charles Wheatstone were the first
to bring the electric telegraph into daily use. But we have selected
Wheatstone as our hero, because he was eminent as a man of science,
and chiefly instrumental in perfecting the apparatus. As James Watt
is identified with the steam-engine, and George Stephenson with the
railway, so is Wheatstone with the telegraph.

Charles Wheatstone was born near Gloucester, in February, 1802. His
father was a music-seller in the town, who, four years later, removed
to 128, Pall Mall, London, and became a teacher of the flute. He used to
say, with not a little pride, that he had been engaged in assisting at
the musical education of the Princess Charlotte. Charles, the second
son, went to a village school, near Gloucester, and afterwards to
several institutions in London. One of them was in Kennington, and kept
by a Mrs. Castlemaine, who was astonished at his rapid progress. From
another he ran away, but was captured at Windsor, not far from the
theatre of his practical telegraph. As a boy he was very shy and
sensitive, liking well to retire into an attic, without any other
company than his own thoughts. When he was about fourteen years old he
was apprenticed to his uncle and namesake, a maker and seller of musical
instruments, at 436, Strand, London; but he showed little taste for
handicraft or business, and loved better to study books. His father
encouraged him in this, and finally took him out of the uncle's charge.

At the age of fifteen, Wheatstone translated French poetry, and wrote
two songs, one of which was given to his uncle, who published it without
knowing it as his nephew's composition. Some lines of his on the lyre
became the motto of an engraving by Bartolozzi. Small for his age, but
with a fine brow, and intelligent blue eyes, he often visited an old
book-stall in the vicinity of Pall Mall, which was then a dilapidated
and unpaved thoroughfare. Most of his pocket-money was spent in
purchasing the books which had taken his fancy, whether fairy tales,
history, or science. One day, to the surprise of the bookseller, he
coveted a volume on the discoveries of Volta in electricity, but not
having the price, he saved his pennies and secured the volume. It was
written in French, and so he was obliged to save again, till he could
buy a dictionary. Then he began to read the volume, and, with the help
of his elder brother, William, to repeat the experiments described in
it, with a home-made battery, in the scullery behind his father's house.
In constructing the battery the boy philosophers ran short of money to
procure the requisite copper-plates. They had only a few copper coins
left. A happy thought occurred to Charles, who was the leading spirit in
these researches, 'We must use the pennies themselves,' said he, and the
battery was soon complete.

In September, 1821, Wheatstone brought himself into public notice by
exhibiting the 'Enchanted Lyre,' or 'Aconcryptophone,' at a music-shop
at Pall Mall and in the Adelaide Gallery. It consisted of a mimic lyre
hung from the ceiling by a cord, and emitting the strains of several
instruments--the piano, harp, and dulcimer. In reality it was a mere
sounding box, and the cord was a steel rod that conveyed the vibrations
of the music from the several instruments which were played out of sight
and ear-shot. At this period Wheatstone made numerous experiments
on sound and its transmission. Some of his results are preserved in
Thomson's ANNALS OF PHILOSOPHY for 1823. He recognised that sound is
propagated by waves or oscillations of the atmosphere, as light by
undulations of the luminiferous ether. Water, and solid bodies, such
as glass, or metal, or sonorous wood, convey the modulations with high
velocity, and he conceived the plan of transmitting sound-signals,
music, or speech to long distances by this means. He estimated that
sound would travel 200 miles a second through solid rods, and proposed
to telegraph from London to Edinburgh in this way. He even called his
arrangement a 'telephone.' [Robert Hooke, in his MICROGRAPHIA, published
in 1667, writes: 'I can assure the reader that I have, by the help of a
distended wire, propagated the sound to a very considerable distance in
an instant, or with as seemingly quick a motion as that of light.' Nor
was it essential the wire should be straight; it might be bent into
angles. This property is the basis of the mechanical or lover's
telephone, said to have been known to the Chinese many centuries ago.
Hooke also considered the possibility of finding a way to quicken our
powers of hearing.] A writer in the REPOSITORY OF ARTS for September 1,
1821, in referring to the 'Enchanted Lyre,' beholds the prospect of an
opera being performed at the King's Theatre, and enjoyed at the Hanover
Square Rooms, or even at the Horns Tavern, Kennington. The vibrations
are to travel through underground conductors, like to gas in pipes. 'And
if music be capable of being thus conducted,' he observes,'perhaps the
words of speech may be susceptible of the same means of propagation. The
eloquence of counsel, the debates of Parliament, instead of being read
the next day only,--But we shall lose ourselves in the pursuit of this
curious subject.'

Besides transmitting sounds to a distance, Wheatstone devised a simple
instrument for augmenting feeble sounds, to which he gave the name
of 'Microphone.' It consisted of two slender rods, which conveyed the
mechanical vibrations to both ears, and is quite different from the
electrical microphone of Professor Hughes.

In 1823, his uncle, the musical instrument maker, died, and Wheatstone,
with his elder brother, William, took over the business. Charles had no
great liking for the commercial part, but his ingenuity found a vent
in making improvements on the existing instruments, and in devising
philosophical toys. At the end of six years he retired from the

In 1827, Wheatstone introduced his 'kaleidoscope,' a device for
rendering the vibrations of a sounding body apparent to the eye. It
consists of a metal rod, carrying at its end a silvered bead, which
reflects a 'spot' of light. As the rod vibrates the spot is seen to
describe complicated figures in the air, like a spark whirled about in
the darkness. His photometer was probably suggested by this appliance.
It enables two lights to be compared by the relative brightness of their
reflections in a silvered bead, which describes a narrow ellipse, so as
to draw the spots into parallel lines.

In 1828, Wheatstone improved the German wind instrument, called the MUND
HARMONICA, till it became the popular concertina, patented on June 19,
1829 The portable harmonium is another of his inventions, which gained
a prize medal at the Great Exhibition of 1851. He also improved the
speaking machine of De Kempelen, and endorsed the opinion of Sir David
Brewster, that before the end of this century a singing and talking
apparatus would be among the conquests of science.

In 1834, Wheatstone, who had won a name for himself, was appointed to
the Chair of Experimental Physics in King's College, London, But his
first course of lectures on Sound were a complete failure, owing to an
invincible repugnance to public speaking, and a distrust of his powers
in that direction. In the rostrum he was tongue-tied and incapable,
sometimes turning his back on the audience and mumbling to the diagrams
on the wall. In the laboratory he felt himself at home, and ever after
confined his duties mostly to demonstration.

He achieved renown by a great experiment--the measurement of the
velocity of electricity in a wire. His method was beautiful and
ingenious. He cut the wire at the middle, to form a gap which a spark
might leap across, and connected its ends to the poles of a Leyden jar
filled with electricity. Three sparks were thus produced, one at either
end of the wire, and another at the middle. He mounted a tiny mirror
on the works of a watch, so that it revolved at a high velocity, and
observed the reflections of his three sparks in it. The points of the
wire were so arranged that if the sparks were instantaneous, their
reflections would appear in one straight line; but the middle one was
seen to lag behind the others, because it was an instant later. The
electricity had taken a certain time to travel from the ends of the wire
to the middle. This time was found by measuring the amount of lag, and
comparing it with the known velocity of the mirror. Having got the time,
he had only to compare that with the length of half the wire, and he
found that the velocity of electricity was 288,000 miles a second.

Till then, many people had considered the electric discharge to be
instantaneous; but it was afterwards found that its velocity depended
on the nature of the conductor, its resistance, and its electro-static
capacity. Faraday showed, for example, that its velocity in a submarine
wire, coated with insulator and surrounded with water, is only 144,000
miles a second, or still less. Wheatstone's device of the revolving
mirror was afterwards employed by Foucault and Fizeau to measure the
velocity of light.

In 1835, at the Dublin meeting of the British Association, Wheatstone
showed that when metals were volatilised in the electric spark, their
light, examined through a prism, revealed certain rays which were
characteristic of them. Thus the kind of metals which formed the
sparking points could be determined by analysing the light of the spark.
This suggestion has been of great service in spectrum analysis, and as
applied by Bunsen, Kirchoff, and others, has led to the discovery
of several new elements, such as rubidium and thallium, as well as
increasing our knowledge of the heavenly bodies. Two years later,
he called attention to the value of thermo-electricity as a mode of
generating a current by means of heat, and since then a variety
of thermo-piles have been invented, some of which have proved of
considerable advantage.

Wheatstone abandoned his idea of transmitting intelligence by the
mechanical vibration of rods, and took up the electric telegraph. In
1835 he lectured on the system of Baron Schilling, and declared that the
means were already known by which an electric telegraph could be made of
great service to the world. He made experiments with a plan of his own,
and not only proposed to lay an experimental line across the Thames, but
to establish it on the London and Birmingham Railway. Before these plans
were carried out, however, he received a visit from Mr. Fothergill
Cooke at his house in Conduit Street on February 27, 1837, which had an
important influence on his future.

Mr. Cooke was an officer in the Madras army, who, being home on
furlough, was attending some lectures on anatomy at the University of
Heidelberg, where, on March 6, 1836, he witnessed a demonstration
with the telegraph of Professor Moncke, and was so impressed with its
importance, that he forsook his medical studies and devoted all his
efforts to the work of introducing the telegraph. He returned to London
soon after, and was able to exhibit a telegraph with three needles in
January, 1837. Feeling his want of scientific knowledge, he consulted
Faraday and Dr. Roget, the latter of whom sent him to Wheatstone.

At a second interview, Mr. Cooke told Wheatstone of his intention to
bring out a working telegraph, and explained his method. Wheatstone,
according to his own statement, remarked to Cooke that the method would
not act, and produced his own experimental telegraph. Finally, Cooke
proposed that they should enter into a partnership, but Wheatstone was
at first reluctant to comply. He was a well-known man of science, and
had meant to publish his results without seeking to make capital of
them. Cooke, on the other hand, declared that his sole object was to
make a fortune from the scheme. In May they agreed to join their forces,
Wheatstone contributing the scientific, and Cooke the administrative
talent. The deed of partnership was dated November 19, 1837. A joint
patent was taken out for their inventions, including the five-needle
telegraph of Wheatstone, and an alarm worked by a relay, in which the
current, by dipping a needle into mercury, completed a local circuit,
and released the detent of a clockwork.

The five-needle telegraph, which was mainly, if not entirely, due to
Wheatstone, was similar to that of Schilling, and based on the principle
enunciated by Ampere--that is to say, the current was sent into the line
by completing the circuit of the battery with a make and break key, and
at the other end it passed through a coil of wire surrounding a magnetic
needle free to turn round its centre. According as one pole of the
battery or the other was applied to the line by means of the key, the
current deflected the needle to one side or the other. There were five
separate circuits actuating five different needles. The latter were
pivoted in rows across the middle of a dial shaped like a diamond, and
having the letters of the alphabet arranged upon it in such a way that
a letter was literally pointed out by the current deflecting two of the
needles towards it.

An experimental line, with a sixth return wire, was run between the
Euston terminus and Camden Town station of the London and North Western
Railway on July 25, 1837. The actual distance was only one and a half
mile, but spare wire had been inserted in the circuit to increase its
length. It was late in the evening before the trial took place. Mr.
Cooke was in charge at Camden Town, while Mr. Robert Stephenson and
other gentlemen looked on; and Wheatstone sat at his instrument in a
dingy little room, lit by a tallow candle, near the booking-office at
Euston. Wheatstone sent the first message, to which Cooke replied,
and 'never,' said Wheatstone, 'did I feel such a tumultuous sensation
before, as when, all alone in the still room, I heard the needles click,
and as I spelled the words, I felt all the magnitude of the invention
pronounced to be practicable beyond cavil or dispute.'

In spite of this trial, however, the directors of the railway treated
the 'new-fangled' invention with indifference, and requested its
removal. In July, 1839, however, it was favoured by the Great Western
Railway, and a line erected from the Paddington terminus to West
Drayton station, a distance of thirteen miles. Part of the wire was laid
underground at first, but subsequently all of it was raised on posts
along the line. Their circuit was eventually extended to Slough in 1841,
and was publicly exhibited at Paddington as a marvel of science, which
could transmit fifty signals a distance of 280,000 miles in a minute.
The price of admission was a shilling.

Notwithstanding its success, the public did not readily patronise the
new invention until its utility was noised abroad by the clever capture
of the murderer Tawell. Between six and seven o'clock one morning a
woman named Sarah Hart was found dead in her home at Salt Hill, and a
man had been observed to leave her house some time before. The police
knew that she was visited from time to time by a Mr. John Tawell,
from Berkhampstead, where he was much respected, and on inquiring and
arriving at Slough, they found that a person answering his description
had booked by a slow train for London, and entered a first-class
carriage. The police telegraphed at once to Paddington, giving the
particulars, and desiring his capture. 'He is in the garb of a Quaker,'
ran the message, 'with a brown coat on, which reaches nearly to his
feet.' There was no 'Q' in the alphabet of the five-needle instrument,
and the clerk at Slough began to spell the word 'Quaker' with a
'kwa'; but when he had got so far he was interrupted by the clerk at
Paddington, who asked him to 'repent.' The repetition fared no better,
until a boy at Paddington suggested that Slough should be allowed to
finish the word. 'Kwaker' was understood, and as soon as Tawell stepped
out on the platform at Paddington he was 'shadowed' by a detective,
who followed him into a New Road omnibus, and arrested him in a coffee

Tawell was tried for the murder of the woman, and astounding revelations
were made as to his character. Transported in 1820 for the crime of
forgery, he obtained a ticket-of-leave, and started as a chemist in
Sydney, where he flourished, and after fifteen years left it a rich man.
Returning to England, he married a Quaker lady as his second wife. He
confessed to the murder of Sarah Hart, by prussic acid, his motive being
a dread of their relations becoming known.

Tawell was executed, and the notoriety of the case brought the telegraph
into repute. Its advantages as a rapid means of conveying intelligence
and detecting criminals had been signally demonstrated, and it was soon
adopted on a more extensive scale.

In 1845 Wheatstone introduced two improved forms of the apparatus,
namely, the 'single' and the 'double' needle instruments, in which
the signals were made by the successive deflections of the needles. Of
these, the single-needle instrument, requiring only one wire, is still
in use.

In 1841 a difference arose between Cooke and Wheatstone as to the share
of each in the honour of inventing the telegraph. The question was
submitted to the arbitration of the famous engineer, Marc Isambard
Brunel, on behalf of Cooke, and Professor Daniell, of King's College,
the inventor of the Daniell battery, on the part of Wheatstone. They
awarded to Cooke the credit of having introduced the telegraph as a
useful undertaking which promised to be of national importance, and
to Wheatstone that of having by his researches prepared the public to
receive it. They concluded with the words: 'It is to the united labours
of two gentlemen so well qualified for mutual assistance that we must
attribute the rapid progress which this important invention has made
during five years since they have been associated.' The decision,
however vague, pronounces the needle telegraph a joint production. If it
was mainly invented by Wheatstone, it was chiefly introduced by Cooke.
Their respective shares in the undertaking might be compared to that of
an author and his publisher, but for the fact that Cooke himself had a
share in the actual work of invention.

In 1840 Wheatstone had patented an alphabetical telegraph, or,
'Wheatstone A B C instrument,' which moved with a step-by-step motion,
and showed the letters of the message upon a dial. The same principle
was utilised in his type-printing telegraph, patented in 1841. This was
the first apparatus which printed a telegram in type. It was worked
by two circuits, and as the type revolved a hammer, actuated by the
current, pressed the required letter on the paper. In 1840 Wheatstone
also brought out his magneto-electrical machine for generating
continuous currents, and his chronoscope, for measuring minute intervals
of time, which was used in determining the speed of a bullet or the
passage of a star. In this apparatus an electric current actuated an
electro-magnet, which noted the instant of an occurrence by means of
a pencil on a moving paper. It is said to have been capable of
distinguishing 1/7300 part of a second, and the time a body took to fall
from a height of one inch.

The same year he was awarded the Royal Medal of the Royal Society
for his explanation of binocular vision, a research which led him to
construct the stereoscope. He showed that our impression of solidity
is gained by the combination in the mind of two separate pictures of an
object taken by both of our eyes from different points of view. Thus, in
the stereoscope, an arrangement of lenses and mirrors, two photographs
of the same object taken from different points are so combined as
to make the object stand out with a solid aspect. Sir David Brewster
improved the stereoscope by dispensing with the mirrors, and bringing it
into its existing form.

The 'pseudoscope' (Wheatstone was partial to exotic forms of speech) was
introduced by its professor in 1850, and is in some sort the reverse of
the stereoscope, since it causes a solid object to seem hollow, and a
nearer one to be farther off; thus, a bust appears to be a mask, and a
tree growing outside of a window looks as if it were growing inside the

On November 26, 1840, he exhibited his electro-magnetic clock in the
library of the Royal Society, and propounded a plan for distributing the
correct time from a standard clock to a number of local timepieces.
The circuits of these were to be electrified by a key or contact-maker
actuated by the arbour of the standard, and their hands corrected by
electro-magnetism. The following January Alexander Bain took out a
patent for an electro-magnetic clock, and he subsequently charged
Wheatstone with appropriating his ideas. It appears that Bain worked as
a mechanist to Wheatstone from August to December, 1840, and he asserted
that he had communicated the idea of an electric clock to Wheatstone
during that period; but Wheatstone maintained that he had experimented
in that direction during May. Bain further accused Wheatstone of
stealing his idea of the electro-magnetic printing telegraph; but
Wheatstone showed that the instrument was only a modification of his own
electro-magnetic telegraph.

In 1843 Wheatstone communicated an important paper to the Royal Society,
entitled 'An Account of Several New Processes for Determining the
Constants of a Voltaic Circuit.' It contained an exposition of the
well-known balance for measuring the electrical resistance of a
conductor, which still goes by the name of Wheatstone's Bridge or
balance, although it was first devised by Mr. S. W. Christie, of the
Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, who published it in the PHILOSOPHICAL
TRANSACTIONS for 1833. The method was neglected until Wheatstone brought
it into notice. His paper abounds with simple and practical formula:
for the calculation of currents and resistances by the law of Ohm. He
introduced a unit of resistance, namely, a foot of copper wire weighing
one hundred grains, and showed how it might be applied to measure the
length of wire by its resistance. He was awarded a medal for his paper
by the Society. The same year he invented an apparatus which enabled the
reading of a thermometer or a barometer to be registered at a distance
by means of an electric contact made by the mercury. A sound telegraph,
in which the signals were given by the strokes of a bell, was also
patented by Cooke and Wheatstone in May of that year.

The introduction of the telegraph had so far advanced that, on September
2, 1845, the Electric Telegraph Company was registered, and Wheatstone,
by his deed of partnership with Cooke, received a sum of L33,000 for the
use of their joint inventions.

From 1836-7 Wheatstone had thought a good deal about submarine
telegraphs, and in 1840 he gave evidence before the Railway Committee of
the House of Commons on the feasibility of the proposed line from Dover
to Calais. He had even designed the machinery for making and laying
the cable. In the autumn of 1844, with the assistance of Mr. J. D.
Llewellyn, he submerged a length of insulated wire in Swansea Bay, and
signalled through it from a boat to the Mumbles Lighthouse. Next year he
suggested the use of gutta-percha for the coating of the intended wire
across the Channel.

Though silent and reserved in public, Wheatstone was a clear and voluble
talker in private, if taken on his favourite studies, and his small
but active person, his plain but intelligent countenance, was full of
animation. Sir Henry Taylor tells us that he once observed Wheatstone at
an evening party in Oxford earnestly holding forth to Lord Palmerston
on the capabilities of his telegraph. 'You don't say so!' exclaimed the
statesman. 'I must get you to tell that to the Lord Chancellor.' And so
saying, he fastened the electrician on Lord Westbury, and effected his
escape. A reminiscence of this interview may have prompted Palmerston
to remark that a time was coming when a minister might be asked in
Parliament if war had broken out in India, and would reply, 'Wait a
minute; I'll just telegraph to the Governor-General, and let you know.'

At Christchurch, Marylebone, on February 12, 1847, Wheatstone was
married. His wife was the daughter of a Taunton tradesman, and of
handsome appearance. She died in 1866, leaving a family of five young
children to his care. His domestic life was quiet and uneventful.

One of Wheatstone's most ingenious devices was the 'Polar clock,'
exhibited at the meeting of the British Association in 1848. It is based
on the fact discovered by Sir David Brewster, that the light of the sky
is polarised in a plane at an angle of ninety degrees from the position
of the sun. It follows that by discovering that plane of polarisation,
and measuring its azimuth with respect to the north, the position of the
sun, although beneath the horizon, could be determined, and the apparent
solar time obtained. The clock consisted of a spy-glass, having a nichol
or double-image prism for an eye-piece, and a thin plate of selenite for
an object-glass. When the tube was directed to the North Pole--that
is, parallel to the earth's axis--and the prism of the eye-piece turned
until no colour was seen, the angle of turning, as shown by an index
moving with the prism over a graduated limb, gave the hour of day. The
device is of little service in a country where watches are reliable; but
it formed part of the equipment of the North Polar expedition commanded
by Captain Nares. Wheatstone's remarkable ingenuity was displayed in the
invention of cyphers which have never been unravelled, and interpreting
cypher manuscripts in the British Museum which had defied the experts.
He devised a cryptograph or machine for turning a message into
cypher which could only be interpreted by putting the cypher into a
corresponding machine adjusted to reproduce it.

The rapid development of the telegraph in Europe may be gathered
from the fact that in 1855, the death of the Emperor Nicholas at St.
Petersburg, about one o'clock in the afternoon, was announced in the
House of Lords a few hours later; and as a striking proof of its further
progress, it may be mentioned that the result of the Oaks of 1890
was received in New York fifteen seconds after the horses passed the

Wheatstone's next great invention was the automatic transmitter, in
which the signals of the message are first punched out on a strip of
paper, which is then passed through the sending-key, and controls the
signal currents. By substituting a mechanism for the hand in sending
the message, he was able to telegraph about 100 words a minute, or five
times the ordinary rate. In the Postal Telegraph service this apparatus
is employed for sending Press telegrams, and it has recently been so
much improved, that messages are now sent from London to Bristol at
a speed of 600 words a minute, and even of 400 words a minute between
London and Aberdeen. On the night of April 8, 1886, when Mr. Gladstone
introduced his Bill for Home Rule in Ireland, no fewer than 1,500,000
words were despatched from the central station at St. Martin's-le-Grand
by 100 Wheatstone transmitters. Were Mr. Gladstone himself to speak
for a whole week, night and day, and with his usual facility, he could
hardly surpass this achievement. The plan of sending messages by a
running strip of paper which actuates the key was originally patented
by Bain in 1846; but Wheatstone, aided by Mr. Augustus Stroh, an
accomplished mechanician, and an able experimenter, was the first to
bring the idea into successful operation.

In 1859 Wheatstone was appointed by the Board of Trade to report on the
subject of the Atlantic cables, and in 1864 he was one of the experts
who advised the Atlantic Telegraph Company on the construction of the
successful lines of 1865 and 1866. On February 4, 1867, he published the
principle of reaction in the dynamo-electric machine by a paper to the
Royal Society; but Mr. C. W. Siemens had communicated the identical
discovery ten days earlier, and both papers were read on the same day.
It afterwards appeared that Herr Werner Siemens, Mr. Samuel Alfred
Varley, and Professor Wheatstone had independently arrived at the
principle within a few months of each other. Varley patented it on
December 24, 1866; Siemens called attention to it on January 17, 1867;
and Wheatstone exhibited it in action at the Royal Society on the above
date. But it will be seen from our life of William Siemens that Soren
Hjorth, a Danish inventor, had forestalled them.

In 1870 the electric telegraph lines of the United Kingdom, worked by
different companies, were transferred to the Post Office, and placed
under Government control.

Wheatstone was knighted in 1868, after his completion of the automatic
telegraph. He had previously been made a Chevalier of the Legion of
Honour. Some thirty-four distinctions and diplomas of home or foreign
societies bore witness to his scientific reputation. Since 1836 he
had been a Fellow of the Royal Society, and in 1873 he was appointed a
Foreign Associate of the French Academy of Sciences. The same year he
was awarded the Ampere Medal by the French Society for the Encouragement
of National Industry. In 1875 he was created an honorary member of the
Institution of Civil Engineers. He was a D.C.L. of Oxford and an LL.D.
of Cambridge.

While on a visit to Paris during the autumn of 1875, and engaged in
perfecting his receiving instrument for submarine cables, he caught a
cold, which produced inflammation of the lungs, an illness from which he
died in Paris, on October 19, 1875. A memorial service was held in the
Anglican Chapel, Paris, and attended by a deputation of the Academy. His
remains were taken to his home in Park Crescent, London, and buried in
Kensal Green.


Cooke and Wheatstone were the first to introduce a public telegraph
worked by electro-magnetism; but it had the disadvantage of not marking
down the message. There was still room for an instrument which would
leave a permanent record that might be read at leisure, and this was
the invention of Samuel Finley Breeze Morse. He was born at the foot of
Breed's Hill, in Charlestown, Massachusetts, on the 27th of April, 1791.
The place was a little over a mile from where Benjamin Franklin was
born, and the date was a little over a year after he died. His family
was of British origin. Anthony Morse, of Marlborough, in Wiltshire, had
emigrated to America in 1635, and settled in Newbury, Massachusetts, He
and his descendants prospered. The grandfather of Morse was a member
of the Colonial and State Legislatures, and his father, Jedediah Morse,
D.D., was a well-known divine of his day, and the author of Morse's
mother was Elizabeth Ann Breeze, apparently of Welsh extraction, and
the grand-daughter of Samuel Finley, a distinguished President of the
Princeton College. Jedediah Morse is reputed a man of talent, industry,
and vigour, with high aims for the good of his fellow-men, ingenious
to conceive, resolute in action, and sanguine of success. His wife is
described as a woman of calm, reflective mind, animated conversation,
and engaging manners.

They had two other sons besides Samuel, the second of whom, Sidney E.
Morse, was founder of the New York OBSERVER, an able mathematician,
author of the ART OF CEROGRAPHY, or engraving upon wax, to stereotype
from, and inventor of a barometer for sounding the deep-sea. Sidney was
the trusted friend and companion of his elder brother.

At the age of four Samuel was sent to an infant school kept by an old
lady, who being lame, was unable to leave her chair, but carried her
authority to the remotest parts of her dominion by the help of a long
rattan. Samuel, like the rest, had felt the sudden apparition of this
monitor. Having scratched a portrait of the dame upon a chest of drawers
with the point of a pin, he was called out and summarily punished. Years
later, when he became notable, the drawers were treasured by one of his

He entered a preparatory school at Andover, Mass., when he was seven
years old, and showed himself an eager pupil. Among other books, he was
delighted with Plutarch's LIVES, and at thirteen he composed a biography
of Demosthenes, long preserved by his family. A year later he entered
Yale College as a freshman.

During his curriculum he attended the lectures of Professor Jeremiah Day
on natural philosophy and Professor Benjamin Sieliman on chemistry, and
it was then he imbibed his earliest knowledge of electricity. In 1809-10
Dr. Day was teaching from Enfield's text-book on philosophy, that 'if
the (electric) circuit be interrupted, the fluid will become visible,
and when: it passes it will leave an impression upon any intermediate
body,' and he illustrated this by sending the spark through a metal
chain, so that it became visible between the links, and by causing it to
perforate paper. Morse afterwards declared this experiment to have been
the seed which rooted in his mind and grew into the 'invention of the

It is not evident that Morse had any distinct idea of the electric
telegraph in these days; but amidst his lessons in literature and
philosophy he took a special interest in the sciences of electricity
and chemistry. He became acquainted with the voltaic battery through the
lectures of his friend, Professor Sieliman; and we are told that during
one of his vacations at Yale he made a series of electrical experiments
with Dr. Dwight. Some years later he resumed these studies under his
friend Professor James Freeman Dana, of the University of New York,
who exhibited the electro-magnet to his class in 1827, and also under
Professor Renwick, of Columbia College.

Art seems to have had an equal if not a greater charm than science for
Morse at this period. A boy of fifteen, he made a water-colour sketch
of his family sitting round the table; and while a student at Yale he
relieved his father, who was far from rich, of a part of his education
by painting miniatures on ivory, and selling them to his companions at
five dollars a-piece. Before he was nineteen he completed a painting of
the 'Landing of the Pilgrims at Plymouth,' which formerly hung in the
office of the Mayor, at Charlestown, Massachusetts.

On graduating at Yale, in 1810, he devoted himself to Art, and became
a pupil of Washington Allston, the well-known American painter. He
accompanied Allston to Europe in 1811, and entered the studio of
Benjamin West, who was then at the zenith of his reputation.
The friendship of West, with his own introductions and agreeable
personality, enabled him to move in good society, to which he was always
partial. William Wilberforce, Zachary Macaulay, father of the historian,
Coleridge, and Copley, were among his acquaintances. Leslie, the artist,
then a struggling genius like himself, was his fellow-lodger. His heart
was evidently in the profession of his choice. 'My passion for my
art,' he wrote to his mother, in 1812, 'is so firmly rooted that I am
confident no human power could destroy it. The more I study the greater
I think is its claim to the appellation of divine. I am now going to
begin a picture of the death of Hercules the figure to be as large as

After he had perfected this work to his own eyes, he showed it, with not
a little pride, to Mr. West, who after scanning it awhile said, 'Very
good, very good. Go on and finish it.' Morse ventured to say that it was
finished. 'No! no! no!' answered West; 'see there, and there, and there.
There is much to be done yet. Go on and finish it.' Each time the pupil
showed it the master said, 'Go on and finish it.' [THE TELEGRAPH IN
AMERICA, by James D. Reid] This was a lesson in thoroughness of work and
attention to detail which was not lost on the student. The picture was
exhibited at the Royal Academy, in Somerset House, during the summer
of 1813, and West declared that if Morse were to live to his own age he
would never make a better composition. The remark is equivocal, but
was doubtless intended as a compliment to the precocity of the young

In order to be correct in the anatomy he had first modelled the figure
of his Hercules in clay, and this cast, by the advice of West, was
entered in competition for a prize in sculpture given by the Society
of Arts. It proved successful, and on May 13 the sculptor was presented
with the prize and a gold medal by the Duke of Norfolk before a
distinguished gathering in the Adelphi.

Flushed with his triumph, Morse determined to compete for the prize of
fifty guineas and a gold medal offered by the Royal Academy for the best
historical painting, and took for his subject, 'The Judgment of Jupiter
in the case of Apollo, Marpessa, and Idas.' The work was finished to the
satisfaction of West, but the painter was summoned home. He was still,
in part at least, depending on his father, and had been abroad a year
longer than the three at first intended. During this time he had been
obliged to pinch himself in a thousand ways in order to eke out his
modest allowance. 'My drink is water, porter being too expensive,' he
wrote to his parents. 'I have had no new clothes for nearly a year. My
best are threadbare, and my shoes are out at the toes. My stockings all
want to see my mother, and my hat is hoary with age.'

Mr. West recommended him to stay, since the rules of the competition
required the winner to receive the prize in person. But after trying
in vain to get this regulation waived, he left for America with his
picture, having, a few days prior to his departure, dined with Mr.
Wilberforce as the guns of Hyde Park were signalling the victory of

Arriving in Boston on October 18, he lost no time in renting a studio.
His fame had preceded him, and he became the lion of society. His
'Judgment of Jupiter' was exhibited in the town, and people flocked to
see it. But no one offered to buy it. If the line of high art he had
chosen had not supported him in England, it was tantamount to starvation
in the rawer atmosphere of America. Even in Boston, mellowed though it
was by culture, the classical was at a discount. Almost penniless, and
fretting under his disappointment, he went to Concord, New Hampshire,
and contrived to earn a living by painting cabinet portraits. Was this
the end of his ambitious dreams?

Money was needful to extricate him from this drudgery and let him follow
up his aspirations. Love may have been a still stronger motive for its
acquisition. So he tried his hand at invention, and, in conjunction with
his brother Sidney, produced what was playfully described as 'Morse's
Patent Metallic Double-Headed Ocean-Drinker and Deluge-Spouter
Pump-Box.' The pump was quite as much admired as the 'Jupiter,' and it
proved as great a failure.

Succeeding as a portrait painter, he went, in 1818, on the invitation
of his uncle, Dr. Finley, to Charleston, in South Carolina, and opened
a studio there. After a single season he found himself in a position
to marry, and on October 1, 1818, was united to Lucretia P. Walker, of
Concord, New Hampshire, a beautiful and accomplished lady. He thrived so
well in the south that he once received as many as one hundred and fifty
orders in a few weeks; and his reputation was such that he was honoured
with a commission from the Common Council of Charleston to execute a
portrait of James Monroe, then President of the United States. It was
regarded as a masterpiece. In January, 1821, he instituted the South
Carolina Academy of Fine Arts, which is now extinct.

After four years of life in Charleston he returned to the north with
savings to the amount of L600, and settled in New York. He devoted
eighteen months to the execution of a large painting of the House of
Representatives in the Capitol at Washington; but its exhibition proved
a loss, and in helping his brothers to pay his father's debts the
remains of his little fortune were swept away. He stood next to Allston
as an American historical painter, but all his productions in that line
proved a disappointment. The public would not buy them. On the other
hand, he received an order from the Corporation of New York for a
portrait of General Lafayette, the hero of the hour.

While engaged on this work he lost his wife in February, 1825, and then
his parents. In 1829 he visited Europe, and spent his time among the
artists and art galleries of England, France, and Italy. In Paris he
undertook a picture of the interior of the Louvre, showing some of the
masterpieces in miniature, but it seems that nobody purchased it. He
expected to be chosen to illustrate one of the vacant panels in the
Rotunda of the Capitol at Washington; but in this too he was mistaken.
However, some fellow-artists in America, thinking he had deserved
the honour, collected a sum of money to assist him in painting the
composition he had fixed upon: 'The Signing of the First Compact on
Board the Mayflower.'

In a far from hopeful mood after his three years' residence abroad he
embarked on the packet Sully, Captain Pell, and sailed from Havre for
New York on October 1, 1832. Among the passengers was Dr. Charles T.
Jackson, of Boston, who had attended some lectures on electricity in
Paris, and carried an electro-magnet in his trunk. One day while Morse
and Dr. Jackson, with a few more, sat round the luncheon table in the
cabin, he began to talk of the experiments he had witnessed. Some
one asked if the speed of the electricity was lessened by its passage
through a long wire, and Dr. Jackson, referring to a trial of Faraday,
replied that the current was apparently instantaneous. Morse, who
probably remembered his old lessons in the subject, now remarked that if
the presence of the electricity could be rendered visible at any point
of the circuit he saw no reason why intelligence might not be sent by
this means.

The idea became rooted in his mind, and engrossed his thoughts. Until
far into the night he paced the deck discussing the matter with Dr.
Jackson, and pondering it in solitude. Ways of rendering the electricity
sensible at the far end of the line were considered. The spark might
pierce a band of travelling paper, as Professor Day had mentioned years
before; it might decompose a chemical solution, and leave a stain to
mark its passage, as tried by Mr. Dyar in 1827; Or it could excite
an electro-magnet, which, by attracting a piece of soft iron, would
inscribe the passage with a pen or pencil. The signals could be made by
very short currents or jets of electricity, according to a settled code.
Thus a certain number of jets could represent a corresponding numeral,
and the numeral would, in its turn, represent a word in the language.
To decipher the message, a special code-book or dictionary would be
required. In order to transmit the currents through the line, he devised
a mechanical sender, in which the circuit would be interrupted by
a series of types carried on a port-rule or composing-stick, which
travelled at a uniform speed. Each type would have a certain number of
teeth or projections on its upper face, and as it was passed through
a gap in the circuit the teeth would make or break the current. At the
other end of the line the currents thus transmitted would excite the
electro-magnet, actuate the pencil, and draw a zig-zag line on the
paper, every angle being a distinct signal, and the groups of signals
representing a word in the code.

During the voyage of six weeks the artist jotted his crude ideas in his
sketch-book, which afterwards became a testimony to their date. That
he cherished hopes of his invention may be gathered from his words on
landing, 'Well, Captain Pell, should you ever hear of the telegraph one
of these days as the wonder of the world, remember the discovery was
made on the good ship Sully.'

Soon after his return his brothers gave him a room on the fifth floor
of a house at the corner of Nassau and Beekman Streets, New York. For
a long time it was his studio and kitchen, his laboratory and bedroom.
With his livelihood to earn by his brush, and his invention to work out,
Morse was now fully occupied. His diet was simple; he denied himself the
pleasures of society, and employed his leisure in making models of
his types. The studio was an image of his mind at this epoch. Rejected
pictures looked down upon his clumsy apparatus, type-moulds lay among
plaster-casts, the paint-pot jostled the galvanic battery, and the easel
shared his attention with the lathe. By degrees the telegraph allured
him from the canvas, and he only painted enough to keep the wolf from
the door. His national picture, 'The Signing of the First Compact on
Board the Mayflower,' was never finished, and the 300 dollars which had
been subscribed for it were finally returned with interest.

For Morse by nature was proud and independent, with a sensitive horror
of incurring debt. He would rather endure privation than solicit help
or lie under a humiliating obligation. His mother seems to have been
animated with a like spirit, for the Hon. Amos Kendall informs us that
she had suffered much through the kindness of her husband in becoming
surety for his friends, and that when she was dying she exacted a
promise from her son that he would never endanger his peace of mind and
the comfort of his home by doing likewise.

During the two and a half years from November, 1832, to the summer of
1835 he was obliged to change his residence three times, and want of
money prevented him from combining the several parts of his invention
into a working whole. In 1835, however, his reputation as an historical
painter, and the esteem in which he was held as a man of culture
and refinement, led to his appointment as the first Professor of the
Literature of the Arts of Design in the newly founded University of the
city of New York. In the month of July he took up his quarters in the
new buildings of the University at Washington Square, and was henceforth
able to devote more time to his apparatus. The same year Professor
Daniell, of King's College, London, brought out his constant-current
battery, which befriended Morse in his experiments, as it afterwards did
Cooke and Wheatstone, Hitherto the voltaic battery had been a source of
trouble, owing to the current becoming weak as the battery was kept in

The length of line through which Morse could work his apparatus was
an important point to be determined, for it was known that the current
grows feebler in proportion to the resistance of the wire it traverses.
Morse saw a way out of the difficulty, as Davy, Cooke, and Wheatstone
did, by the device known as the relay. Were the current too weak to
effect the marking of a message, it might nevertheless be sufficiently
strong to open and close the circuit of a local battery which would
print the signals. Such relays and local batteries, fixed at intervals
along the line, as post-horses on a turnpike, would convey the message
to an immense distance. 'If I can succeed in working a magnet ten
miles,' said Morse,'I can go round the globe. It matters not how
delicate the movement may be.'

According to his own statement, he devised the relay in 1836 or earlier;
but it was not until the beginning of 1837 that he explained the device,
and showed the working of his apparatus to his friend, Mr. Leonard D.
Gale, Professor of Chemistry in the University. This gentleman took
a lively interest in the apparatus, and proved a generous ally of the
inventor. Until then Morse had only tried his recorder on a few yards
of wire, the battery was a single pair of plates, and the electro-magnet
was of the elementary sort employed by Moll, and illustrated in the
older books. The artist, indeed, was very ignorant of what had been done
by other electricians; and Professor Gale was able to enlighten him.
When Gale acquainted him with some results in telegraphing obtained by
Mr. Barlow, he said he was not aware that anyone had even conceived
the notion of using the magnet for such a purpose. The researches of
Professor Joseph Henry on the electro-magnet, in 1830, were equally
unknown to Morse, until Professor Gale drew his attention to them,
and in accordance with the results, suggested that the simple
electro-magnet, with a few turns of thick wire which he employed, should
be replaced by one having a coil of long thin wire. By this change
a much feebler current would be able to excite the magnet, and the
recorder would mark through a greater length of line. Henry himself, in
1832, had devised a telegraph similar to that of Morse, and signalled
through a mile of wire, by causing the armature of his electro-magnet
to strike a bell. This was virtually the first electro-magnetic acoustic

The year of the telegraph--1837--was an important one for Morse, as
it was for Cooke and Wheatstone. In the privacy of his rooms he had
constructed, with his own hands, a model of his apparatus, and
fortune began to favour him. Thanks to Professor Gale, he improved the
electro-magnet, employed a more powerful battery, and was thus able to
work through a much longer line. In February, 1837, the American House
of Representatives passed a resolution asking the Secretary of the
Treasury to report on the propriety of establishing a system of
telegraphs for the United States, and on March 10 issued a circular of
inquiry, which fell into the hands of the inventor, and probably urged
him to complete his apparatus, and bring it under the notice of the
Government. Lack of mechanical skill, ignorance of electrical science,
as well as want of money, had so far kept it back.

But the friend in need whom he required was nearer than he anticipated.
On Saturday, September 2, 1837, while Morse was exhibiting the model to
Professor Daubeny, of Oxford, then visiting the States, and others, a
young man named Alfred Vail became one of the spectators, and was
deeply impressed with the results. Vail was born in 1807, a son of
Judge Stephen Vail, master of the Speedwell ironworks at Morristown,
New Jersey. After leaving the village school his father took him and his
brother George into the works; but though Alfred inherited a mechanical
turn of mind, he longed for a higher sphere, and on attaining to his
majority he resolved to enter the Presbyterian Church. In 1832 he
went to the University of the city of New York, where he graduated in
October, 1836. Near the close of the term, however, his health failed,
and he was constrained to relinquish his clerical aims. While in doubts
as to his future he chanced to see the telegraph, and that decided him.
He says: 'I accidentally and without invitation called upon Professor
Morse at the University, and found him with Professors Torrey and
Daubeny in the mineralogical cabinet and lecture-room of Professor Gale,
where Professor Morse was exhibiting to these gentlemen an apparatus
which he called his Electro-Magnetic Telegraph. There were wires
suspended in the room running from one end of it to the other, and
returning many times, making a length of seventeen hundred feet. The
two ends of the wire were connected with an electro-magnet fastened to a
vertical wooden frame. In front of the magnet was its armature, and also
a wooden lever or arm fitted at its extremity to hold a lead-pencil....
I saw this instrument work, and became thoroughly acquainted with
the principle of its operation, and, I may say, struck with the rude
machine, containing, as I believed, the germ of what was destined to
produce great changes in the conditions and relations of mankind. I well
recollect the impression which was then made upon my mind. I rejoiced to
think that I lived in such a day, and my mind contemplated the future
in which so grand and mighty an agent was about to be introduced for the
benefit of the world. Before leaving the room in which I beheld for the
first time this magnificent invention, I asked Professor Morse if he
intended to make an experiment on a more extended line of conductors. He
replied that he did, but that he desired pecuniary assistance to carry
out his plans. I promised him assistance provided he would admit me
into a share of the invention, to which proposition he assented. I then
returned to my boarding-house, locked the door of my room, threw myself
upon the bed, and gave myself up to reflection upon the mighty results
which were certain to follow the introduction of this new agent in
meeting and serving the wants of the world. With the atlas in my hand I
traced the most important lines which would most certainly be erected in
the United States, and calculated their length. The question then rose
in my mind, whether the electro-magnet could be made to work through
the necessary lengths of line, and after much reflection I came to the
conclusion that, provided the magnet would work even at a distance
of eight or ten miles, there could be no risk in embarking in the
enterprise. And upon this I decided in my own mind to SINK OR SWIM WITH

Young Vail applied to his father, who was a man of enterprise and
intelligence. He it was who forged the shaft of the Savannah, the first
steamship which crossed the Atlantic. Morse was invited to Speedwell
with his apparatus, that the judge might see it for himself, and the
question of a partnership was mooted. Two thousand dollars were required
to procure the patents and construct an instrument to bring before the
Congress. In spite of a financial depression, the judge was brave enough
to lend his assistance, and on September 23, 1837, an agreement was
signed between the inventor and Alfred Vail, by which the latter was to
construct, at his own expense, a model for exhibition to a Committee of
Congress, and to secure the necessary patents for the United States.
In return Vail was to receive one-fourth of the patent rights in that
country. Provision was made also to give Vail an interest in any foreign
patents he might furnish means to obtain. The American patent was
obtained by Morse on October 3, 1837. He had returned to New York, and
was engaged in the preparation of his dictionary.

For many months Alfred Vail worked in a secret room at the iron factory
making the new model, his only assistant being an apprentice of fifteen,
William Baxter, who subsequently designed the Baxter engine, and died
in 1885. When the workshop was rebuilt this room was preserved as
a memorial of the telegraph, for it was here that the true Morse
instrument, such as we know it, was constructed.

It must be remembered that in those days almost everything they wanted
had either to be made by themselves or appropriated to their purpose.
Their first battery was set up in a box of cherry-wood, parted into
cells, and lined with bees-wax; their insulated wire was that used by
milliners for giving outline to the 'sky-scraper' bonnets of that day.
The first machine made at Speedwell was a copy of that devised by Morse,
but as Vail grew more intimate with the subject his own ingenuity
came into play, and he soon improved on the original. The pencil was
discarded for a fountain pen, and the zig-zag signals for the short and
long lines now termed 'dots' and 'dashes.'

This important alteration led him to the 'Morse alphabet,' or code of
signals, by which a letter is transmitted as a group of short and long
jets, indicated as 'dots' and 'dashes' on the paper. Thus the letter E,
which is so common in English words, is now transmitted by a short jet
which makes a dot; T, another common letter, by a long jet, making a
dash; and Q, a rare letter, by the group dash, dash, dot, dash. Vail
tried to compute the relative frequency of all the letters in order to
arrange his alphabet; but a happy idea enabled him to save his time.
He went to the office of the local newspaper, and found the result he
wanted in the type-cases of the compositors. The Morse, or rather Vail
code, is at present the universal telegraphic code of symbols, and its
use is extending to other modes of signalling-for example, by flags,
lights, or trumpets.

The hard-fisted farmers of New Jersey, like many more at that date, had
no faith in the 'telegraph machine,' and openly declared that the judge
had been a fool for once to put his money in it. The judge, on his part,
wearied with the delay, and irritated by the sarcasm of his neighbours,
grew dispirited and moody. Alfred, and Morse, who had come to assist,
were careful to avoid meeting him. At length, on January 6, 1838, Alfred
told the apprentice to go up to the house and invite his father to come
down to see the telegraph at work. It was a cold day, but the boy was so
eager that he ran off without putting on his coat. In the sitting-room
he found the judge with his hat on as if about to go out, but seated
before the fire leaning his head on his hand, and absorbed in gloomy
reflection. 'Well, William?' he said, looking up, as the boy entered;
and when the message was delivered he started to his feet. In a few
minutes he was standing in the experimental-room, and the apparatus was
explained. Calling for a piece of paper he wrote upon it the words, 'A
PATIENT WAITER IS NO LOSER,' and handed it to Alfred, with the remark,
'If you can send this, and Mr. Morse can read it at the other end, I
shall be convinced.' The message was transmitted, and for a moment the
judge was fairly mastered by his feelings.

The apparatus was then exhibited in New York, in Philadelphia, and
subsequently before the Committee of Congress at Washington. At first
the members of this body were somewhat incredulous about the merits of
the uncouth machine; but the Chairman, the Hon. Francis O. J. Smith,
of Maine, took an interest in it, and secured a full attendance of the
others to see it tried through ten miles of wire one day in February.
The demonstration convinced them, and many were the expressions of
amazement from their lips. Some said, 'The world is coming to an end,'
as people will when it is really budding, and putting forth symptoms
of a larger life. Others exclaimed, 'Where will improvements and
discoveries stop?' and 'What would Jefferson think should he rise up and
witness what we have just seen?' One gentleman declared that, 'Time and
space are now annihilated.'

The practical outcome of the trial was that the Chairman reported a Bill
appropriating 30,000 dollars for the erection of an experimental line
between Washington and Baltimore. Mr. Smith was admitted to a fourth
share in the invention, and resigned his seat in Congress to become
legal adviser to the inventors. Claimants to the invention of the
telegraph now began to spring up, and it was deemed advisable for Mr.
Smith and Morse to proceed to Europe and secure the foreign patents.
Alfred Vail undertook to provide an instrument for exhibition in Europe.

Among these claimants was Dr. Jackson, chemist and geologist, of Boston,
who had been instrumental in evoking the idea of the telegraph in the
mind of Morse on board the Sully. In a letter to the NEW YORK OBSERVER
he went further than this, and claimed to be a joint inventor; but Morse
indignantly repudiated the suggestion. He declared that his instrument
was not mentioned either by him or Dr. Jackson at the time, and that
they had made no experiments together. 'It is to Professor Gale that I
am most of all indebted for substantial and effective aid in many of my
experiments,' he said; 'but he prefers no claim of any kind.'

Morse and Smith arrived in London during the month of June. Application
was immediately made for a British patent, but Cooke and Wheatstone and
Edward Davy, it seems, opposed it; and although Morse demonstrated that
his was different from theirs, the patent was refused, owing to a prior
publication in the London MECHANICS' MAGAZINE for February 18, 1838,
in the form of an article quoted from Silliman's AMERICAN JOURNAL OF
SCIENCE for October, 1837. Morse did not attempt to get this legal
disqualification set aside. In France he was equally unfortunate. His
instrument was exhibited by Arago at a meeting of the Institute, and
praised by Humboldt and Gay-Lussac; but the French patent law requires
the invention to be at work in France within two years, and when Morse
arranged to erect a telegraph line on the St. Germain Railway, the
Government declined to sanction it, on the plea that the telegraph must
become a State monopoly.

All his efforts to introduce the invention into Europe were futile, and
he returned disheartened to the United States on April 15, 1839.
While in Paris, he had met M. Daguerre, who, with M. Niepce, had just
discovered the art of photography. The process was communicated to
Morse, who, with Dr. Draper, fitted up a studio on the roof of the
University, and took the first daguerreotypes in America.

The American Congress now seemed as indifferent to his inventions as
the European governments. An exciting campaign for the presidency was at
hand, and the proposed grant for the telegraph was forgotten. Mr.
Smith had returned to the political arena, and the Vails were under a
financial cloud, so that Morse could expect no further aid from them.
The next two years were the darkest he had ever known. 'Porte Crayon'
tells us that he had little patronage as a professor, and at one time
only three pupils besides himself. Crayon's fee of fifty dollars for
the second quarter were overdue, owing to his remittance from home not
arriving; and one day the professor said, 'Well, Strother, my boy,
how are we off for money?' Strother explained how he was situated, and
stated that he hoped to have the money next week.

'Next week!' repeated Morse. 'I shall be dead by that time... dead of

'Would ten dollars be of any service?' inquired the student, both
astonished and distressed.

'Ten dollars would save my life,' replied Morse; and Strother paid the
money, which was all he owned. They dined together, and afterwards
the professor remarked, 'This is my first meal for twenty-four hours.
Strother, don't be an artist. It means beggary. A house-dog lives
better. The very sensitiveness that stimulates an artist to work keeps
him alive to suffering.'

Towards the close of 1841 he wrote to Alfred Vail: 'I have not a cent
in the world;' and to Mr. Smith about the same time he wrote: 'I find
myself without sympathy or help from any who are associated with me,
whose interests, one would think, would impell them at least to inquire
if they could render some assistance. For nearly two years past I have
devoted all my time and scanty means, living on a mere pittance, denying
myself all pleasures, and even necessary food, that I might have a sum
to put my telegraph into such a position before Congress as to insure
success to the common enterprise. I am crushed for want of means, and
means of so trifling a character too, that they who know how to ask
(which I do not) could obtain in a few hours.... As it is, although
everything is favourable, although I have no competition and no
opposition--on the contrary, although every member of Congress, so far
as I can learn, is favourable--yet I fear all will fail because I am
too poor to risk the trifling expense which my journey and residence
in Washington will occasion me. I WILL NOT RUN INTO DEBT, if I lose the
whole matter. So unless I have the means from some source, I shall be
compelled, however reluctantly, to leave it. No one call tell the days
and months of anxiety and labour I have had in perfecting my telegraphic
apparatus. For want of means I have been compelled to make with my own
hands (and to labour for weeks) a piece of mechanism which could be made
much better, and in a tenth part of the time, by a good mechanician,
thus wasting time--time which I cannot recall, and which seems
double-winged to me.

'"Hope deferred maketh the heart sick." It is true, and I have known
the full meaning of it. Nothing but the consciousness that I have an
invention which is to mark an era in human civilisation, and which is to
contribute to the happiness of millions, would have sustained me through
so many and such lengthened trials of patience in perfecting it.' Morse
did not invent for money or scientific reputation; he believed himself
the instrument of a great purpose.

During the summer of 1842 he insulated a wire two miles long with hempen
threads saturated with pitch-tar and surrounded with india-rubber. On
October 18, during bright moonlight, he submerged this wire in New York
Harbour, between Castle Garden and Governor's Island, by unreeling it
from a small boat rowed by a man. After signals had been sent through
it, the wire was cut by an anchor, and a portion of it carried off by
sailors. This appears to be the first experiment in signalling on a
subaqueous wire. It was repeated on a canal at Washington the following
December, and both are described in a letter to the Secretary of the
Treasury, December 23, 1844, in which Morse states his belief that
'telegraphic communication on the electro-magnetic plan may with
certainty be established across the Atlantic Ocean. Startling as this
may now seem, I am confident the time will come when the project will be

In December, 1842, the inventor made another effort to obtain the
help of Congress, and the Committee on Commerce again recommended an
appropriation of 30,000 dollars in aid of the telegraph. Morse had come
to be regarded as a tiresome 'crank' by some of the Congressmen, and
they objected that if the magnetic telegraph were endowed, mesmerism or
any other 'ism' might have a claim on the Treasury. The Bill passed
the House by a slender majority of six votes, given orally, some of the
representatives fearing that their support of the measure would alienate
their constituents. Its fate in the Senate was even more dubious; and
when it came up for consideration late one night before the adjournment,
a senator, the Hon. Fernando Wood, went to Morse, who watched in the
gallery, and said,'There is no use in your staying here. The Senate is
not in sympathy with your project. I advise you to give it up, return
home, and think no more about it.'

Morse retired to his rooms, and after paying his bill for board,
including his breakfast the next morning, he found himself with only
thirty-seven cents and a half in the world. Kneeling by his bed-side
he opened his heart to God, leaving the issue in His hands, and then,
comforted in spirit, fell asleep. While eating his breakfast next
morning, Miss Annie G. Ellsworth, daughter of his friend the Hon.
Henry L. Ellsworth, Commissioner of Patents, came up with a beaming
countenance, and holding out her hand, said--

'Professor, I have come to congratulate you.'

'Congratulate me!' replied Morse; 'on what?'

'Why,' she exclaimed,' on the passage of your Bill by the Senate!'

It had been voted without debate at the very close of the session. Years
afterwards Morse declared that this was the turning-point in the history
of the telegraph. 'My personal funds,' he wrote,' were reduced to the
fraction of a dollar; and had the passage of the Bill failed from any
cause, there would have been little prospect of another attempt on my
part to introduce to the world my new invention.'

Grateful to Miss Ellsworth for bringing the good news, he declared that
when the Washington to Baltimore line was complete hers should be the
first despatch.

The Government now paid him a salary of 2,500 dollars a month to
superintend the laying of the underground line which he had decided
upon. Professors Gale and Fisher became his assistants. Vail was put in
charge, and Mr. Ezra Cornell, who founded the Cornell University on the
site of the cotton mill where he had worked as a mechanic, and who had
invented a machine for laying pipes, was chosen to supervise the running
of the line. The conductor was a five-wire cable laid in pipes; but
after several miles had been run from Baltimore to the house intended
for the relay, the insulation broke down. Cornell, it is stated, injured
his machine to furnish an excuse for the stoppage of the work. The
leaders consulted in secret, for failure was staring them in the face.
Some 23,000 dollars of the Government grant were spent, and Mr. Smith,
who had lost his faith in the undertaking, claimed 4000 of the remaining
7000 dollars under his contract for laying the line. A bitter quarrel
arose between him and Morse, which only ended in the grave. He opposed
an additional grant from Government, and Morse, in his dejection,
proposed to let the patent expire, and if the Government would use his
apparatus and remunerate him, he would reward Alfred Vail, while Smith
would be deprived of his portion. Happily, it was decided to abandon the
subterranean line, and erect the conductor on poles above the ground. A
start was made from the Capitol, Washington, on April 1, 1844, and the
line was carried to the Mount Clare Depot, Baltimore, on May 23, 1843.
Next morning Miss Ellsworth fulfilled her promise by inditing the first
message. She chose the words, 'What hath God wrought?' and they were
transmitted by Morse from the Capitol at 8.45 a.m., and received at
Mount Clare by Alfred Vail.

This was the first message of a public character sent by the electric
telegraph in the Western World, and it is preserved by the Connecticut
Historical Society. The dots and dashes representing the words were not
drawn with pen and ink, but embossed on the paper with a metal stylus.
The machine itself was kept in the National Museum at Washington, and on
removing it, in 1871, to exhibit it at the Morse Memorial Celebration at
New York, a member of the Vail family discovered a folded paper attached
to its base. A corner of the writing was torn away before its importance
was recognised; but it proved to be a signed statement by Alfred Vail,
to the effect that the method of embossing was invented by him in the
sixth storey of the NEW YORK OBSERVER office during 1844, prior to the
erection of the Washington to Baltimore line, without any hint from
Morse. 'I have not asserted publicly my right as first and sole
inventor,' he says, 'because I wished to preserve the peaceful unity of
the invention, and because I could not, according to my contract with
Professor Morse, have got a patent for it.'

The powers of the telegraph having been demonstrated, enthusiasm took
the place of apathy, and Morse, who had been neglected before, was in
some danger of being over-praised. A political incident spread the fame
of the telegraph far and wide. The Democratic Convention, sitting in
Baltimore, nominated Mr. James K. Polk as candidate for the Presidency,
and Mr. Silas Wright for the Vice-Presidency. Alfred Vail telegraphed
the news to Morse in Washington, and he at once told Mr. Wright. The
result was that a few minutes later the Convention was dumbfounded to
receive a message from Wright declining to be nominated. They would not
believe it, and appointed a committee to inquire into the matter; but
the telegram was found to be genuine.

On April 1, 1845, the Baltimore to Washington line was formally opened
for public business. The tariff adopted by the Postmaster-General was
one cent for every four characters, and the receipts of the first four
days were a single cent. At the end of a week they had risen to about a

Morse offered the invention to the Government for 100,000 dollars, but
the Postmaster-General declined it on the plea that its working 'had not
satisfied him that under any rate of postage that could be adopted its
revenues could be made equal to its expenditures.' Thus through the
narrow views and purblindness of its official the nation lost an
excellent opportunity of keeping the telegraph system in its own hands.
Morse was disappointed at this refusal, but it proved a blessing in
disguise. He and his agent, the Hon. Amos Kendall, determined to rely on
private enterprise.

A line between New York and Philadelphia was projected, and the
apparatus was exhibited in Broadway at a charge of twenty-five cents a
head. But the door-money did not pay the expenses. There was an air
of poverty about the show. One of the exhibitors slept on a couple of
chairs, and the princely founder of Cornell University was grateful to
Providence for a shilling picked up on the side-walk, which enabled
him to enjoy a hearty breakfast. Sleek men of capital, looking with
suspicion on the meagre furniture and miserable apparatus, withheld
their patronage; but humbler citizens invested their hard-won earnings,
the Magnetic Telegraph Company was incorporated, and the line was built.
The following year, 1846, another line was run from Philadelphia to
Baltimore by Mr. Henry O'Reilly, of Rochester, N.Y., an acute pioneer
of the telegraph. In the course of ten years the Atlantic States were
covered by a straggling web of lines under the control of thirty or
forty rival companies working different apparatus, such as that of
Morse, Bain, House, and Hughes, but owing to various causes only one or
two were paying a dividend. It was a fit moment for amalgamation, and
this was accomplished in 1856 by Mr. Hiram Sibley. 'This Western Union,'
says one in speaking of the united corporation, 'seems to me very like
collecting all the paupers in the State and arranging them into a union
so as to make rich men of them.' But 'Sibley's crazy scheme' proved the
salvation of the competing companies. In 1857, after the first stage
coach had crossed the plains to California, Mr. Henry O'Reilly proposed
to build a line of telegraph, and Mr. Sibley urged the Western Union to
undertake it. He encountered a strong opposition. The explorations
of Fremont were still fresh in the public mind, and the country was
regarded as a howling wilderness. It was objected that no poles could
be obtained on the prairies, that the Indians or the buffaloes would
destroy the line, and that the traffic would not pay. 'Well, gentlemen,'
said Sibley, 'if you won't join hands with me in the thing, I'll go
it alone.' He procured a subsidy from the Government, who realised the
value of the line from a national point of view, the money was raised
under the auspices of the Western Union, and the route by Omaha, Fort
Laramie, and Salt Lake City to San Francisco was fixed upon. The work
began on July 4, 1861, and though it was expected to occupy two years,
it was completed in four months and eleven days. The traffic soon became
lucrative, and the Indians, except in time of war, protected the line
out of friendship for Mr. Sibley. A black-tailed buck, the gift of White
Cloud, spent its last years in the park of his home at Rochester.

The success of the overland wire induced the Company to embark on a
still greater scheme, the project of Mr. Perry MacDonough Collins, for
a trunk line between America and Europe by way of British Columbia,
Alaska, the Aleutian Islands, and Siberia. A line already existed
between European Russia and Irkutsk, in Siberia, and it was to be
extended to the mouth of the Amoor, where the American lines were to
join it. Two cables, one across Behring Sea and another across the Bay
of Anadyr, were to link the two continents.

The expedition started in the summer of 1865 with a fleet of about
thirty vessels, carrying telegraph and other stores. In spite of severe
hardships, a considerable part of the line had been erected when the
successful completion of the trans-Atlantic cable, in 1866, caused the
enterprise to be abandoned after an expenditure of 3,000,000 dollars. A
trace cut for the line through the forests of British Columbia is still
known as the 'telegraph trail.' In spite of this misfortune the Western
Union Telegraph Company has continued to flourish. In 1883 its capital
amounted to 80,000,000 dollars, and it now possesses a virtual monopoly
of telegraphic communication in the United States.

Morse did not limit his connections to land telegraphy. In 1854, when
Mr. Cyrus Field brought out the Atlantic Telegraph Company, to lay a
cable between Europe and America, he became its electrician, and went to
England for the purpose of consulting with the English engineers on the
execution of the project. But his instrument was never used on the ocean
lines, and, indeed, it was not adapted for them.

During this time Alfred Vail continued to improve the Morse apparatus,
until it was past recognition. The porte-rule and type of the
transmitter were discarded for a simple 'key' or rocking lever, worked
up and down by the hand, so as to make and break the circuit. The clumsy
framework of the receiver was reduced to a neat and portable size. The
inking pen was replaced by a metal wheel or disc, smeared with ink, and
rolling on the paper at every dot or dash. Vail, as we have seen, also
invented the plan of embossing the message. But he did still more. When
the recording instrument was introduced, it was found that the clerks
persisted in 'reading' the signals by the clicking of the marking lever,
and not from the paper. Threats of instant dismissal did not stop the
practice when nobody was looking on. Morse, who regarded the record
as the distinctive feature of his invention, was very hostile to the
practice; but Nature was too many for him. The mode of interpreting by
sound was the easier and more economical of the two; and Vail, with
his mechanical instinct, adopted it. He produced an instrument in which
there is no paper or marking device, and the message is simply sounded
by the lever of the armature striking on its metal stops. At present the
Morse recorder is rarely used in comparison with the 'sounder.'

The original telegraph of Morse, exhibited in 1837, has become an
archaic form. Apart from the central idea of employing an electro-magnet
to signal--an idea applied by Henry in 1832, when Morse had only thought
of it--the development of the apparatus is mainly due to Vail. His
working devices made it a success, and are in use to-day, while those of
Morse are all extinct.

Morse has been highly honoured and rewarded, not only by his countrymen,
but by the European powers. The Queen of Spain sent him a Cross of the
Order of Isabella, the King of Prussia presented him with a jewelled
snuff-box, the Sultan of Turkey decorated him with the Order of Glory,
the Emperor of the French admitted him into the Legion of Honour.
Moreover, the ten European powers in special congress awarded him
400,000 francs (some 80,000 dollars), as an expression of their
gratitude: honorary banquets were a common thing to the man who had
almost starved through his fidelity to an idea.

But beyond his emoluments as a partner in the invention, Alfred Vail had
no recompense. Morse, perhaps, was somewhat jealous of acknowledging
the services of his 'mechanical assistant,' as he at one time chose to
regard Vail. When personal friends, knowing his services, urged Vail
to insist upon their recognition, he replied, 'I am confident that
Professor Morse will do me justice.' But even ten years after the death
of Vail, on the occasion of a banquet given in his honour by the leading
citizens of New York, Morse, alluding to his invention, said: 'In 1835,
according to the concurrent testimony of many witnesses, it lisped its
first accents, and automatically recorded them a few blocks only distant
from the spot from which I now address you. It was a feeble child
indeed, ungainly in its dress, stammering in its speech; but it had then
all the distinctive features and characteristics of its present manhood.
It found a friend, an efficient friend, in Mr. Alfred Vail, of New
Jersey, who, with his father and brother, furnished the means to give
the child a decent dress, preparatory to its' visit to the seat of

When we remember that even by this time Vail had entirely altered the
system of signals, and introduced the dot-dash code, we cannot but
regard this as a stinted acknowledgment of his colleague's work. But
the man who conceives the central idea, and cherishes it, is apt to be
niggardly in allowing merit to the assistant whose mechanical skill
is able to shape and put it in practice; while, on the other hand, the
assistant is sometimes inclined to attach more importance to the working
out than it deserves. Alfred Vail cannot be charged with that, however,
and it would have been the more graceful on the part of Morse had he
avowed his indebtedness to Vail with a greater liberality. Nor would
this have detracted from his own merit as the originator and preserver
of the idea, without which the improvements of Vail would have had no
existence. In the words of the Hon. Amos Kendall, a friend of both: 'If
justice be done, the name of Alfred Vail will for ever stand associated
with that of Samuel F. B. Morse in the history and introduction into
public use of the electro-magnetic telegraph.'

Professor Morse spent his declining years at Locust Grove, a charming
retreat on the banks of the River Hudson. In private life he was a fine
example of the Christian gentleman.

In the summer of 1871, the Telegraphic Brotherhood of the World erected
a statue to his honour in the Central Park, New York. Delegates from
different parts of America were present at the unveiling; and in the
evening there was a reception at the Academy of Music, where the
first recording telegraph used on the Washington to Baltimore line was
exhibited. The inventor himself appeared, and sent a message at a small
table, which was flashed by the connected wires to the remotest parts
of the Union, It ran: 'Greeting and thanks to the telegraph fraternity
throughout the world. Glory to God in the highest, on earth peace,
goodwill towards men.'

It was deemed fitting that Morse should unveil the statue of Benjamin
Franklin, which had been erected in Printing House Square, New York.
When his venerable figure appeared on the platform, and the long white
hair was blown about his handsome face by the winter wind, a great cheer
went up from the assembled multitude. But the day was bitterly cold, and
the exposure cost him his life. Some months later, as he lay on his sick
bed, he observed to the doctor, 'The best is yet to come.' In tapping
his chest one day, the physician said,' This is the way we doctors
telegraph, professor,' and Morse replied with a smile, 'Very good--very
good.' These were his last words. He died at New York on April 2,
1872, at the age of eighty-one years, and was buried in the Greenwood


Sir William Thomson, the greatest physicist of the age, and the highest
authority on electrical science, theoretical and applied, was born at
Belfast on June 25, 1824. His father, Dr. James Thomson, the son of a
Scots-Irish farmer, showed a bent for scholarship when a boy, and became
a pupil teacher in a small school near Ballynahinch, in County Down.
With his summer earnings he educated himself at Glasgow University
during winter. Appointed head master of a school in connection with the
Royal Academical Institute, he subsequently obtained the professorship
of mathematics in that academy. In 1832 he was called to the chair of
mathematics in the University of Glasgow, where he achieved a reputation
by his text-books on arithmetic and mathematics.

William began his course at the same college in his eleventh year, and
was petted by the older students for his extraordinary quickness in
solving the problems of his father's class. It was quite plain that his
genius lay in the direction of mathematics; and on finishing at Glasgow
he was sent to the higher mathematical school of St. Peter's College,
Cambridge. In 1845 he graduated as second wrangler, but won the Smith
prize. This 'consolation stakes' is regarded as a better test of
originality than the tripos. The first, or senior, wrangler probably
beat him by a facility in applying well-known rules, and a readiness
in writing. One of the examiners is said to have declared that he was
unworthy to cut Thomson's pencils. It is certain that while the victor
has been forgotten, the vanquished has created a world-wide renown.

While at Cambridge he took an active part in the field sports and
athletics of the University. He won the Silver Sculls, and rowed in the
winning boat of the Oxford and Cambridge race. He also took a lively
interest in the classics, in music, and in general literature; but the
real love, the central passion of his intellectual life, was the pursuit
of science. The study of mathematics, physics, and in particular, of
electricity, had captivated his imagination, and soon engrossed all the
teeming faculties of his mind. At the age of seventeen, when ordinary
lads are fond of games, and the cleverer sort are content to learn
without attempting to originate, young Thomson had begun to make
investigations. The CAMBRIDGE MATHEMATICAL JOURNAL of 1842 contains
a paper by him--'On the uniform motion of heat in homogeneous solid
bodies, and its connection with the mathematical theory of electricity.'
In this he demonstrated the identity of the laws governing the
distribution of electric or magnetic force in general, with the laws
governing the distribution of the lines of the motion of heat in certain
special cases. The paper was followed by others on the mathematical
theory of electricity; and in 1845 he gave the first mathematical
development of Faraday's notion, that electric induction takes place
through an intervening medium, or 'dielectric,' and not by some
incomprehensible 'action at a distance.' He also devised an hypothesis
of electrical images, which became a powerful agent in solving problems
of electrostatics, or the science which deals with the forces of
electricity at rest.

On gaining a fellowship at his college, he spent some time in the
laboratory of the celebrated Regnault, at Paris; but in 1846 he was
appointed to the chair of natural philosophy in the University of
Glasgow. It was due to the brilliant promise he displayed, as much as
to the influence of his father, that at the age of twenty-two he found
himself wearing the gown of a learned professor in one of the oldest
Universities in the country, and lecturing to the class of which he was
a freshman but a few years before.

Thomson became a man of public note in connection with the laying of the
first Atlantic cable. After Cooke and Wheatstone had introduced their
working telegraph in 1839; the idea of a submarine line across the
Atlantic Ocean began to dawn on the minds of men as a possible triumph
of the future. Morse proclaimed his faith in it as early as the year
1840, and in 1842 he submerged a wire, insulated with tarred hemp and
india-rubber, in the water of New York harbour, and telegraphed through
it. The following autumn Wheatstone performed a similar experiment in
the Bay of Swansea. A good insulator to cover the wire and prevent the
electricity from leaking into the water was requisite for the success
of a long submarine line. India-rubber had been tried by Jacobi, the
Russian electrician, as far back as 1811. He laid a wire insulated with
rubber across the Neva at St. Petersburg, and succeeded in firing a mine
by an electric spark sent through it; but india-rubber, although it is
now used to a considerable extent, was not easy to manipulate in those
days. Luckily another gum which could be melted by heat, and readily
applied to the wire, made its appearance. Gutta-percha, the adhesive
juice of the ISONANDRA GUTTA tree, was introduced to Europe in 1842
by Dr. Montgomerie, a Scotch surveyor in the service of the East India
Company. Twenty years before he had seen whips made of it in Singapore,
and believed that it would be useful in the fabrication of surgical
apparatus. Faraday and Wheatstone soon discovered its merits as an
insulator, and in 1845 the latter suggested that it should be employed
to cover the wire which it was proposed to lay from Dover to Calais. It
was tried on a wire laid across the Rhine between Deutz and Cologne. In
1849 Mr. C. V. Walker, electrician to the South Eastern Railway Company,
submerged a wire coated with it, or, as it is technically called, a
gutta-percha core, along the coast off Dover.

The following year Mr. John Watkins Brett laid the first line across the
Channel. It was simply a copper wire coated with gutta-percha, without
any other protection. The core was payed out from a reel mounted behind
the funnel of a steam tug, the Goliath, and sunk by means of lead
weights attached to it every sixteenth of a mile. She left Dover about
ten o'clock on the morning of August 28, 1850, with some thirty men on
board and a day's provisions. The route she was to follow was marked by
a line of buoys and flags. By eight o'clock in the evening she arrived
at Cape Grisnez, and came to anchor near the shore. Mr. Brett watched
the operations through a glass at Dover. 'The declining sun,' he says,
'enabled me to discern the moving shadow of the steamer's smoke on the
white cliff; thus indicating her progress. At length the shadow ceased
to move. The vessel had evidently come to an anchor. We gave them
half an hour to convey the end of the wire to shore and attach the
type-printing instrument, and then I sent the first electrical message
across the Channel. This was reserved for Louis Napoleon.' According to
Mr. F. C. Webb, however, the first of the signals were a mere jumble of
letters, which were torn up. He saved a specimen of the slip on which
they were printed, and it was afterwards presented to the Duke of

Next morning this pioneer line was broken down at a point about 200
Yards from Cape Grisnez, and it turned out that a Boulogne fisherman
had raised it on his trawl and cut a piece away, thinking he had found a
rare species of tangle with gold in its heart. This misfortune suggested
the propriety of arming the core against mechanical injury by sheathing
it in a cable of hemp and iron wires. The experiment served to keep
alive the concession, and the next year, on November 13, 1851, a
protected core or true cable was laid from a Government hulk, the
Blazer, which was towed across the Channel.

Next year Great Britain and Ireland were linked together. In May, 1853,
England was joined to Holland by a cable across the North Sea, from
Orfordness to the Hague. It was laid by the Monarch, a paddle steamer
which had been fitted for the work. During the night she met with such
heavy weather that the engineer was lashed near the brakes; and the
electrician, Mr. Latimer Clark, sent the continuity signals by jerking
a needle instrument with a string. These and other efforts in the
Mediterranean and elsewhere were the harbingers of the memorable
enterprise which bound the Old World and the New.

Bishop Mullock, head of the Roman Catholic Church in Newfoundland, was
lying becalmed in his yacht one day in sight of Cape Breton Island, and
began to dream of a plan for uniting his savage diocese to the mainland
by a line of telegraph through the forest from St. John's to Cape Ray,
and cables across the mouth of the St. Lawrence from Cape Ray to Nova
Scotia. St. John's was an Atlantic port, and it seemed to him that the
passage of news between America and Europe could thus be shortened by
forty-eight hours. On returning to St. John's he published his idea in
the COURIER by a letter dated November 8, 1850.

About the same time a similar plan occurred to Mr. F. N. Gisborne, a
telegraph engineer in Nova Scotia. In the spring of 1851 he procured a
grant from the Legislature of Newfoundland, resigned his situation in
Nova Scotia, and having formed a company, began the construction of the
land line. But in 1853 his bills were dishonoured by the company, he was
arrested for debt, and stripped of all his fortune. The following year,
however, he was introduced to Mr. Cyrus Field, of New York, a wealthy
merchant, who had just returned from a six months' tour in South
America. Mr. Field invited Mr. Gisborne to his house in order to discuss
the project. When his visitor was gone, Mr. Field began to turn over a
terrestrial globe which stood in his library, and it flashed upon him
that the telegraph to Newfoundland might be extended across the Atlantic
Ocean. The idea fired him with enthusiasm. It seemed worthy of a man's
ambition, and although he had retired from business to spend his days
in peace, he resolved to dedicate his time, his energies, and fortune to
the accomplishment of this grand enterprise.

A presentiment of success may have inspired him; but he was ignorant
alike of submarine cables and the deep sea. Was it possible to submerge
the cable in the Atlantic, and would it be safe at the bottom? Again,
would the messages travel through the line fast enough to make it pay!
On the first question he consulted Lieutenant Maury, the great authority
on mareography. Maury told him that according to recent soundings by
Lieutenant Berryman, of the United States brig Dolphin, the bottom
between Ireland and Newfoundland was a plateau covered with microscopic
shells at a depth not over 2000 fathoms, and seemed to have been made
for the very purpose of receiving the cable. He left the question of
finding a time calm enough, the sea smooth enough, a wire long enough,
and a ship big enough,' to lay a line some sixteen hundred miles in
length to other minds. As to the line itself, Mr. Field consulted
Professor Morse, who assured him that it was quite possible to make and
lay a cable of that length. He at once adopted the scheme of Gisborne as
a preliminary step to the vaster undertaking, and promoted the New
York, Newfoundland, and London Telegraph Company, to establish a line
of telegraph between America and Europe. Professor Morse was appointed
electrician to the company.

The first thing to be done was to finish the line between St. John's and
Nova Scotia, and in 1855 an attempt was made to lay a cable across the
Gulf of the St. Lawrence, It was payed out from a barque in tow of a
steamer; but when half was laid a gale rose, and to keep the barque from
sinking the line was cut away. Next summer a steamboat was fitted
out for the purpose, and the cable was submerged. St. John's was now
connected with New York by a thousand miles of land and submarine

Mr. Field then directed his efforts to the completion of the
trans-oceanic section. He induced the American Government to despatch
Lieutenant Berryman, in the Arctic, and the British Admiralty to send
Lieutenant: Dayman, in the Cyclops, to make a special survey along the
proposed route of the cable. These soundings revealed the existence of a
submarine hill dividing the 'telegraph plateau' from the shoal water on
the coast of Ireland, but its slope was gradual and easy.

Till now the enterprise had been purely American, and the funds provided
by American capitalists, with the exception of a few shares held by Mr.
J. W. Brett. But seeing that the cable was to land on British soil, it
was fitting that the work should be international, and that the British
people should be asked to contribute towards the manufacture and
submersion of the cable. Mr. Field therefore proceeded to London, and
with the assistance of Mr. Brett the Atlantic Telegraph Company was
floated. Mr. Field himself supplied a quarter of the needed capital; and
we may add that Lady Byron, and Mr. Thackeray, the novelist, were among
the shareholders.

The design of the cable was a subject of experiment by Professor
Morse and others. It was known that the conductor should be of copper,
possessing a high conductivity for the electric current, and that its
insulating jacket of gutta-percha should offer a great resistance to
the leakage of the current. Moreover, experience had shown that the
protecting sheath or armour of the core should be light and flexible as
well as strong, in order to resist external violence and allow it to be
lifted for repair. There was another consideration, however, which at
this time was rather a puzzle. As early as 1823 Mr. (afterwards Sir)
Francis Ronalds had observed that electric signals were retarded in
passing through an insulated wire or core laid under ground, and the
same effect was noticeable on cores immersed in water, and particularly
on the lengthy cable between England and the Hague. Faraday showed that
it was caused by induction between the electricity in the wire and the
earth or water surrounding it. A core, in fact, is an attenuated Leyden
jar; the wire of the core, its insulating jacket, and the soil or water
around it stand respectively for the inner tinfoil, the glass, and the
outer tinfoil of the jar. When the wire is charged from a battery, the
electricity induces an opposite charge in the water as it travels
along, and as the two charges attract each other, the exciting charge is
restrained. The speed of a signal through the conductor of a submarine
cable is thus diminished by a drag of its own making. The nature of
the phenomenon was clear, but the laws which governed it were still a
mystery. It became a serious question whether, on a long cable such as
that required for the Atlantic, the signals might not be so sluggish
that the work would hardly pay. Faraday had said to Mr. Field that a
signal would take 'about a second,' and the American was satisfied; but
Professor Thomson enunciated the law of retardation, and cleared up the
whole matter. He showed that the velocity of a signal through a given
core was inversely proportional to the square of the length of the
core. That is to say, in any particular cable the speed of a signal is
diminished to one-fourth if the length is doubled, to one-ninth if it
is trebled, to one-sixteenth if it is quadrupled, and so on. It was
now possible to calculate the time taken by a signal in traversing the
proposed Atlantic line to a minute fraction of a second, and to design
the proper core for a cable of any given length.

The accuracy of Thomson's law was disputed in 1856 by Dr. Edward O.
Wildman Whitehouse, the electrician of the Atlantic Telegraph Company,
who had misinterpreted the results of his own experiments. Thomson
disposed of his contention in a letter to the ATHENAEUM, and the
directors of the company saw that he was a man to enlist in their
adventure. It is not enough to say the young Glasgow professor threw
himself heart and soul into their work. He descended in their midst
like the very genius of electricity, and helped them out of all their
difficulties. In 1857 he published in the ENGINEER the whole theory of
the mechanical forces involved in the laying of a submarine cable, and
showed that when the line is running out of the ship at a constant speed
in a uniform depth of water, it sinks in a slant or straight incline
from the point where it enters the water to that where it touches the

To these gifts of theory, electrical and mechanical, Thomson added a
practical boon in the shape of the reflecting galvanometer, or mirror
instrument. This measurer of the current was infinitely more sensitive
than any which preceded it, and enables the electrician to detect
the slightest flaw in the core of a cable during its manufacture and
submersion. Moreover, it proved the best apparatus for receiving the
messages through a long cable. The Morse and other instruments, however
suitable for land lines and short cables, were all but useless on the
Atlantic line, owing to the retardation of the signals; but the mirror
instrument sprang out of Thomson's study of this phenomenon, and was
designed to match it. Hence this instrument, through being the fittest
for the purpose, drove the others from the field, and allowed the first
Atlantic cables to be worked on a profitable basis.

The cable consisted of a strand of seven copper wires, one weighing
107 pounds a nautical mile or knot, covered with three coats of
gutta-percha, weighing 261 pounds a knot, and wound with tarred hemp,
over which a sheath of eighteen strands, each of seven iron wires,
was laid in a close spiral. It weighed nearly a ton to the mile, was
flexible as a rope, and able to withstand a pull of several tons. It
was made conjointly by Messrs. Glass, Elliot & Co., of Greenwich, and
Messrs. R. S. Newall & Co., of Liverpool.

The British Government promised Mr. Field a subsidy of L1,400 a year,
and the loan of ships to lay the cable. He solicited an equal help from
Congress, but a large number of the senators, actuated by a national
jealousy of England, and looking to the fact that both ends of the line
were to lie in British territory, opposed the grant. It appeared to
these far-sighted politicians that England, the hereditary foe, was
'literally crawling under the sea to get some advantage over the United
States.' The Bill was only passed by a majority of a single vote. In
the House of Representatives it encountered a similar hostility, but was
ultimately signed by President Pierce.

The Agamemnon, a British man-of-war fitted out for the purpose, took
in the section made at Greenwich, and the Niagara, an American warship,
that made at Liverpool. The vessels and their consorts met in the bay of
Valentia Island, on the south-west coast of Ireland, where on August 5,
1857, the shore end of the cable was landed from the Niagara. It was a
memorable scene. The ships in the bay were dressed in bunting, and
the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland stood on the beach, attended by his
following, to receive the end from the American sailors. Visitors in
holiday attire collected in groups to watch the operations, and eagerly
joined with his excellency in helping to pull the wire ashore. When
it was landed, the Reverend Mr. Day, of Kenmore, offered up a prayer,
asking the Almighty to prosper the undertaking, Next day the expedition
sailed; but ere the Niagara had proceeded five miles on her way the
shore-end parted, and the repairing of it delayed the start for another

At first the Niagara went slowly ahead to avoid a mishap, but as the
cable ran out easily she increased her speed. The night fell, but hardly
a soul slept. The utmost vigilance was maintained throughout the vessel.
Apart from the noise of the paying-out machinery, there was an awful
stillness on board. Men walked about with a muffled step, or spoke in
whispers, as if they were afraid the sound of their voices would break
the slender line. It seemed as though a great and valued friend lay at
the point of death.

The submarine hill, with its dangerous slope, was passed in safety,
and the 'telegraph plateau,' nearly two miles deep, was reached, when
suddenly the signals from Ireland, which told that the conductor
was intact, stopped altogether. Professor Morse and De Sauty, the
electricians, failed to restore the communication, and the engineers
were preparing to cut the cable, when quite as suddenly the signals
returned, and every face grew bright. A weather-beaten old sailor said,
'I have watched nearly every mile of it as it came over the side, and
I would have given fifty dollars, poor man as I am, to have saved it,
although I don't expect to make anything by it when it is laid down.'

But the joy was short-lived. The line was running out at the rate of
six miles an hour, while the vessel was only making four. To check this
waste of cable the engineer tightened the brakes; but as the stern of
the ship rose on the swell, the cable parted under the heavy strain, and
the end was lost in the sea.

The bad news ran like a flash of lightning through all the ships, and
produced a feeling of sorrow and dismay.

No attempt was made to grapple the line in such deep water, and the
expedition returned to England. It was too late to try again that
year, but the following summer the Agamemnon and Niagara, after an
experimental trip to the Bay of Biscay, sailed from Plymouth on June
10 with a full supply of cable, better gear than before, and a riper
experience of the work. They were to meet in the middle of the Atlantic,
where the two halves of the cable on board of each were to be spliced
together, and while the Agamemnon payed out eastwards to Valentia Island
the Niagara was to pay out westward to Newfoundland. On her way to the
rendezvous the Agamemnon encountered a terrific gale, which lasted for a
week, and nearly proved her destruction.

On Saturday, the 26th, the middle splice was effected and the bight
dropped into the deep. The two ships got under weigh, but had not
proceeded three miles when the cable broke in the paying-out machinery
of the Niagara. Another splice, followed by a fresh start, was made
during the same afternoon; but when some fifty miles were payed out
of each vessel, the current which kept up communication between them
suddenly failed owing to the cable having snapped in the sea. Once more
the middle splice was made and lowered, and the ships parted company a
third time. For a day or two all went well; over two hundred miles of
cable ran smoothly out of each vessel, and the anxious chiefs began to
indulge in hopes of ultimate success, when the cable broke about twenty
feet behind the stern of the Agamemnon.

The expedition returned to Queenstown, and a consultation took place.
Mr. Field, and Professor Thomson, who was on board the Agamemnon, were
in favour of another trial, and it was decided to make one without
delay. The vessels left the Cove of Cork on July 17; but on this
occasion there was no public enthusiasm, and even those on board felt
as if they were going on another wild goose chase. The Agamemnon was now
almost becalmed on her way to the rendezvous; but the middle splice was
finished by 12.30 p.m. on July 29, 1858, and immediately dropped into
the sea. The ships thereupon started, and increased their distance,
while the cable ran easily out of them. Some alarm was caused by the
stoppage of the continuity signals, but after a time they reappeared.
The Niagara deviated from the great arc of a circle on which the cable
was to be laid, and the error was traced to the iron of the cable
influencing her compass. Hence the Gorgon, one of her consorts, was
ordered to go ahead and lead the way. The Niagara passed several
icebergs, but none injured the cable, and on August 4 she arrived in
Trinity Bay, Newfoundland. At 6. a.m. next morning the shore end was
landed into the telegraph-house which had been built for its reception.
Captain Hudson, of the Niagara, then read prayers, and at one p.m.
H.M.S. Gorgon fired a salute of twenty-one guns.

The Agamemnon made an equally successful run. About six o'clock on the
first evening a huge whale was seen approaching on the starboard bow,
and as he sported in the waves, rolling and lashing them into foam,
the onlookers began to fear that he might endanger the line. Their
excitement became intense as the monster heaved astern, nearer and
nearer to the cable, until his body grazed it where it sank into the
water; but happily no harm was done. Damaged portions of the cable had
to be removed in paying-out, and the stoppage of the continuity signals
raised other alarms on board. Strong head winds kept the Agamemnon back,
and two American ships which got into her course had to be warned off
by firing guns. The signals from the Niagara became very weak, but on
Professor Thomson asking the electricians on board of her to increase
their battery power, they improved at once. At length, on Thursday,
August, 5, the Agamemnon, with her consort, the Valorous, arrived at
Valentia Island, and the shore end was landed into the cable-house at
Knightstown by 3 p.m., and a royal salute announced the completion of
the work.

The news was received at first with some incredulity, but on being
confirmed it caused a universal joy. On August 16 Queen Victoria sent a
telegram of congratulation to President Buchanan through the line, and
expressed a hope that it would prove 'an additional link between
the nations whose friendship is founded on their common interest and
reciprocal esteem.' The President responded that, 'it is a triumph
more glorious, because far more useful to mankind, than was ever won by
conqueror on the field of battle. May the Atlantic telegraph, under the
blessing of heaven, prove to be a bond of perpetual peace and friendship
between the kindred nations, and an instrument destined by Divine
Providence to diffuse religion, civilisation, liberty, and law
throughout the world.'

These messages were the signal for a fresh outburst of enthusiasm. Next
morning a grand salute of 100 guns resounded in New York, the streets
were decorated with flags, the bells of the churches rung, and at night
the city was illuminated.

The Atlantic cable was a theme of inspiration for innumerable sermons
and a prodigious quantity of doggerel. Among the happier lines were

     ''Tis done! the angry sea consents,
     The nations stand no more apart;
     With clasped hands the continents
     Feel throbbings of each other's heart.

     Speed! speed the cable! let it run
     A loving girdle round the earth,
     Till all the nations 'neath the sun
     Shall be as brothers of one hearth.

     As brothers pledging, hand in hand,
     One freedom for the world abroad,
     One commerce over every land,
     One language, and one God.'

The rejoicing reached a climax in September, when a public service was
held in Trinity Church, and Mr. Field, the hero of the hour, as head and
mainspring of the expedition, received an ovation in the Crystal Palace
at New York. The mayor presented him with a golden casket as a souvenir
of 'the grandest enterprise of our day and generation.' The band played
'God save the Queen,' and the whole audience rose to their feet. In
the evening there was a magnificent torchlight procession of the city

That very day the cable breathed its last. Its insulation had been
failing for some days, and the only signals which could be read were
those given by the mirror galvanometer.[It is said to have broken down
while Newfoundland was vainly attempting to inform Valentia that it was
sending with THREE HUNDRED AND TWELVE CELLS!] The reaction at this news
was tremendous. Some writers even hinted that the line was a mere hoax,
and others pronounced it a stock exchange speculation. Sensible men
doubted whether the cable had ever 'spoken;' but in addition to the
royal despatch, items of daily news had passed through the wire; for
instance, the announcement of a collision between two ships, the Arabia
and the Europa, off Cape Race, Newfoundland, and an order from London,
countermanding the departure of a regiment in Canada for the seat of the
Indian Mutiny, which had come to an end.

Mr. Field was by no means daunted at the failure. He was even more eager
to renew the work, since he had come so near to success. But the public
had lost confidence in the scheme, and all his efforts to revive the
company were futile. It was not until 1864 that with the assistance of
Mr. Thomas (afterwards Lord) Brassey, and Mr. (now Sir) John Fender,
that he succeeded in raising the necessary capital. The Glass, Elliot,
and Gutta-Percha Companies were united to form the well-known Telegraph
Construction and Maintenance Company, which undertook to manufacture and
lay the new cable.

Much experience had been gained in the meanwhile. Long cables had been
submerged in the Mediterranean and the Red Sea. The Board of Trade
in 1859 had appointed a committee of experts, including Professor
Wheatstone, to investigate the whole subject, and the results were
published in a Blue-book. Profiting by these aids, an improved type of
cable was designed. The core consisted of a strand of seven very
pure copper wires weighing 300 lbs. a knot, coated with Chatterton's
compound, which is impervious to water, then covered with four layers of
gutta-percha alternating with four thin layers of the compound cementing
the whole, and bringing the weight of the insulator to 400 lbs. per
knot. This core was served with hemp saturated in a preservative
solution, and on the hemp as a padding were spirally wound eighteen
single wires of soft steel, each covered with fine strands of Manilla
yam steeped in the preservative. The weight of the new cable was
35.75 cwt. per knot, or nearly twice the weight of the old, and it was
stronger in proportion.

Ten years before, Mr. Marc Isambard Brunel, the architect of the Great
Eastern, had taken Mr. Field to Blackwall, where the leviathan was
lying, and said to him, 'There is the ship to lay the Atlantic cable.'
She was now purchased to fulfil the mission. Her immense hull was fitted
with three iron tanks for the reception of 2,300 miles of cable, and
her decks furnished with the paying-out gear. Captain (now Sir) James
Anderson, of the Cunard steamer China, a thorough seaman, was appointed
to the command, with Captain Moriarty, R.N., as chief navigating
officer. Mr. (afterwards Sir) Samuel Canning was engineer for the
contractors, the Telegraph Construction and Maintenance Company, and Mr.
de Sauty their electrician; Professor Thomson and Mr. Cromwell Fleetwood
Varley were the electricians for the Atlantic Telegraph Company. The
Press was ably represented by Dr. W. H. Russell, correspondent of the
TIMES. The Great Eastern took on board seven or eight thousand tons of
coal to feed her fires, a prodigious quantity of stores, and a multitude
of live stock which turned her decks into a farmyard. Her crew all told
numbered 500 men.

At noon on Saturday, July 15, 1865, the Great Eastern left the Nore for
Foilhommerum Bay, Valentia Island, where the shore end was laid by the

At 5.30 p.m. on Sunday, July 23, amidst the firing of cannon and the
cheers of the telegraph fleet, she started on her voyage at a speed of
about four knots an hour. The weather was fine, and all went well until
next morning early, when the boom of a gun signalled that a fault had
broken out in the cable. It turned out that a splinter of iron wire had
penetrated the core. More faults of the kind were discovered, and as
they always happened in the same watch, there was a suspicion of foul
play. In repairing one of these on July 31, after 1,062 miles had been
payed out, the cable snapped near the stern of the ship, and the end was
lost. 'All is over,' quietly observed Mr. Canning; and though spirited
attempts were made to grapple the sunken line in two miles of water,
they failed to recover it.

The Great Eastern steamed back to England, where the indomitable Mr.
Field issued another prospectus, and formed the Anglo-American Telegraph
Company, with a capital of L600,000, to lay a new cable and complete
the broken one. On July 7, 1866, the William Cory laid the shore end
at Valentia, and on Friday, July 13, about 3 p.m., the Great Eastern
started paying-out once more. [Friday is regarded as an unlucky, and
Sunday as a lucky day by sailors. The Great Eastern started on Sunday
before and failed; she succeeded now. Columbus sailed on a Friday, and
discovered America on a Friday.] A private service of prayer was held
at Valentia by invitation of two directors of the company, but otherwise
there was no celebration of the event. Professor Thomson was on board;
but Dr. W. H. Russell had gone to the seat of the Austro-Prussian war,
from which telegrams were received through the cable.

The 'big ship' was attended by three consorts, the Terrible, to act as
a spy on the starboard how, and warn other vessels off the course, the
Medway on the port, and the Albany on the starboard quarter, to drop
or pick up buoys, and make themselves generally useful. Despite the
fickleness of the weather, and a 'foul flake,' or clogging of the line
as it ran out of the tank, there was no interruption of the work. The
'old coffee mill,' as the sailors dubbed the paying-out gear, kept
grinding away. 'I believe we shall do it this time, Jack,' said one of
the crew to his mate.

On the evening of Friday, July 27, the expedition made the entrance of
Trinity Bay, Newfoundland, in a thick fog, and next morning the Great
Eastern cast her anchor at Heart's Content. Flags were flying from the
little church and the telegraph station on shore. The Great Eastern was
dressed, three cheers were given, and a salute was fired. At 9 a.m. a
message from England cited these words from a leading article in the
current TIMES: 'It is a great work, a glory to our age and nation,
and the men who have achieved it deserve to be honoured among the
benefactors of their race.' 'Treaty of peace signed between Prussia and
Austria.' The shore end was landed during the day by the Medway; and
Captain Anderson, with the officers of the telegraph fleet, went in a
body to the church to return thanks for the success of the expedition.
Congratulations poured in, and friendly telegrams were again exchanged
between Her Majesty and the United States. The great work had been
finally accomplished, and the two worlds were lastingly united.

On August 9 the Great Eastern put to sea again in order to grapple
the lost cable of 1865, and complete it to Newfoundland. Arriving in
mid-ocean she proceeded to fish for the submerged line in two thousand
fathoms of water, and after repeated failures, involving thirty casts of
the grapnel, she hooked and raised it to surface, then spliced it to
the fresh cable in her hold, and payed out to Heart's Content, where
she arrived on Saturday, September 7. There were now two fibres of
intelligence between the two hemispheres.

On his return home, Professor Thomson was among those who received
the honour of knighthood for their services in connection with the
enterprise. He deserved it. By his theory and apparatus he probably did
more than any other man, with the exception of Mr. Field, to further the
Atlantic telegraph. We owe it to his admirable inventions, the mirror
instrument of 1857 and the siphon recorder of 1869, that messages
through long cables are so cheap and fast, and, as a consequence, that
ocean telegraphy is now so common. Hence some account of these two
instruments will not be out of place.

Sir William Thomson's siphon recorder, in all its present completeness,
must take rank as a masterpiece of invention. As used in the recording
or writing in permanent characters of the messages sent through
long submarine cables, it is the acknowledged chief of 'receiving
instruments,' as those apparatus are called which interpret the
electrical condition of the telegraph wire into intelligible signals.
Like other mechanical creations, no doubt its growth in idea and
translation into material fact was a step-by-step process of evolution,
culminating at last in its great fitness and beauty.

The marvellous development of telegraphy within the last generation has
called into existence a great variety of receiving instruments, each
admirable in its way. The Hughes, or the Stock Exchange instruments, for
instance, print the message in Roman characters; the sounders strike it
out on stops or bells of different tone; the needle instruments indicate
it by oscillations of their needles; the Morse daubs it in ink on paper,
or embosses it by a hard style; while Bain's electro-chemical receiver
stains it on chemically prepared paper. The Meyer-Baudot and the
Quadruple receive four messages at once and record them separately;
while the harmonic telegraph of Elisha Gray can receive as many as
eight simultaneously, by means of notes excited by the current in eight
separate tuning forks.

But all these instruments have one great drawback for delicate work,
and, however suitable they may be for land lines, they are next to
useless for long cables. They require a certain definite strength of
current to work them, whatever it may be, and in general it is
very considerable. Most of the moving parts of the mechanism are
comparatively heavy, and unless the current is of the proper strength to
move them, the instrument is dumb, while in Bain's the solution requires
a certain power of current to decompose it and leave the stain.

In overland lines the current traverses the wire suddenly, like a
bullet, and at its full strength, so that if the current be sufficiently
strong these instruments will be worked at once, and no time will be
lost. But it is quite different on submarine cables. There the current
is slow and varying. It travels along the copper wire in the form of
a wave or undulation, and is received feebly at first, then gradually
rising to its maximum strength, and finally dying away again as slowly
as it rose. In the French Atlantic cable no current can be detected
by the most delicate galvanoscope at America for the first tenth of
a second after it has been put on at Brest; and it takes about half
a second for the received current to reach its maximum value. This
is owing to the phenomenon of induction, very important in submarine
cables, but almost entirely absent in land lines. In submarine cables,
as is well known, the copper wire which conveys the current is insulated
from the sea-water by an envelope, usually of gutta-percha. Now the
electricity sent into this wire INDUCES electricity of an opposite kind
to itself in the sea-water outside, and the attraction set up between
these two kinds 'holds back' the current in the wire, and retards its
passage to the receiving station.

It follows, that with a receiving instrument set to indicate a
particular strength of current, the rate of signalling would be very
slow on long cables compared to land lines; and that a different form
of instrument is required for cable work. This fact stood greatly in
the way of early cable enterprise. Sir William (then Professor)
Thomson first solved the difficulty by his invention of the 'mirror
galvanometer,' and rendered at the same time the first Atlantic cable
company a commercial success. The merit of this receiving instrument
is, that it indicates with extreme sensibility all the variations of
the current in the cable, so that, instead of having to wait until
each signal wave sent into the cable has travelled to the receiving end
before sending another, a series of waves may be sent after each other
in rapid succession. These waves, encroaching upon each other, will
coalesce at their bases; but if the crests remain separate, the delicate
decipherer at the other end will take cognisance of them and make them
known to the eye as the distinct signals of the message.

The mirror galvanometer is at once beautifully simple and exquisitely
scientific. It consists of a very long fine coil of silk-covered copper
wire, and in the heart of the coil, within a little air-chamber, a small
round mirror, having four tiny magnets cemented to its back, is hung, by
a single fibre of floss silk no thicker than a spider's line. The mirror
is of film glass silvered, the magnets of hair-spring, and both together
sometimes weigh only one-tenth of a grain. A beam of light is thrown
from a lamp upon the mirror, and reflected by it upon a white screen or
scale a few feet distant, where it forms a bright spot of light.

When there is no current on the instrument, the spot of light remains
stationary at the zero position on the screen; but the instant a
current traverses the long wire of the coil, the suspended magnets twist
themselves horizontally out of their former position, the mirror is of
course inclined with them, and the beam of light is deflected along the
screen to one side or the other, according to the nature of the current.
If a POSITIVE current--that is to say, a current from the copper pole
of the battery--gives a deflection to the RIGHT of zero, a NEGATIVE
current, or a current from the zinc pole of the battery, will give a
deflection to the left of zero, and VICE VERSA.

The air in the little chamber surrounding the mirror is compressed at
will, so as to act like a cushion, and 'deaden' the movements of the
mirror. The needle is thus prevented from idly swinging about at each
deflection, and the separate signals are rendered abrupt and 'dead
beat,' as it is called.

At a receiving station the current coming in from the cable has simply
to be passed through the coil of the 'speaker' before it is sent into
the ground, and the wandering light spot on the screen faithfully
represents all its variations to the clerk, who, looking on, interprets
these, and cries out the message word by word.

The small weight of the mirror and magnets which form the moving part of
this instrument, and the range to which the minute motions of the mirror
can be magnified on the screen by the reflected beam of light,
which acts as a long impalpable hand or pointer, render the mirror
galvanometer marvellously sensitive to the current, especially when
compared with other forms of receiving instruments. Messages have been
sent from England to America through one Atlantic cable and back
again to England through another, and there received on the mirror
galvanometer, the electric current used being that from a toy battery
made out of a lady's silver thimble, a grain of zinc, and a drop of
acidulated water.

The practical advantage of this extreme delicacy is, that the signal
waves of the current may follow each other so closely as almost entirely
to coalesce, leaving only a very slight rise and fall of their crests,
like ripples on the surface of a flowing stream, and yet the light spot
will respond to each. The main flow of the current will of course shift
the zero of the spot, but over and above this change of place the spot
will follow the momentary fluctuations of the current which form the
individual signals of the message. What with this shifting of the zero
and the very slight rise and fall in the current produced by rapid
signalling, the ordinary land line instruments are quite unserviceable
for work upon long cables.

The mirror instrument has this drawback, however--it does not 'record'
the message. There is a great practical advantage in a receiving
instrument which records its messages; errors are avoided and time
saved. It was to supply such a desideratum for cable work that Sir
William Thomson invented the siphon recorder, his second important
contribution to the province of practical telegraphy. He aimed at giving
a GRAPHIC representation of the varying strength of the current, just as
the mirror galvanometer gives a visual one. The difficulty of producing
such a recorder was, as he himself says, due to a difficulty in
obtaining marks from a very light body in rapid motion, without
impeding that motion. The moving body must be quite free to follow the
undulations of the current, and at the same time must record its motions
by some indelible mark. As early as 1859, Sir William sent out to
the Red Sea cable a piece of apparatus with this intent. The marker
consisted of a light platinum wire, constantly emitting sparks from a
Rhumkorff coil, so as to perforate a line on a strip of moving
paper; and it was so connected to the movable needle of a species of
galvanometer as to imitate the motions of the needle. But before it
reached the Red Sea the cable had broken down, and the instrument was
returned dismantled, to be superseded at length by the siphon recorder,
in which the marking point is a fine glass siphon emitting ink, and the
moving body a light coil of wire hung between the poles of a magnet.

The principle of the siphon recorder is exactly the inverse of the
mirror galvanometer. In the latter we have a small magnet suspended in
the centre of a large coil of wire--the wire enclosing the magnet, which
is free to rotate round its own axis. In the former we have a small coil
suspended between the poles of a large magnet--the magnet enclosing the
coil, which is also free to rotate round its own axis. When a current
passes through this coil, so suspended in the highly magnetic space
between the poles of the magnet, the coil itself experiences a
mechanical force, causing it to take up a particular position, which
varies with the nature of the current, and the siphon which is attached
to it faithfully figures its motion on the running paper.

The point of the siphon does not touch the paper, although it is
very close. It would impede the motion of the coil if it did. But the
'capillary attraction' of so fine a tube will not permit the ink to flow
freely of itself, so the inventor, true to his instincts, again called
in the aid of electricity, and electrified the ink. The siphon and
reservoir are together supported by an EBONITE bracket, separate from
the rest of the instrument, and INSULATED from it; that is to say,
electricity cannot escape from them to the instrument. The ink may,
therefore, be electrified to an exalted state, or high POTENTIAL as it
is called, while the body of the instrument, including the paper and
metal writing-tablet, are in connection with the earth, and at low
potential, or none at all, for the potential of the earth is in general
taken as zero.

The ink, for example, is like a highly-charged thunder-cloud supported
over the earth's surface. Now the tendency of a charged body is to move
from a place of higher to a place of lower potential, and consequently
the ink tends to flow downwards to the writing-tablet. The only avenue
of escape for it is by the fine glass siphon, and through this it rushes
accordingly and discharges itself in a rain upon the paper. The natural
repulsion between its like electrified particles causes the shower to
issue in spray. As the paper moves over the pulleys a delicate hair line
is marked, straight when the siphon is stationary, but curved when the
siphon is pulled from side to side by the oscillations of the signal

It is to the mouse-mill that me must look both for the electricity which
is used to electrify the ink and for the motive power which drives
the paper. This unique and interesting little motor owes its somewhat
epigrammatic title to the resemblance of the drum to one of those
sparred wheels turned by white mice, and to the amusing fact of its
capacity for performing work having been originally computed in terms of
a 'mouse-power.' The mill is turned by a stream of electricity flowing
from the battery above described, and is, in fact, an electro-magnetic
engine worked by the current.

The alphabet of signals employed is the 'Morse code,' so generally
in vogue throughout the world. In the Morse code the letters of the
alphabet are represented by combinations of two distinct elementary
signals, technically called 'dots' and 'dashes,' from the fact that the
Morse recorder actually marks the message in long and short lines,
or dots and dashes. In the siphon recorder script dots and dashes are
represented by curves of opposite flexure. The condensers are merely
used to sharpen the action of the current, and render the signals more
concise and distinct on long cables. On short cables, say under three
hundred miles long, they are rarely, if ever, used.

The speed of signalling by the siphon recorder is of course regulated by
the length of cable through which it is worked. The instrument itself
is capable of a wide range of speed. The best operators cannot send over
thirty-five words per minute by hand, but a hundred and twenty words
or more per minute can be transmitted by an automatic sender, and the
recorder has been found on land lines and short cables to write off the
message at this incredible speed. When we consider that every word
is, on the average, composed of fifteen separate waves, we may better
appreciate the rapidity with which the siphon can move. On an ordinary
cable of about a thousand miles long, the working speed is about twenty
words per minute. On the French Atlantic it is usually about thirteen,
although as many as seventeen have sometimes been sent.

The 'duplex' system, or method of telegraphing in opposite directions
at once through the same wire, has of late years been applied, in
connection with the recorder, to all the long cables of that most
enterprising of telegraph companies--the Eastern--so that both stations
may 'speak' to each other simultaneously. Thus the carrying capacity of
the wire is in practice nearly doubled, and recorders are busy writing
at both ends of the cable at once, as if the messages came up out of the
sea itself.

We have thus far followed out the recorder in its practical application
to submarine telegraphy. Let us now regard it for a moment in its more
philosophic aspect. We are at once struck with its self-dependence as a
machine, and even its resemblance in some respects to a living creature.
All its activity depends on the galvanic current. From three separate
sources invisible currents are led to its principal parts, and are at
once physically changed. That entering the mouse-mill becomes transmuted
in part into the mechanical motion of the revolving drum, and part into
electricity of a more intense nature--into mimic lightning, in fact,
with its accompaniments of heat and sound. That entering the signal
magnet expends part of its force in the magnetism of the core. That
entering the signal coil, which may be taken as the brain of the
instrument, appears to us as INTELLIGENCE.

The recorder is now in use in all four quarters of the globe, from
Northern Europe to Southern Brazil, from China to New England. Many and
complete are the adjustments for rendering it serviceable under a wide
range of electrical conditions and climatic changes. The siphon is,
of course, in a mechanical sense, the most delicate part, but, in an
electrical sense, the mouse-mill proves the most susceptible. It is
essential for the fine marking of the siphon that the ink should neither
be too strongly nor too feebly electrified. When the atmosphere is
moderately humid, a proper supply of electricity is generated by the
mouse-mill, the paper is sufficiently moist, and the ink flows freely.
But an excess of moisture in the air diminishes the available supply of
EXALTED electricity. In fact, the damp depositing on the parts leads the
electricity away, and the ink tends to clog in the siphon. On the other
hand, drought not only supercharges the ink, but dries the paper so much
that it INSULATES the siphon point from the metal tablet and the earth.
There is then an insufficient escape for the electricity of the ink to
earth; the ink ceases to flow down the siphon; the siphon itself becomes
highly electrified and agitated with vibrations of its own; the line
becomes spluttered and uncertain.

Various devices are employed at different stations to cure these local
complaints. The electrician soon learns to diagnose and prescribe for
this, his most valuable charge. At Aden, where they suffer much from
humidity, the mouse-mill is or has been surrounded with burning carbon.
At Malta a gas flame was used for the same purpose. At Suez, where
they suffer from drought, a cloud of steam was kept rising round the
instrument, saturating the air and paper. At more temperate places the
ordinary means of drying the air by taking advantage of the absorbing
power of sulphuric acid for moisture prevailed. At Marseilles the
recorder acted in some respects like a barometer. Marseilles is subject
to sudden incursions of dry northerly winds, termed the MISTRAL.
The recorder never failed to indicate the mistral when it blew, and
sometimes even to predict it by many hours. Before the storm was itself
felt, the delicate glass pen became agitated and disturbed, the frail
blue line broken and irregular. The electrician knew that the mistral
would blow before long, and, as it rarely blows for less than three days
at a time, that rather rude wind, so dreaded by the Marseillaise, was
doubly dreaded by him.

The recorder was first used experimentally at St. Pierre, on the French
Atlantic cable, in 1869. This was numbered 0, as we were told by Mr.
White of Glasgow, the maker, whose skill has contributed not a little
to the success of the recorder. No. 1 was first used practically on the
Falmouth and Gibraltar cable of the Eastern Telegraph Company in July,
1870. No. 1 was also exhibited at Mr. (now Sir John) Pender's telegraph
soiree in 1870. On that occasion, memorable even beyond telegraphic
circles, 'three hundred of the notabilities of rank and fashion gathered
together at Mr. Pender's house in Arlington Street, Piccadilly, to
celebrate the completion of submarine communication between London and
Bombay by the successful laying of the Falmouth, Gibraltar and Malta and
the British Indian cable lines.' Mr. Pender's house was literally
turned outside in; the front door was removed, the courtyard temporarily
covered with an iron roof and the whole decorated in the grandest
style. Over the gateway was a gallery filled with the band of the Scots
Fusilier Guards; and over the portico of the house door hung the grapnel
which brought up the 1865 cable, made resplendent to the eye by a
coating of gold leaf. A handsome staircase, newly erected, permitted
the guests to pass from the reception-room to the drawing-room. In the
grounds at the back of the house stood the royal tent, where the Prince
of Wales and a select party, including the Duke of Cambridge and Lady
Mayo, wife of the Viceroy of India at that time, were entertained at
supper. Into this tent were brought wires from India, America, Egypt,
and other places, and Lady Mayo sent off a message to India about
half-past eleven, and had received a reply before twelve, telling her
that her husband and sons were quite well at five o'clock the next
morning. The recorder, which was shown in operation, naturally stood in
the place of honour, and attracted great attention.

The minor features of the recorder have been simplified by other
inventors of late; for example, magnets of steel have been substituted
for the electro-magnets which influence the swinging coil; and the ink,
instead of being electrified by the mouse-mill, is shed on the paper by
a rapid vibration of the siphon point.

To introduce his apparatus for signalling on long submarine cables, Sir
William Thomson entered into a partnership with Mr. C. F. Varley, who
first applied condensers to sharpen the signals, and Professor Fleeming
Jenkin, of Edinburgh University. In conjunction with the latter, he also
devised an 'automatic curb sender,' or key, for sending messages on a
cable, as the well-known Wheatstone transmitter sends them on a land

In both instruments the signals are sent by means of a perforated ribbon
of paper; but the cable sender was the more complicated, because the
cable signals are formed by both positive and negative currents, and not
merely by a single current, whether positive or negative. Moreover, to
curb the prolongation of the signals due to induction, each signal was
made by two opposite currents in succession--a positive followed by a
negative, or a negative followed by a positive, as the case might
be. The after-current had the effect of curbing its precursor. This
self-acting cable key was brought out in 1876, and tried on the lines of
the Eastern Telegraph Company.

Sir William Thomson took part in the laying of the French Atlantic
cable of 1869, and with Professor Jenkin was engineer of the Western and
Brazilian and Platino-Brazilian cables. He was present at the laying of
the Para to Pernambuco section of the Brazilian coast cables in 1873,
and introduced his method of deep-sea sounding, in which a steel
pianoforte wire replaces the ordinary land line. The wire glides so
easily to the bottom that 'flying soundings' can be taken while the ship
is going at full speed. A pressure-gauge to register the depth of the
sinker has been added by Sir William.

About the same time he revived the Sumner method of finding a ship's
place at sea, and calculated a set of tables for its ready application.
His most important aid to the mariner is, however, the adjustable
compass, which he brought out soon afterwards. It is a great improvement
on the older instrument, being steadier, less hampered by friction,
and the deviation due to the ship's own magnetism can be corrected by
movable masses of iron at the binnacle.

Sir William is himself a skilful navigator, and delights to cruise in
his fine yacht, the Lalla Rookh, among the Western Islands, or up
the Mediterranean, or across the Atlantic to Madeira and America. His
interest in all things relating to the sea perhaps arose, or at any rate
was fostered, by his experiences on the Agamemnon and the Great Eastern.
Babbage was among the first to suggest that a lighthouse might be made
to signal a distinctive number by occultations of its light; but Sir
William pointed out the merits of the Morse telegraphic code for the
purpose, and urged that the signals should consist of short and long
flashes of the light to represent the dots and dashes.

Sir William has done more than any other electrician to introduce
accurate methods and apparatus for measuring electricity. As early as
1845 his mind was attracted to this subject. He pointed out that the
experimental results of William Snow Harris were in accordance with the
laws of Coulomb.

In the Memoirs of the Roman Academy of Sciences for 1857 he published a
description of his new divided ring electrometer, which is based on
the old electroscope of Bohnenberger and since then he has introduced
a chain or series of beautiful and effective instruments, including the
quadrant electrometer, which cover the entire field of electrostatic
measurement. His delicate mirror galvanometer has also been the
forerunner of a later circle of equally precise apparatus for the
measurement of current or dynamic electricity.

To give even a brief account of all his physical researches would
require a separate volume; and many of them are too abstruse or
mathematical for the general reader. His varied services have been
acknowledged by numerous distinctions, including the highest honour a
British man of science can obtain--the Presidency of the Royal Society
of London, to which he was elected at the end of last year.

Sir William Thomson has been all his life a firm believer in the truth
of Christianity, and his great scientific attainments add weight to the
following words, spoken by him when in the chair at the annual meeting
of the Christian Evidence Society, May 23, 1889:--'I have long felt that
there was a general impression in the non-scientific world, that the
scientific world believes Science has discovered ways of explaining all
the facts of Nature without adopting any definite belief in a Creator. I
have never doubted that that impression was utterly groundless. It seems
to me that when a scientific man says--as it has been said from time to
time--that there is no God, he does not express his own ideas clearly.
He is, perhaps, struggling with difficulties; but when he says he does
not believe in a creative power, I am convinced he does not faithfully
express what is in his own mind, He does not fully express his own
ideas. He is out of his depth.

'We are all out of our depth when we approach the subject of life. The
scientific man, in looking at a piece of dead matter, thinking over the
results of certain combinations which he can impose upon it, is himself
a living miracle, proving that there is something beyond that mass of
dead matter of which he is thinking. His very thought is in itself a
contradiction to the idea that there is nothing in existence but dead
matter. Science can do little positively towards the objects of this
society. But it can do something, and that something is vital and
fundamental. It is to show that what we see in the world of dead matter
and of life around us is not a result of the fortuitous concourse of

'I may refer to that old, but never uninteresting subject of the
miracles of geology. Physical science does something for us here. St.
Peter speaks of scoffers who said that "all things continue as they were
from the beginning of the creation;" but the apostle affirms himself
that "all these things shall be dissolved." It seems to me that even
physical science absolutely demonstrates the scientific truth of these
words. We feel that there is no possibility of things going on for ever
as they have done for the last six thousand years. In science, as in
morals and politics, there is absolutely no periodicity. One thing we
may prophesy of the future for certain--it will be unlike the past.
Everything is in a state of evolution and progress. The science of dead
matter, which has been the principal subject of my thoughts during my
life, is, I may say, strenuous on this point, that THE AGE OF THE EARTH
IS DEFINITE. We do not say whether it is twenty million years or more,
or less, but me say it is NOT INDEFINITE. And we can say very definitely
that it is not an inconceivably great number of millions of years.
Here, then, we are brought face to face with the most wonderful of all
miracles, the commencement of life on this earth. This earth, certainly
a moderate number of millions of years ago, was a red-hot globe; all
scientific men of the present day agree that life came upon this earth
somehow. If some form or some part of the life at present existing came
to this earth, carried on some moss-grown stone perhaps broken away from
mountains in other worlds; even if some part of the life had come in
that way--for there is nothing too far-fetched in the idea, and probably
some such action as that did take place, since meteors do come every day
to the earth from other parts of the universe;--still, that does not
in the slightest degree diminish the wonder, the tremendous miracle, we
have in the commencement of life in this world.'


Charles William Siemens was born on April 4, 1823, at the little
village of Lenthe, about eight miles from Hanover, where his father, Mr.
Christian Ferdinand Siemens, was 'Domanen-pachter,' and farmed an estate
belonging to the Crown. His mother was Eleonore Deichmann, a lady of
noble disposition, and William, or Carl Wilhelm, was the fourth son of
a family of fourteen children, several of whom have distinguished
themselves in scientific pursuits. Of these, Ernst Werner Siemens, the
fourth child, and now the famous electrician of Berlin, was associated
with William in many of his inventions; Fritz, the ninth child, is the
head of the well-known Dresden glass works; and Carl, the tenth child,
is chief of the equally well-known electrical works at St. Petersburg.
Several of the family died young; others remained in Germany; but
the enterprising spirit, natural to them, led most of the sons
abroad--Walter, the twelfth child, dying at Tiflis as the German Consul
there, and Otto, the fourteenth child, also dying at the same place.
It would be difficult to find a more remarkable family in any age or
country. Soon after the birth of William, Mr. Siemens removed to a
larger estate which he had leased at Menzendorf, near Lubeck.

As a child William was sensitive and affectionate, the baby of the
family, liking to roam the woods and fields by himself, and curious to
observe, but not otherwise giving any signs of the engineer. He received
his education at a commercial academy in Lubeck, the Industrial School
at Magdeburg (city of the memorable burgomaster, Otto von Guericke), and
at the University of Gottingen, which he entered in 1841, while in his
eighteenth year. Were he attended the chemical lectures of Woehler, the
discoverer of organic synthesis, and of Professor Himly, the well-known
physicist, who was married to Siemens's eldest sister, Mathilde. With
a year at Gottingen, during which he laid the basis of his theoretical
knowledge, the academical training of Siemens came to an end, and he
entered practical life in the engineering works of Count Stolberg, at
Magdeburg. At the University he had been instructed in mechanical
laws and designs; here he learned the nature and use of tools and the
construction of machines. But as his University career at Gottingen
lasted only about a year, so did his apprenticeship at the Stolberg
Works. In this short time, however, he probably reaped as much advantage
as a duller pupil during a far longer term.

Young Siemens appears to have been determined to push his way
forward. In 1841 his brother Werner obtained a patent in Prussia for
electro-silvering and gilding; and in 1843 Charles William came to
England to try and introduce the process here. In his address on
'Science and Industry,' delivered before the Birmingham and Midland
Institute in 1881, while the Paris Electrical Exhibition was running,
Sir William gave a most interesting account of his experiences during
that first visit to the country of his adoption.

'When,' said he, 'the electrotype process first became known, it excited
a very general interest; and although I was only a young student at
Gottingen, under twenty years of age, who had just entered upon his
practical career with a mechanical engineer, I joined my brother, Werner
Siemens, then a young lieutenant of artillery in the Prussian service,
in his endeavours to accomplish electro-gilding; the first impulse
in this direction having been given by Professor C. Himly, then
of Gottingen. After attaining some promising results, a spirit of
enterprise came over me, so strong that I tore myself away from the
narrow circumstances surrounding me, and landed at the east end of
London with only a few pounds in my pocket and without friends, but with
an ardent confidence of ultimate success within my breast.

'I expected to find some office in which inventions were examined into,
and rewarded if found meritorious, but no one could direct me to such
a place. In walking along Finsbury Pavement, I saw written up in large
letters, "So-and-so" (I forget the name), "Undertaker," and the thought
struck me that this must be the place I was in quest of; at any rate, I
thought that a person advertising himself as an "undertaker" would not
refuse to look into my invention with a view of obtaining for me the
sought-for recognition or reward. On entering the place I soon convinced
myself, however, that I came decidedly too soon for the kind of
enterprise here contemplated, and, finding myself confronted with the
proprietor of the establishment, I covered my retreat by what he must
have thought a very lame excuse. By dint of perseverance I found my
way to the patent office of Messrs. Poole and Carpmael, who received me
kindly, and provided me with a letter of introduction to Mr. Elkington.
Armed with this letter, I proceeded to Birmingham, to plead my cause
before your townsman.

'In looking back to that time, I wonder at the patience with which Mr.
Elkington listened to what I had to say, being very young, and scarcely
able to find English words to convey my meaning. After showing me what
he was doing already in the way of electro-plating, Mr. Elkington sent
me back to London in order to read some patents of his own, asking me to
return if, after perusal, I still thought I could teach him anything. To
my great disappointment, I found that the chemical solutions I had
been using were actually mentioned in one of his patents, although in
a manner that would hardly have sufficed to enable a third person to
obtain practical results.

On my return to Birmingham I frankly stated what I had found, and with
this frankness I evidently gained the favour of another townsman of
yours, Mr. Josiah Mason, who had just joined Mr. Elkington in business,
and whose name, as Sir Josiah Mason, will ever be remembered for his
munificent endowment of education. It was agreed that I should not
be judged by the novelty of my invention, but by the results which I
promised, namely, of being able to deposit with a smooth surface 30 dwt.
of silver upon a dish-cover, the crystalline structure of the deposit
having theretofore been a source of difficulty. In this I succeeded, and
I was able to return to my native country and my mechanical engineering
a comparative Croesus.

'But it was not for long, as in the following year (1844) I again landed
in the Thames with another invention, worked out also with my brother,
namely, the chronometric governor, which, though less successful,
commercially speaking, than the first, obtained for me the advantage of
bringing me into contact with the engineering world, and of fixing
me permanently in this country. This invention was in course of time
applied by Sir George Airy, the then Astronomer-Royal, for regulating
the motion of his great transit and touch-recording instrument at the
Royal Observatory, where it still continues to be employed.

'Another early subject of mine, the anastatic printing process, found
favour with Faraday, "the great and the good," who made it the subject
of a Friday evening lecture at the Royal Institution. These two
circumstances, combined, obtained for me an entry into scientific
circles, and helped to sustain me in difficulty, until, by dint of a
certain determination to win, I was able to advance step by step up
to this place of honour, situated within a gunshot of the scene of
my earliest success in life, but separated from it by the time of a
generation. But notwithstanding the lapse of time, my heart still
beats quick each time I come back to the scene of this, the determining
incident of my life.'

The 'anastatic' process, described by Faraday in 1845, and partly due
to Werner Siemens, was a method of reproducing printed matter by
transferring the print from paper to plates of zinc. Caustic baryta was
applied to the printed sheet to convert the resinous ingredients of
the ink into an insoluble soap, the stearine being precipitated with
sulphuric acid. The letters were then transferred to the zinc by
pressure, so as to be printed from. The process, though ingenious and of
much interest at the time, has long ago been superseded by photographic

Even at this time Siemens had several irons in the fire. Besides the
printing process and the chronometric governor, which operated by the
differential movement between the engine and a chronometer, he was
occupied with some minor improvements at Hoyle's Calico Printing Works.
He also engaged in railway works from time to time; and in 1846 he
brought out a double cylinder air-pump, in which the two cylinders are
so combined, that the compressing side of the first and larger cylinder
communicated with the suction side of the second and smaller cylinder,
and the limit of exhaustion was thereby much extended. The invention was
well received at the time, but is now almost forgotten.

Siemens had been trained as a mechanical engineer, and, although he
became an eminent electrician in later life, his most important work at
this early stage was non-electrical; indeed, the greatest achievement of
his life was non-electrical, for we must regard the regenerative furnace
as his MAGNUM OPUS. Though in 1847 he published a paper in Liebig's
ANNALEN DER CHEMIE on the 'Mercaptan of Selenium,' his mind was busy
with the new ideas upon the nature of heat which were promulgated by
Carnot, Clayperon, Joule, Clausius, Mayer, Thomson, and Rankine. He
discarded the older notions of heat as a substance, and accepted it as
a form of energy. Working on this new line of thought, which gave him an
advantage over other inventors of his time, he made his first attempt
to economise heat, by constructing, in 1847, at the factory of Mr.
John Hick, of Bolton, an engine of four horse-power, having a condenser
provided with regenerators, and utilising superheated steam. Two
years later he continued his experiments at the works of Messrs. Fox,
Henderson, and Co., of Smethwick, near Birmingham, who had taken the
matter in hand. The use of superheated steam was, however, attended
with many practical difficulties, and the invention was not entirely
successful, but it embraced the elements of success; and the Society of
Arts, in 1850, acknowledged the value of the principle, by awarding Mr.
Siemens a gold medal for his regenerative condenser. Various papers read
before the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, the Institution of Civil
Engineers, or appearing in DINGLER'S JOURNAL and the JOURNAL OF THE
FRANKLIN INSTITUTE about this time, illustrate the workings of his mind
upon the subject. That read in 1853, before the Institution of Civil
Engineers, 'On the Conversion of Heat into Mechanical Effect,' was
the first of a long series of communications to that learned body, and
gained for its author the Telford premium and medal. In it he contended
that a perfect engine would be one in which all the heat applied to the
steam was used up in its expansion behind a working piston, leaving none
to be sent into a condenser or the atmosphere, and that the best results
in any actual engine would be attained by carrying expansion to the
furthest possible limit, or, in practice, by the application of a
regenerator. Anxious to realise his theories further, he constructed a
twenty horse-power engine on the regenerative plan, and exhibited it
at the Paris Universal Exhibition of 1855; but, not realising his
expectations, he substituted for it another of seven-horse power,
made by M. Farcot, of Paris, which was found to work with considerable
economy. The use of superheated steam, however, still proved a drawback,
and the Siemens engine has not been extensively used.

On the other hand, the Siemens water-meter, which he introduced in 1851,
has been very widely used, not only in this country, but abroad. It acts
equally well under all variations of pressure, and with a constant or an
intermittent supply.

Meanwhile his brother Werner had been turning his attention to
telegraphy, and the correspondence which never ceased between the
brothers kept William acquainted with his doings. In 1844, Werner,
then an officer in the Prussian army, was appointed to a berth in the
artillery workshops of Berlin, where he began to take an interest in
the new art of telegraphy. In 1845 Werner patented his dial and printing
telegraph instruments, which came into use all over Germany, and
introduced an automatic alarm on the same principle. These inventions
led to his being made, in 1846, a member of a commission in Berlin
for the introduction of electric telegraphs instead of semaphores.
He advocated the use of gutta-percha, then a new material, for the
insulation of underground wires, and in 1847 designed a screw-press for
coating the wires with the gum rendered plastic by heat. The following
year he laid the first great underground telegraph line from Berlin to
Frankfort-on-the-Main, and soon afterwards left the army to engage
with Mr. Halske in the management of a telegraph factory which they had
conjointly established in 1847. In 1852 William took an office in John
Street, Adelphi, with a view to practise as a civil engineer. Eleven
years later, Mr. Halske and William Siemens founded in London the house
of Siemens, Halske & Co., which began with a small factory at Millbank,
and developed in course of time into the well-known firm of Messrs.
Siemens Brothers, and was recently transformed into a limited liability

In 1859 William Siemens became a naturalised Englishman, and from this
time forward took an active part in the progress of English engineering
and telegraphy. He devoted a great part of his time to electrical
invention and research; and the number of telegraph apparatus of all
sorts--telegraph cables, land lines, and their accessories--which have
emanated from the Siemens Telegraph Works has been remarkable. The
engineers of this firm have been pioneers of the electric telegraph in
every quarter of the globe, both by land and sea. The most important
aerial line erected by the firm was the Indo-European telegraph line,
through Prussia, Russia, and Persia, to India. The North China cable,
the Platino-Brazileira, and the Direct United States cable, were laid
by the firm, the latter in 1874-5 So also was the French Atlantic cable,
and the two Jay Could Atlantic cables. At the time of his death the
manufacture and laying of the Bennett-Mackay Atlantic cables was in
progress at the company's works, Charlton. Some idea of the extent of
this manufactory may be gathered from the fact that it gives employment
to some 2,000 men. All branches of electrical work are followed out
in its various departments, including the construction of dynamos and
electric lamps.

On July 23, 1859, Siemens was married at St. James's, Paddington, to
Anne, the youngest daughter of Mr. Joseph Gordon, Writer to the Signet,
Edinburgh, and brother to Mr. Lewis Gordon, Professor of Engineering in
the University of Glasgow, He used to say that on March 19 of that year
he took oath and allegiance to two ladies in one day--to the Queen and
his betrothed. The marriage was a thoroughly happy one.

Although much engaged in the advancement of telegraphy, he was also
occupied with his favourite idea of regeneration. The regenerative
gas furnace, originally invented in 1848 by his brother Friedrich,
was perfected and introduced by him during many succeeding years.
The difficulties overcome in the development of this invention were
enormous, but the final triumph was complete.

The principle of this furnace consists in utilising the heat of the
products of combustion to warm up the gaseous fuel and air which
enters the furnace. This is done by making these products pass through
brickwork chambers which absorb their heat and communicate it to the gas
and air currents going to the flame. An extremely high temperature is
thus obtained, and the furnace has, in consequence, been largely used in
the manufacture of glass and steel.

Before the introduction of this furnace, attempts had been made to
produce cast-steel without the use of a crucible--that is to say, on
the 'open hearth' of the furnace. Reaumur was probably the first to show
that steel could be made by fusing malleable iron with cast-iron. Heath
patented the process in 1845; and a quantity of cast-steel was actually
prepared in this way, on the bed of a reverberatory furnace, by Sudre,
in France, during the year 1860. But the furnace was destroyed in the
act; and it remained for Siemens, with his regenerative furnace, to
realise the object. In 1862 Mr. Charles Atwood, of Tow Law, agreed to
erect such a furnace, and give the process a fair trial; but although
successful in producing the steel, he was afraid its temper was not
satisfactory, and discontinued the experiment. Next year, however,
Siemens, who was not to be disheartened, made another attempt with a
large furnace erected at the Montlucon Works, in France, where he was
assisted by the late M. le Chatellier, Inspecteur-General des Mines.
Some charges of steel were produced; but here again the roof of the
furnace melted down, and the company which had undertaken the trials
gave them up. The temperature required for the manufacture of the
steel was higher than the melting point of most fire-bricks. Further
endeavours also led to disappointments; but in the end the inventor was
successful. He erected experimental works at Birmingham, and gradually
matured his process until it was so far advanced that it could be
trusted to the hands of others. Siemens used a mixture of cast-steel
and iron ore to make the steel; but another manufacturer, M. Martin,
of Sireuil, in France, developed the older plan of mixing the cast-iron
with wrought-iron scrap. While Siemens was improving his means
at Birmingham, Martin was obtaining satisfactory results with a
regenerative furnace of his own design; and at the Paris Exhibition of
1867 samples of good open-hearth steel were shown by both manufacturers.
In England the process is now generally known as the 'Siemens-Martin,'
and on the Continent as the 'Martin-Siemens' process.

The regenerative furnace is the greatest single invention of Charles
William Siemens. Owing to the large demand for steel for engineering
operations, both at home and abroad, it proved exceedingly remunerative.
Extensive works for the application of the process were erected at
Landore, where Siemens prosecuted his experiments on the subject with
unfailing ardour, and, among other things, succeeded in making a basic
brick for the lining of his furnaces which withstood the intense heat
fairly well.

The process in detail consists in freeing the bath of melted pig-iron
from excess of carbon by adding broken lumps of pure hematite or
magnetite iron ore. This causes a violent boiling, which is kept up
until the metal becomes soft enough, when it is allowed to stand to let
the metal clear from the slag which floats in scum upon the top. The
separation of the slag and iron is facilitated by throwing in some lime
from time to time. Spiegel, or specular iron, is then added; about 1 per
cent. more than in the scrap process. From 20 to 24 cwt. of ore are used
in a 5-ton charge, and about half the metal is reduced and turned into
steel, so that the yield in ingots is from 1 to 2 per cent. more than
the weight of pig and spiegel iron in the charge. The consumption of
coal is rather larger than in the scrap process, and is from 14 to 15
cwt. per ton of steel. The two processes of Siemens and Martin are often
combined, both scrap and ore being used in the same charge, the latter
being valuable as a tempering material.

At present there are several large works engaged in manufacturing the
Siemens-Martin steel in England, namely, the Landore, the Parkhead
Forge, those of the Steel Company of Scotland, of Messrs. Vickers & Co.,
Sheffield, and others. These produced no less than 340,000 tons of steel
during the year 1881, and two years later the total output had risen to
half a million tons. In 1876 the British Admiralty built two iron-clads,
the Mercury and Iris, of Siemens-Martin steel, and the experiment
proved so satisfactory, that this material only is now used in the Royal
dockyards for the construction of hulls and boilers. Moreover, the use
of it is gradually extending in the mercantile marine. Contemporaneous
with his development of the open-hearth process, William Siemens
introduced the rotary furnace for producing wrought-iron direct from the
ore without the need of puddling.

The fervent heat of the Siemens furnace led the inventor to devise a
novel means of measuring high temperatures, which illustrates the value
of a broad scientific training to the inventor, and the happy manner in
which William Siemens, above all others, turned his varied knowledge to
account, and brought the facts and resources of one science to bear upon
another. As early as 1860, while engaged in testing the conductor of the
Malta to Alexandria telegraph cable, then in course of manufacture, he
was struck by the increase of resistance in metallic wires occasioned by
a rise of temperature, and the following year he devised a thermometer
based on the fact which he exhibited before the British Association
at Manchester. Mathiessen and others have since enunciated the
law according to which this rise of resistance varies with rise of
temperature; and Siemens has further perfected his apparatus, and
applied it as a pyrometer to the measurement of furnace fires. It forms
in reality an electric thermometer, which will indicate the temperature
of an inaccessible spot. A coil of platinum or platinum-alloy wire is
enclosed in a suitable fire-proof case and put into the furnace of which
the temperature is wanted. Connecting wires, properly protected, lend
from the coil to a differential voltameter, so that, by means of
the current from a battery circulating in the system, the electric
resistance of the coil in the furnace can be determined at any moment.
Since this resistance depends on the temperature of the furnace, the
temperature call be found from the resistance observed. The instrument
formed the subject of the Bakerian lecture for the year 1871.

Siemens's researches on this subject, as published in the JOURNAL OF THE
SOCIETY OF TELEGRAPH ENGINEERS (Vol. I., p. 123, and Vol. III., p. 297),
included a set of curves graphically representing the relation between
temperature and electrical resistance in the case of various metals.

The electric pyrometer, which is perhaps the most elegant and original
of all William Siemens's inventions, is also the link which connects his
electrical with his metallurgical researches. His invention ran in two
great grooves, one based upon the science of heat, the other based upon
the science of electricity; and the electric thermometer was, as it
were, a delicate cross-coupling which connected both. Siemens might have
been two men, if we are to judge by the work he did; and either half
of the twin-career he led would of itself suffice to make an eminent

The success of his metallurgical enterprise no doubt reacted on his
telegraphic business. The making and laying of the Malta to Alexandria
cable gave rise to researches on the resistance and electrification of
insulating materials under pressure, which formed the subject of a paper
read before the British Association in 1863. The effect of pressure
up to 300 atmospheres was observed, and the fact elicited that the
inductive capacity of gutta-percha is not affected by increased
pressure, whereas that of india-rubber is diminished. The electrical
tests employed during the construction of the Malta and Alexandria
cable, and the insulation and protection of submarine cables, also
formed the subject of a paper which was read before the Institution of
Civil Engineers in 1862.

It is always interesting to trace the necessity which directly or
indirectly was the parent of a particular invention; and in the great
importance of an accurate record of the sea-depth in which a cable
is being laid, together with the tedious and troublesome character of
ordinary sounding by the lead-line, especially when a ship is actually
paying out cable, we may find the requirements which led to the
invention of the 'bathometer,' an instrument designed to indicate the
depth of water over which a vessel is passing without submerging a line.
The instrument was based on the ingenious idea that the attractive power
of the earth on a body in the ship must depend on the depth of water
interposed between it and the sea bottom; being less as the layer of
water was thicker, owing to the lighter character of water as compared
with the denser land. Siemens endeavoured to render this difference
visible by means of mercury contained in a chamber having a bottom
extremely sensitive to the pressure of the mercury upon it, and
resembling in some respects the vacuous chamber of an aneroid barometer.
Just as the latter instrument indicates the pressure of the atmosphere
above it, so the bathometer was intended to show the pull of the earth
below it; and experiment proved, we believe, that for every 1,000
fathoms of sea-water below the ship, the total gravity of the mercury
was reduced by 1/3200 part. The bathometer, or attraction-meter, was
brought out in 1876, and exhibited at the Loan Exhibition in South
Kensington. The elastic bottom of the mercury chamber was supported by
volute springs which, always having the same tension, caused a portion
of the mercury to rise or fall in a spiral tube of glass, according to
the variations of the earth's attraction. The whole was kept at an even
temperature, and correction was made for barometric influence. Though
of high scientific interest, the apparatus appears to have failed at the
time from its very sensitiveness; the waves on the surface of the sea
having a greater disturbing action on its readings than the change of
depth. Siemens took a great interest in this very original machine, and
also devised a form applicable to the measurement of heights. Although
he laid the subject aside for some years, he ultimately took it up
again, in hopes of producing a practical apparatus which would be of
immediate service in the cable expeditions of the s.s. Faraday.

This admirable cable steamer of 5,000 tons register was built for
Messrs. Siemens Brothers by Messrs. Mitchell & Co., at Newcastle. The
designs were mainly inspired by Siemens himself; and after the Hooper,
now the Silvertown, she was the second ship expressly built for cable
purposes. All the latest improvements that electric science and naval
engineering could suggest were in her united. With a length of 360 feet,
a width of 52 feet, and a depth of 36 feet in the hold, she was fitted
with a rudder at each end, either of which could be locked when desired,
and the other brought into play. Two screw propellers, actuated by a
pair of compound engines, were the means of driving the vessel, and they
were placed at a slight angle to each other, so that when the engines
were worked in opposite directions the Faraday could turn completely
round in her own length. Moreover, as the ship could steam forwards
or backwards with equal ease, it became unnecessary to pass the cable
forward before hauling it in, if a fault were discovered in the part
submerged: the motion of the ship had only to be reversed, the stern
rudder fixed, and the bow rudder turned, while a small engine was
employed to haul the cable back over the stern drum, which had been used
a few minutes before to pay it out.

The first expedition of the Faraday was the laying of the Direct United
States cable in the winter of 1874 a work which, though interrupted by
stormy weather, was resumed and completed in the summer of 1875. She
has been engaged in laying several Atlantic cables since, and has been
fitted with the electric light, a resource which has proved of the
utmost service, not only in facilitating the night operations of
paying-out, but in guarding the ship from collision with icebergs in
foggy weather off the North American coast.

Mention of the electric light brings us to an important act of the
inventor, which, though done on behalf of his brother Werner, was
pregnant with great consequences. This was his announcement before
a meeting of the Royal Society, held on February 14, 1867, of the
discovery of the principle of reinforcing the field magnetism of
magneto-electric generators by part or the whole of the current
generated in the revolving armature--a principle which has been applied
in the dynamo-electric machines, now so much used for producing electric
light and effecting the transmission of power to a distance by means of
the electric current. By a curious coincidence the same principle was
enunciated by Sir Charles Wheatstone at the very same meeting; while a
few months previously Mr. S. A. Varley had lodged an application for
a British patent, in which the same idea was set forth. The claims
of these three inventors to priority in the discovery were, however,
anticipated by at least one other investigator, Herr Soren Hjorth,
believed to be a Dane by birth, and still remembered by a few living
electricians, though forgotten by the scientific world at large, until
his neglected specification was unexpectedly dug out of the musty
archives of the British Patent Office and brought into the light.

The announcement of Siemens and Wheatstone came at an apter time than
Hjorth's, and was more conspicuously made. Above all, in the affluent
and enterprising hands of the brothers Siemens, it was not suffered to
lie sterile, and the Siemens dynamo-electric machine was its offspring.
This dynamo, as is well known, differs from those of Gramme and
Paccinotti chiefly in the longitudinal winding of the armature, and it
is unnecessary to describe it here. It has been adapted by its inventors
to all kinds of electrical work, electrotyping, telegraphy, electric
lighting, and the propulsion of vehicles.

The first electric tramway run at Berlin in 1879 was followed by another
at Dusseldorf in 1880, and a third at Paris in 1881. With all of these
the name of Werner Siemens was chiefly associated; but William Siemens
had also taken up the matter, and established at his country house
of Sherwood, near Tunbridge Wells, an arrangement of dynamos and
water-wheel, by which the power of a neighbouring stream was made to
light the house, cut chaff turn washing-machines, and perform other
household duties. More recently the construction of the electric
railway from Portrush to Bushmills, at the Giant's Causeway, engaged his
attention; and this, the first work of its kind in the United Kingdom,
and to all appearance the pioneer of many similar lines, was one of his
very last undertakings.

In the recent development of electric lighting, William Siemens, whose
fame had been steadily growing, was a recognised leader, although
he himself made no great discoveries therein. As a public man and
a manufacturer of great resources his influence in assisting the
introduction of the light has been immense. The number of Siemens
machines and Siemens electric lamps, together with measuring instruments
such as the Siemens electro-dynamometer, which has been supplied to
different parts of the world by the firm of which he was the head, is
very considerable, and probably exceeds that of any other manufacturer,
at least in this country.

Employing a staff of skilful assistants to develop many of his
ideas, Dr. Siemens was able to produce a great variety of electrical
instruments for measuring and other auxiliary purposes, all of which
bear the name of his firm, and have proved exceedingly useful in a
practical sense.

Among the most interesting of Siemens's investigations were his
experiments on the influence of the electric light in promoting
the growth of plants, carried out during the winter of 1880 in the
greenhouses of Sherwood. These experiments showed that plants do not
require a period of rest, but continue to grow if light and other
necessaries are supplied to them. Siemens enhanced the daylight, and, as
it were, prolonged it through the night by means of arc lamps, with the
result of forcing excellent fruit and flowers to their maturity before
the natural time in this climate.

While Siemens was testing the chemical and life-promoting influence of
the electric arc light, he was also occupied in trying its temperature
and heating power with an 'electric furnace,' consisting of a plumbago
crucible having two carbon electrodes entering it in such a manner that
the voltaic arc could be produced within it. He succeeded in fusing
a variety of refractory metals in a comparatively short time: thus, a
pound of broken files was melted in a cold crucible in thirteen minutes,
a result which is not surprising when we consider that the temperature
of the voltaic arc, as measured by Siemens and Rosetti, is between
2,000 and 3,000 Deg. Centigrade, or about one-third that of the probable
temperature of the sun. Sir Humphry Davy was the first to observe the
extraordinary fusing power of the voltaic arc, but Siemens first applied
it to a practical purpose in his electric furnace.

Always ready to turn his inventive genius in any direction, the
introduction of the electric light, which had given an impetus to
improvement in the methods of utilising gas, led him to design a
regenerative gas lamp, which is now employed on a small scale in this
country, either for street lighting or in class-rooms and public
halls. In this burner, as in the regenerative furnace, the products
of combustion are made to warm up the air and gas which go to feed the
flame, and the effect is a full and brilliant light with some economy of
fuel. The use of coal-gas for heating purposes was another subject which
he took up with characteristic earnestness, and he advocated for a time
the use of gas stoves and fires in preference to those which burn coal,
not only on account of their cleanliness and convenience, but on the
score of preventing fogs in great cities, by checking the discharge
of smoke into the atmosphere. He designed a regenerative gas and coke
fireplace, in which the ingoing air was warmed by heat conducted from
the back part of the grate; and by practical trials in his own office,
calculated the economy of the system. The interest in this question,
however, died away after the close of the Smoke Abatement Exhibition;
and the experiments of Mr. Aiken, of Edinburgh, showed how futile was
the hope that gas fires would prevent fogs altogether. They might indeed
ameliorate the noxious character of a fog by checking the discharge
of soot into the atmosphere; but Mr. Aiken's experiments showed that
particles of gas were in themselves capable of condensing the moisture
of the air upon them. The great scheme of Siemens for making London a
smokeless city, by manufacturing gas at the coal-pit and leading it in
pipes from street to street, would not have rendered it altogether a
fogless one, though the coke and gas fires would certainly have reduced
the quantity of soot launched into the air. Siemens's scheme was
rejected by a Committee of the House of Lords on the somewhat mistaken
ground that if the plan were as profitable as Siemens supposed, it would
have been put in practice long ago by private enterprise.

From the problem of heating a room, the mind of Siemens also passed to
the maintenance of solar fires, and occupied itself with the supply
of fuel to the sun. Some physicists have attributed the continuance
of solar heat to the contraction of the solar mass, and others to the
impact of cometary matter. Imbued with the idea of regeneration, and
seeking in nature for that thrift of power which he, as an inventor,
had always aimed at, Siemens suggested a hypothesis on which the sun
conserves its heat by a circulation of its fuel in space. The elements
dissociated in the intense heat of the glowing orb rush into the cooler
regions of space, and recombine to stream again towards the sun, where
the self-same process is renewed. The hypothesis was a daring one, and
evoked a great deal of discussion, to which the author replied with
interest, afterwards reprinting the controversy in a volume, ON THE
CONSERVATION OF SOLAR ENERGY. Whether true or not--and time will
probably decide--the solar hypothesis of Siemens revealed its author
in a new light. Hitherto he had been the ingenious inventor, the
enterprising man of business, the successful engineer; but now he took a
prominent place in the ranks of pure science and speculative philosophy.
The remarkable breadth of his mind and the abundance of his energies
were also illustrated by the active part he played in public matters
connected with the progress of science. His munificent gifts in the
cause of education, as much as his achievements in science, had brought
him a popular reputation of the best kind; and his public utterances in
connection with smoke abatement, the electric light. Electric railways,
and other topics of current interest, had rapidly brought him into a
foremost place among English scientific men. During the last years of
his life, Siemens advanced from the shade of mere professional celebrity
into the strong light of public fame.

President of the British Association in 1882, and knighted in 1883,
Siemens was a member of numerous learned societies both at home
and abroad. In 1854 he became a Member of the Institution of Civil
Engineers; and in 1862 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society.
He was twice President of the Society of Telegraph Engineers and the
Institution of Mechanical Engineers, besides being a Member of Council
of the Institution of Civil Engineers, and a Vice-President of the Royal
Institution. The Society of Arts, as we have already seen, was the first
to honour him in the country of his adoption, by awarding him a gold
medal for his regenerative condenser in 1850; and in 1883 he became
its chairman. Many honours were conferred upon him in the course of
his career--the Telford prize in 1853, gold medals at the various great
Exhibitions, including that of Paris in 1881, and a GRAND PRIX at the
earlier Paris Exhibition of 1867 for his regenerative furnace. In 1874
he received the Royal Albert Medal for his researches on heat, and in
1875 the Bessemer medal of the Iron and Steel Institute. Moreover, a few
days before his death, the Council of the Institution of Civil Engineers
awarded him the Howard Quinquennial prize for his improvements in the
manufacture of iron and steel. At the request of his widow, it took the
form of a bronze copy of the 'Mourners,' a piece of statuary by J. G.
Lough, originally exhibited at the Great Exhibition of 1851, in the
Crystal Palace. In 1869 the University of Oxford conferred upon him the
high distinction of D.C.L. (Doctor of Civil Law); and besides being
a member of several foreign societies, he was a Dignitario of the
Brazilian Order of the Rose, and Chevalier of the Legion of Honour.

Rich in honours and the appreciation of his contemporaries, in the prime
of his working power and influence for good, and at the very climax of
his career, Sir William Siemens was called away. The news of his death
came with a shock of surprise, for hardly any one knew he had been ill.
He died on the evening of Monday, November 19, 1883, at nine o'clock. A
fortnight before, while returning from a managers' meeting of the Royal
Institution, in company with his friend Sir Frederick Bramwell, he
tripped upon the kerbstone of the pavement, after crossing Hamilton
Place, Piccadilly, and fell heavily to the ground, with his left arm
under him. Though a good deal shaken by the fall, he attended at his
office in Queen Anne's Gate, Westminster, the next and for several
following days; but the exertion proved too much for him, and almost for
the first time in his busy life he was compelled to lay up. On his last
visit to the office he was engaged most of the time in dictating to his
private secretary a large portion of the address which he intended to
deliver as Chairman of the Council of the Society of Arts. This was on
Thursday, November 8, and the following Saturday he awoke early in the
morning with an acute pain about the heart and a sense of coldness in
the lower limbs. Hot baths and friction removed the pain, from which he
did not suffer much afterwards. A slight congestion of the left lung was
also relieved; and Sir William had so far recovered that he could leave
his room. On Saturday, the 17th, he was to have gone for a change of air
to his country seat at Sherwood; but on Wednesday, the 14th, he appears
to have caught a chill which affected his lungs, for that night he was
seized with a shortness of breath and a difficulty in breathing. Though
not actually confined to bed, he never left his room again. On the last
day, and within four hours of his death, we are told, his two medical
attendants, after consultation, spoke so hopefully of the future, that
no one was prepared for the sudden end which was then so near. In the
evening, while he was sitting in an arm-chair, very quiet and calm,
a change suddenly came over his face, and he died like one who falls
asleep. Heart disease of long standing, aggravated by the fall, was the
immediate cause; but the opinion has been expressed by one who knew
him well, that Siemens 'literally immolated himself on the shrine of
labour.' At any rate he did not spare himself, and his intense devotion
to his work proved fatal.

Every day was a busy one with Siemens. His secretary was with him in
his residence by nine o'clock nearly every morning, except on Sundays,
assisting him in work for one society or another, the correction of
proofs, or the dictation of letters giving official or scientific
advice, and the preparation of lectures or patent specifications. Later
on, he hurried across the Park 'almost at racing speed,' to his offices
at Westminster, where the business of the Landore-Siemens Steel Company
and the Electrical Works of Messrs. Siemens Brothers and Company was
transacted. As chairman of these large undertakings, and principal
inventor of the processes and systems carried out by them, he had a
hundred things to attend to in connection with them, visitors to see,
and inquiries to answer. In the afternoon and evenings he was generally
engaged at council meetings of the learned societies, or directory
meetings of the companies in which he was interested. He was a man who
took little or no leisure, and though he never appeared to over-exert
himself, few men could have withstood the strain so long.

Siemens was buried on Monday, November 26, in Kensal Green Cemetery. The
interment was preceded by a funeral service held in Westminster Abbey,
and attended by representatives of the numerous learned societies of
which he had been a conspicuous member, by many leading men in all
branches of science, and also by a large body of other friends and
admirers, who thus united in doing honour to his memory, and showing
their sense of the loss which all classes had sustained by his death.

Siemens was above all things a 'labourer.' Unhasting, unresting
labour was the rule of his life; and the only relaxation, not to say
recreation, which he seems to have allowed himself was a change of task
or the calls of sleep. This natural activity was partly due to the spur
of his genius, and partly to his energetic spirit. For a man of his
temperament science is always holding out new problems to solve and
fresh promises of triumph. All he did only revealed more work to be
done; and many a scheme lies buried in his grave.

Though Siemens was a man of varied powers, and occasionally gave himself
to pure speculation in matters of science, his mind was essentially
practical; and it was rather as an engineer than a discoverer that he
was great. Inventions are associated with his name, not laws or new
phenomena. Standing on the borderland between pure and applied science,
his sympathies were yet with the latter; and as the outgoing President
of the British Association at Southport, in 1882, he expressed the
opinion that 'in the great workshop of nature there are no lines
of demarcation to be drawn between the most exalted speculation and
common-place practice.' The truth of this is not to be gain-said, but it
is the utterance of an engineer who judges the merit of a thing by
its utility. He objected to the pursuit of science apart from its
application, and held that the man of science does most for his kind who
shows the world how to make use of scientific results. Such a view was
natural on the part of Siemens, who was himself a living representative
of the type in question; but it was not the view of such a man as
Faraday or Newton, whose pure aim was to discover truth, well knowing
that it would be turned to use thereafter. In Faraday's eyes the new
principle was a higher boon than the appliance which was founded upon

Tried by his own standard, however, Siemens was a conspicuous benefactor
of his fellow-men; and at the time of his decease he had become our
leading authority upon applied science. In electricity he was a pioneer
of the new advances, and happily lived to obtain at least a Pisgah view
of the great future which evidently lies before that pregnant force.

If we look for the secret of Siemens's remarkable success, we shall
assuredly find it in an inventive mind, coupled with a strong commercial
instinct, and supported by a physical energy which enabled him to labour
long and incessantly. It is told that when a mechanical problem was
brought to him for solution, he would suggest six ways of overcoming the
difficulty, three of which would be impracticable, the others feasible,
and one at least successful. From this we gather that his mind was
fertile in expedients. The large works which he established are also a
proof that, unlike most inventors, he did not lose his interest in an
invention, or forsake it for another before it had been brought into the
market. On the contrary, he was never satisfied with an invention until
it was put into practical operation.

To the ordinary observer, Siemens did not betray any signs of the
untiring energy that possessed him. His countenance was usually serene
and tranquil, as that of a thinker rather than a man of action; his
demeanour was cool and collected; his words few and well-chosen. In his
manner, as well as in his works, there was no useless waste of power.

To the young he was kind and sympathetic, hearing, encouraging,
advising; a good master, a firm friend. His very presence had a calm and
orderly influence on those about him, which when he presided at a Public
meeting insensibly introduced a gracious tone. The diffident took
heart before him, and the presumptuous were checked. The virtues which
accompanied him into public life did not desert him in private. In
losing him, we have lost not only a powerful intellect, but a bright
example, and an amiable man.


The late Fleeming Jenkin, Professor of Engineering in Edinburgh
University, was remarkable for the versatility of his talent. Known to
the world as the inventor of Telpherage, he was an electrician and cable
engineer of the first rank, a lucid lecturer, and a good linguist, a
skilful critic, a writer and actor of plays, and a clever sketcher. In
popular parlance, Jenkin was a dab at everything.

His father, Captain Charles Jenkin, R.N., was the second son of Mr.
Charles Jenkin, of Stowting Court, himself a naval officer, who had
taken part in the actions with De Grasse. Stowting Court, a small estate
some six miles north of Hythe, had been in the family since the year
1633, and was held of the Crown by the feudal service of six men and a
constable to defend the sea-way at Sandgate. Certain Jenkins had settled
in Kent during the reign of Henry VIII., and claimed to have come from
Yorkshire. They bore the arms of Jenkin ap Phillip of St. Melans, who
traced his descent from 'Guaith Voeth,' Lord of Cardigan.

While cruising in the West Indies, carrying specie, or chasing
buccaneers and slavers, Charles Jenkin, junior, was introduced to the
family of a fellow midshipman, son of Mr. Jackson, Custos Rotulorum of
Kingston, Jamaica, and fell in love with Henrietta Camilla, the youngest
daughter. Mr. Jackson came of a Yorkshire stock, said to be of Scottish
origin, and Susan, his wife, was a daughter of [Sir] Colin Campbell,
a Greenock merchant, who inherited but never assumed the baronetcy of
Auchinbreck. [According to BURKE'S PEERAGE (1889), the title went to
another branch.]

Charles Jenkin, senior, died in 1831, leaving his estate so heavily
encumbered, through extravagance and high living, that only the
mill-farm was saved for John, the heir, an easy-going, unpractical
man, with a turn for abortive devices. His brother Charles married soon
afterwards, and with the help of his wife's money bought in most of
Stowting Court, which, however, yielded him no income until late in
life. Charles was a useful officer and an amiable gentleman; but lacking
energy and talent, he never rose above the grade of Commander, and was
superseded after forty-five years of service. He is represented as a
brave, single-minded, and affectionate sailor, who on one occasion saved
several men from suffocation by a burning cargo at the risk of his own
life. Henrietta Camilla Jackson, his wife, was a woman of a strong and
energetic character. Without beauty of countenance, she possessed the
art of pleasing, and in default of genius she was endowed with a variety
of gifts. She played the harp, sang, and sketched with native art. At
seventeen, on hearing Pasta sing in Paris, she sought out the artist
and solicited lessons. Pasta, on hearing her sing, encouraged her, and
recommended a teacher. She wrote novels, which, however, failed to
make their mark. At forty, on losing her voice, she took to playing the
piano, practising eight hours a day; and when she was over sixty she
began the study of Hebrew.

The only child of this union was Henry Charles Fleeming Jenkin,
generally called Fleeming Jenkin, after Admiral Fleeming, one of his
father's patrons. He was born on March 25, 1833, in a building of
the Government near Dungeness, his father at that time being on the
coast-guard service. His versatility was evidently derived from his
mother, who, owing to her husband's frequent absence at sea and his
weaker character, had the principal share in the boy's earlier training.

Jenkin was fortunate in having an excellent education. His mother took
him to the south of Scotland, where, chiefly at Barjarg, she taught
him drawing among other things, and allowed him to ride his pony on the
moors. He went to school at Jedburgh, and afterwards to the Edinburgh
Academy, where he carried off many prizes. Among his schoolfellows were
Clerk Maxwell and Peter Guthrie Tait, the friends of his maturer life.

On the retirement of his father the family removed to Frankfort in 1847,
partly from motives of economy and partly for the boy's instruction.
Here Fleeming and his father spent a pleasant time together, sketching
old castles, and observing the customs of the peasantry. Fleeming was
precocious, and at thirteen had finished a romance of three hundred
lines in heroic measure, a Scotch novel, and innumerable poetical
fragments, none of which are now extant. He learned German in Frankfort;
and on the family migrating to Paris the following year, he studied
French and mathematics under a certain M. Deluc. While here, Fleeming
witnessed the outbreak of the Revolution of 1848, and heard the first
shot. In a letter written to an old schoolfellow while the sound still
rang in his ears, and his hand trembled with excitement, he gives a
boyish account of the circumstances. The family were living in the Rue
Caumartin, and on the evening of February 23 he and his father were
taking a walk along the boulevards, which were illuminated for joy at
the resignation of M. Guizot. They passed the residence of the Foreign
Minister, which was guarded with troops, and further on encountered a
band of rioters marching along the street with torches, and singing the
Marseillaise. After them came a rabble of men and women of all sorts,
rich and poor, some of them armed with sticks and sabres. They turned
back with these, the boy delighted with the spectacle, 'I remarked to
papa' (he writes),'I would not have missed the scene for anything. I
might never see such a splendid one; when PONG went one shot. Every face
went pale: R--R--R--R--R went the whole detachment [of troops], and
the whole crowd of gentlemen and ladies turned and cut. Such a
scene!---ladies, gentlemen, and vagabonds went sprawling in the mud, not
shot but tripped up, and those that went down could not rise--they were
trampled over.... I ran a short time straight on and did not fall, then
turned down a side street, ran fifty yards, and felt tolerably safe;
looked for papa; did not see him; so walked on quickly, giving the news
as I went.'

Next day, while with his father in the Place de la Concorde, which was
filled with troops, the gates of the Tuileries Garden were suddenly
flung open, and out galloped a troop of cuirassiers, in the midst
of whom was an open carriage containing the king and queen, who had
abdicated. Then came the sacking of the Tuileries, the people mounting
a cannon on the roof, and firing blank cartridges to testify their joy.
'It was a sight to see a palace sacked' (wrote the boy), 'and armed
vagabonds firing out of the windows, and throwing shirts, papers, and
dresses of all kinds out.... They are not rogues, the French; they are
not stealing, burning, or doing much harm.' [MEMOIR OF FLEEMING JENKIN,
by R. L. Stevenson.]

The Revolution obliged the Jenkins to leave Paris, and they proceeded to
Genoa, where they experienced another, and Mrs. Jenkin, with her son
and sister-in-law, had to seek the protection of a British vessel in the
harbour, leaving their house stored with the property of their friends,
and guarded by the Union Jack and Captain Jenkin.

At Genoa, Fleeming attended the University, and was its first Protestant
student. Professor Bancalari was the professor of natural philosophy,
and lectured on electro-magnetism, his physical laboratory being the
best in Italy. Jenkin took the degree of M.A. with first-class honours,
his special subject having been electro-magnetism. The questions in the
examinations were put in Latin, and answered in Italian. Fleeming also
attended an Art school in the city, and gained a silver medal for a
drawing from one of Raphael's cartoons. His holidays were spent in
sketching, and his evenings in learning to play the piano; or, when
permissible, at the theatre or opera-house; for ever since hearing
Rachel recite the Marseillaise at the Theatre Francaise, he had
conceived a taste for acting.

In 1850 Fleeming spent some time in a Genoese locomotive shop under Mr.
Philip Taylor, of Marseilles; but on the death of his Aunt Anna, who
lived with them, Captain Jenkin took his family to England, and settled
in Manchester, where the lad, in 1851, was apprenticed to mechanical
engineering at the works of Messrs. Fairbairn, and from half-past eight
in the morning till six at night had, as he says, 'to file and chip
vigorously, in a moleskin suit, and infernally dirty.' At home he
pursued his studies, and was for a time engaged with Dr. Bell in
working out a geometrical method of arriving at the proportions of Greek
architecture. His stay amidst the smoke and bustle of Manchester, though
in striking contrast to his life in Genoa, was on the whole agreeable.
He liked his work, had the good spirits of youth, and made some pleasant
friends, one of them the authoress, Mrs. Gaskell. Even as a boy he was
disputatious, and his mother tells of his having overcome a Consul at
Genoa in a political discussion when he was only sixteen, 'simply from
being well-informed on the subject, and honest. He is as true as steel,'
she writes, 'and for no one will he bend right or left... Do not fancy
him a Bobadil; he is only a very true, candid boy. I am so glad he
remains in all respects but information a great child.'

On leaving Fairbairn's he was engaged for a time on a survey for the
proposed Lukmanier Railway, in Switzerland, and in 1856 he entered the
engineering works of Mr. Penn, at Greenwich, as a draughtsman, and was
occupied on the plans of a vessel designed for the Crimean war. He did
not care for his berth, and complained of its late hours, his rough
comrades, with whom he had to be 'as little like himself as possible,'
and his humble lodgings, 'across a dirty green and through some
half-built streets of two-storied houses.... Luckily,' he adds, 'I
am fond of my profession, or I could not stand this life.' There was
probably no real hardship in his present situation, and thousands of
young engineers go through the like experience at the outset of their
career without a murmur,' and even with enjoyment; but Jenkin had
been his mother's pet until then, with a girl's delicate training, and
probably felt the change from home more keenly on that account. At
night he read engineering and mathematics, or Carlyle and the poets, and
cheered his drooping spirits with frequent trips to London to see his

Another social pleasure was his visits to the house of Mr. Alfred
Austin, a barrister, who became permanent secretary to Her Majesty's
Office of Works and Public Buildings, and retired in 1868 with the title
of C.B. His wife, Eliza Barron, was the youngest daughter of Mr.
E. Barron, a gentleman of Norwich, the son of a rich saddler, or
leather-seller, in the Borough, who, when a child, had been patted on
the head, in his father's shop, by Dr. Johnson, while canvassing for Mr.
Thrale. Jenkin had been introduced to the Austins by a letter from Mrs.
Gaskell, and was charmed with the atmosphere of their choice home, where
intellectual conversation was happily united with kind and courteous
manners, without any pretence or affectation. 'Each of the Austins,'
says Mr. Stevenson, in his memoir of Jenkin, to which we are much
indebted, 'was full of high spirits; each practised something of the
same repression; no sharp word was uttered in the house. The same point
of honour ruled them: a guest was sacred, and stood within the pale from
criticism.' In short, the Austins were truly hospitable and cultured,
not merely so in form and appearance. It was a rare privilege and
preservative for a solitary young man in Jenkin's position to have the
entry into such elevating society, and he appreciated his good fortune.

Annie Austin, their only child, had been highly educated, and knew Greek
among other things. Though Jenkin loved and admired her parents, he did
not at first care for Annie, who, on her part, thought him vain, and
by no means good-looking. Mr. Stevenson hints that she vanquished his
stubborn heart by correcting a 'false quantity' of his one day, for he
was the man to reflect over a correction, and 'admire the castigator.'
Be this as it may, Jenkin by degrees fell deeply in love with her.

He was poor and nameless, and this made him diffident; but the liking of
her parents for him gave him hope. Moreover, he had entered the service
of Messrs. Liddell and Gordon, who were engaged in the new work of
submarine telegraphy, which satisfied his aspirations, and promised him
a successful career. With this new-born confidence in his future, he
solicited the Austins for leave to court their daughter, and it was not
withheld. Mrs. Austin consented freely, and Mr. Austin only reserved
the right to inquire into his character. Neither of them mentioned his
income or prospects, and Jenkin, overcome by their disinterestedness,
exclaimed in one of his letters, 'Are these people the same as other
people?' Thus permitted, he addressed himself to Annie, and was nearly
rejected for his pains. Miss Austin seems to have resented his courtship
of her parents first; but the mother's favour, and his own spirited
behaviour, saved him, and won her consent.

Then followed one of the happiest epochs in Jenkin's life. After leaving
Penn's he worked at railway engineering for a time under Messrs. Liddell
and Gordon; and, in 1857, became engineer to Messrs. R. S. Newall & Co.,
of Gateshead, who shared the work of making the first Atlantic cable
with Messrs. Glass, Elliott & Co., of Greenwich. Jenkin was busy
designing and fitting up machinery for cableships, and making electrical
experiments. 'I am half crazy with work,' he wrote to his betrothed;
'I like it though: it's like a good ball, the excitement carries you
through.' Again he wrote, 'My profession gives me all the excitement and
interest I ever hope for.'... 'I am at the works till ten, and sometimes
till eleven. But I have a nice office to sit in, with a fire to myself,
and bright brass scientific instruments all round me, and books to read,
and experiments to make, and enjoy myself amazingly. I find the study of
electricity so entertaining that I am apt to neglect my other
work.'... 'What shall I compare them to,' he writes of some electrical
experiments, 'a new song? or a Greek play?' In the spring of 1855 he
was fitting out the s.s. Elba, at Birkenhead, for his first telegraph
cruise. It appears that in 1855 Mr. Henry Brett attempted to lay a
cable across the Mediterranean between Cape Spartivento, in the south
of Sardinia, and a point near Bona, on the coast of Algeria. It was
a gutta-percha cable of six wires or conductors, and manufactured by
Messrs. Glass & Elliott, of Greenwich--a firm which afterwards combined
with the Gutta-Percha Company, and became the existing Telegraph
Construction and Maintenance Company. Mr. Brett laid the cable from the
Result, a sailing ship in tow, instead of a more manageable steamer;
and, meeting with 600 fathoms of water when twenty-five miles from land,
the cable ran out so fast that a tangled skein came up out of the hold,
and the line had to be severed. Having only 150 miles on board to span
the whole distance of 140 miles, he grappled the lost cable near the
shore, raised it, and 'under-run' or passed it over the ship, for some
twenty miles, then cut it, leaving the seaward end on the bottom. He
then spliced the ship's cable to the shoreward end and resumed his
paying-out; but after seventy miles in all were laid, another rapid rush
of cable took place, and Mr. Brett was obliged to cut and abandon the

Another attempt was made the following year, but with no better
success. Mr. Brett then tried to lay a three-wire cable from the steamer
Dutchman, but owing to the deep water--in some places 1500 fathoms--its
egress was so rapid, that when he came to a few miles from Galita, his
destination on the Algerian coast, he had not enough cable to reach the
land. He therefore telegraphed to London for more cable to be made and
sent out, while the ship remained there holding to the end. For five
days he succeeded in doing so, sending and receiving messages; but heavy
weather came on, and the cable parted, having, it is said, been chafed
through by rubbing on the bottom. After that Mr. Brett went home.

It was to recover the lost cable of these expeditions that the Elba was
got ready for sea. Jenkin had fitted her out the year before for laying
the Cagliari to Malta and Corfu cables; but on this occasion she was
better equipped. She had a new machine for picking up the cable, and
a sheave or pulley at the bows for it to run over, both designed by
Jenkin, together with a variety of wooden buoys, ropes, and chains. Mr.
Liddell, assisted by Mr. F. C. Webb and Fleeming Jenkin, were in charge
of the expedition. The latter had nothing to do with the electrical
work, his care being the deck machinery for raising the cable; but
it entailed a good deal of responsibility, which was flattering and
agreeable to a young man of his parts.

'I own I like responsibility,' he wrote to Miss Austin, while fitting
up the vessel; 'it flatters one; and then, your father might say, I have
more to gain than lose. Moreover, I do like this bloodless, painless
combat with wood and iron, forcing the stubborn rascals to do my will,
licking the clumsy cubs into an active shape, seeing the child of
to-day's thought working to-morrow in full vigour at his appointed
task.' Another letter, dated May 17, gives a picture of the start. 'Not
a sailor will join us till the last moment; and then, just as the ship
forges ahead through the narrow pass, beds and baggage fly on board, the
men, half tipsy, clutch at the rigging, the captain swears, the women
scream and sob, the crowd cheer and laugh, while one or two pretty
little girls stand still and cry outright, regardless of all eyes.'

The Elba arrived at Bona on June 3, and Jenkin landed at Fort Genova,
on Cape Hamrah, where some Arabs were building a land line. 'It was
a strange scene,' he writes, 'far more novel than I had imagined; the
high, steep bank covered with rich, spicy vegetation, of which I hardly
knew one plant. The dwarf palm, with fan-like leaves, growing about two
feet high, forms the staple verdure.' After dining in Fort Genova, he
had nothing to do but watch the sailors ordering the Arabs about under
the 'generic term "Johnny."' He began to tire of the scene, although,
as he confesses, he had willingly paid more money for less strange and
lovely sights. Jenkin was not a dreamer; he disliked being idle, and if
he had had a pencil he would have amused himself in sketching what he
saw. That his eyes were busy is evident from the particulars given
in his letter, where he notes the yellow thistles and 'Scotch-looking
gowans' which grow there, along with the cistus and the fig-tree.

They left Bona on June 5, and, after calling at Cagliari and Chia,
arrived at Cape Spartivento on the morning of June 8. The coast here
is a low range of heathy hills, with brilliant green bushes and marshy
pools. Mr. Webb remarks that its reputation for fever was so bad as to
cause Italian men-of-war to sheer off in passing by. Jenkin suffered
a little from malaria, but of a different origin. 'A number of the
SATURDAY REVIEW here,' he writes; 'it reads so hot and feverish, so
tomb-like and unhealthy, in the midst of dear Nature's hills and sea,
with good wholesome work to do.'

There were several pieces of submerged cable to lift, two with their
ends on shore, and one or two lying out at sea. Next day operations
were begun on the shore end, which had become buried under the sand, and
could not be raised without grappling. After attempts to free the cable
from the sand in small boats, the Elba came up to help, and anchored
in shallow water about sunset. Curiously enough, the anchor happened to
hook, and so discover the cable, which was thereupon grappled, cut, and
the sea end brought on board over the bow sheave. After being passed six
times round the picking-up drum it was led into the hold, and the
Elba slowly forged ahead, hauling in the cable from the bottom as she
proceeded. At half-past nine she anchored for the night some distance
from the shore, and at three next morning resumed her picking up. 'With
a small delay for one or two improvements I had seen to be necessary
last night,' writes Jenkin, 'the engine started, and since that time I
do not think there has been half an hour's stoppage. A rope to splice, a
block to change, a wheel to oil, an old rusted anchor to disengage from
the cable, which brought it up--these have been our only obstructions.
Sixty, seventy, eighty, a hundred, a hundred and twenty revolutions at
last my little engine tears away. The even black rope comes straight
out of the blue, heaving water, passes slowly round an open-hearted,
good-tempered-looking pulley, five feet in diameter, aft past a vicious
nipper, to bring all up should anything go wrong, through a gentle guide
on to a huge bluff drum, who wraps him round his body, and says, "Come
you must," as plain as drum can speak; the chattering pauls say, "I've
got him, I've got him; he can't come back," whilst black cable, much
slacker and easier in mind and body, is taken by a slim V-pulley
and passed down into the huge hold, where half a dozen men put him
comfortably to bed after his exertion in rising from his long bath.

'I am very glad I am here, for my machines are my own children, and I
look on their little failings with a parent's eye, and lead them into
the path of duty with gentleness and firmness. I am naturally in good
spirits, but keep very quiet, for misfortunes may arise at any instant;
moreover, to-morrow my paying-out apparatus will be wanted should all
go well, and that will be another nervous operation. Fifteen miles are
safely in, but no one knows better than I do that nothing is done till
all is done.'

JUNE 11.--'It would amuse you to see how cool (in head) and jolly
everybody is. A testy word now and then shows the nerves are strained
a little, but every one laughs and makes his little jokes as if it were
all in fun....I enjoy it very much.'

JUNE 13, SUNDAY.--'It now (at 10.30) blows a pretty stiff gale, and the
sea has also risen, and the Elba's bows rise and fall about nine feet.
We make twelve pitches to the minute, and the poor cable must feel very
sea-sick by this time. We are quite unable to do anything, and continue
riding at anchor in one thousand fathoms, the engines going constantly,
so as to keep the ship's bows close up to the cable, which by this means
hangs nearly vertical, and sustains no strain but that caused by its own
weight and the pitching of the vessel. We were all up at four, but the
weather entirely forbade work for to-day; so some went to bed, and
most lay down, making up our lee-way, as we nautically term our loss of
sleep. I must say Liddell is a fine fellow, and keeps his patience and
his temper wonderfully; and yet how he does fret and fume about trifles
at home!'

JUNE 16.--'By some odd chance a TIMES of June 7 has found its way on
board through the agency of a wretched old peasant who watches the end
of the line here. A long account of breakages in the Atlantic trial
trip. To-night we grapple for the heavy cable, eight tons to the mile. I
long to have a tug at him; he may puzzle me; and though misfortunes,
or rather difficulties, are a bore at the time, life, when working with
cables, is tame without them.--2 p.m. Hurrah! he is hooked--the big
fellow--almost at the first cast. He hangs under our bows, looking so
huge and imposing that I could find it in my heart to be afraid of him.'

JUNE 17.--'We went to a little bay called Chia, where a fresh-water
stream falls into the sea, and took in water. This is rather a long
operation, so I went up the valley with Mr. Liddell. The coast here
consists of rocky mountains 800 to 1000 feet high, covered with shrubs
of a brilliant green. On landing, our first amusement was watching the
hundreds of large fish who lazily swam in shoals about the river. The
big canes on the further side hold numberless tortoises, we are told,
but see none, for just now they prefer taking a siesta. A little further
on, and what is this with large pink flowers in such abundance?--the
oleander in full flower! At first I fear to pluck them, thinking they
must be cultivated and valuable; but soon the banks show a long line of
thick tall shrubs, one mass of glorious pink and green, set there in a
little valley, whose rocks gleam out blue and purple colours, such
as pre-Raphaelites only dare attempt, shining out hard and weird-like
amongst the clumps of castor-oil plants, cistus, arbor-vitae, and many
other evergreens, whose names, alas! I know not; the cistus is brown
now, the rest all deep and brilliant green. Large herds of cattle
browse on the baked deposit at the foot of these large crags. One or
two half-savage herdsmen in sheepskin kilts, etc., ask for cigars;
partridges whirr up on either side of us; pigeons coo and nightingales
sing amongst the blooming oleander. We get six sheep, and many fowls
too, from the priest of the small village, and then run back to
Spartivento and make preparations for the morning.'

JUNE 18.--'The short length (of the big-cable) we have picked up was
covered at places with beautiful sprays of coral, twisted and twined
with shells of those small fairy animals we saw in the aquarium at
home. Poor little things! they died at once, with their little bells and
delicate bright tints.'

JUNE 19.--'Hour after hour I stand on the fore-castle-head picking off
little specimens of polypi and coral, or lie on the saloon deck reading
back numbers of the TIMES, till something hitches, and then all is
hurly-burly once more. There are awnings all along the ship, and a most
ancient and fish-like smell (from the decaying polypi) beneath.'

JUNE 22.--'Yesterday the cable was often a lovely sight, coming out of
the water one large incrustation of delicate net-like corals and long
white curling shells. No portion of the dirty black wire was visible;
instead we had a garland of soft pink, with little scarlet sprays and
white enamel intermixed. All was fragile, however, and could hardly
be secured in safety; and inexorable iron crushed the tender leaves to

JUNE 24.--'The whole day spent in dredging, without success. This
operation consists in allowing the ship to drift slowly across the line
where you expect the cable to be, while at the end of a long rope,
fast either to the bow or stern, a grapnel drags along the ground. The
grapnel is a small anchor, made like four pot-hooks tied back to back.
When the rope gets taut the ship is stopped and the grapnel hauled up to
the surface in the hopes of finding the cable on its prongs. I am much
discontented with myself for idly lounging about and reading WESTWARD
HO! for the second time instead of taking to electricity or picking up
nautical information.'

During the latter part of the work much of the cable was found to be
looped and twisted into 'kinks' from having been so slackly laid, and
two immense tangled skeins were raised on board, one by means of the
mast-head and fore-yard tackle. Photographs of this ravelled cable
were for a long time exhibited as a curiosity in the windows of Messrs.
Newall & Co's. shop in the Strand, where we remember to have seen them.

By July 5 the whole of the six-wire cable had been recovered, and a
portion of the three-wire cable, the rest being abandoned as unfit
for use, owing to its twisted condition. Their work was over, but an
unfortunate accident marred its conclusion. On the evening of the 2nd
the first mate, while on the water unshackling a buoy, was struck in
the back by a fluke of the ship's anchor as she drifted, and so severely
injured that he lay for many weeks at Cagliari. Jenkin's knowledge of
languages made him useful as an interpreter; but in mentioning this
incident to Miss Austin, he writes, 'For no fortune would I be a doctor
to witness these scenes continually. Pain is a terrible thing.'

In the beginning of 1859 he made the acquaintance of Sir William
Thomson, his future friend and partner. Mr. Lewis Gordon, of Messrs. R.
S. Newall & Co., afterwards the earliest professor of engineering in a
British University, was then in Glasgow seeing Sir William's instruments
for testing and signalling on the first Atlantic cable during the six
weeks of its working. Mr. Gordon said he should like to show them to 'a
young man of remarkable ability,' engaged at their Birkenhead Works, and
Jenkin, being telegraphed for, arrived next morning, and spent a week
in Glasgow, mostly in Sir William's class-room and laboratory at the old
college. Sir William tells us that he was struck not only with Jenkin's
brightness and ability, but with his resolution to understand everything
spoken of; to see, if possible, thoroughly into every difficult
question, and to slur over nothing. 'I soon found,' he remarks, 'that
thoroughness of honesty was as strongly engrained in the scientific
as in the moral side of his character.' Their talk was chiefly on
the electric telegraph; but Jenkin was eager, too, on the subject of
physics. After staying a week he returned to the factory; but he began
experiments, and corresponded briskly with Sir William about cable
work. That great electrician, indeed, seems to have infected his visitor
during their brief contact with the magnetic force of his personality
and enthusiasm.

The year was propitious, and, in addition to this friend, Fortune about
the same time bestowed a still better gift on Jenkin. On Saturday,
February 26, during a four days' leave, he was married to Miss Austin
at Northiam, returning to his work the following Tuesday. This was the
great event of his life; he was strongly attached to his wife, and his
letters reveal a warmth of affection, a chivalry of sentiment, and
even a romance of expression, which a casual observer would never have
suspected in him. Jenkin seemed to the outside world a man without a
heart, and yet we find him saying in the year 1869, 'People may write
novels, and other people may write poems, but not a man or woman among
them can say how happy a man can be who is desperately in love with his
wife after ten years of marriage.' Five weeks before his death he
wrote to her, 'Your first letter from Bournemouth gives me heavenly
pleasure--for which I thank Heaven and you, too, who are my heaven on

During the summer he enjoyed another telegraph cruise in the
Mediterranean, a sea which for its classical memories, its lovely
climate, and diversified scenes, is by far the most interesting in the
world. This time the Elba was to lay a cable from the Greek islands of
Syra and Candia to Egypt. Cable-laying is a pleasant mode of travel.
Many of those on board the ship are friends and comrades in former
expeditions, and all are engaged in the same venture. Some have seen a
good deal of the world, both in and out of the beaten track; they have
curious 'yarns to spin,' and useful hints or scraps of worldly wisdom to
bestow. The voyage out is like a holiday excursion, for it is only
the laying that is arduous, and even that is lightened by excitement.
Glimpses are got of hide-away spots, where the cable is landed, perhaps.
on the verge of the primeval forest or near the port of a modern city,
or by the site of some ruined monument of the past. The very magic of
the craft and its benefit to the world are a source of pleasure to the
engineer, who is generally made much of in the distant parts he has come
to join. No doubt there are hardships to be borne, sea-sickness, broken
rest, and anxiety about the work--for cables are apt suddenly to fail,
and the ocean is treacherous; but with all its drawbacks this happy
mixture of changing travel and profitable labour is very attractive,
especially to a young man.

The following extracts from letters to his wife will illustrate the
nature of the work, and also give an idea of Jenkin's clear and graphic
style of correspondence:--May 14.--'Syra is semi-eastern. The pavement,
huge shapeless blocks sloping to a central gutter; from this base
two-storeyed houses, sometimes plaster, many-coloured, sometimes
rough-hewn marble, rise, dirty and ill-finished, to straight, plain,
flat roofs; shops guiltless of windows, with signs in Greek letters;
dogs, Greeks in blue, baggy, Zouave breeches and a fez, a few
narghilehs, and a sprinkling of the ordinary continental shop-boys.
In the evening I tried one more walk in Syra with A----, but in
vain endeavoured to amuse myself or to spend money, the first effort
resulting in singing DOODAH to a passing Greek or two, the second in
spending--no, in making A---- spend--threepence on coffee for three.'

Canea Bay, in Candia (or Crete), which they reached on May 16, appeared
to Jenkin one of the loveliest sights that man could witness.

May 23.--'I spent the day at the little station where the cable was
landed, which has apparently been first a Venetian monastery and then
a Turkish mosque. At any rate the big dome is very cool, and the little
ones hold batteries capitally. A handsome young Bashi-Bazouk guards it,
and a still handsomer mountaineer is the servant; so I draw them and the
monastery and the hill till I'm black in the face with heat, and come on
board to hear the Canea cable is still bad.'

May 23.--'We arrived in the morning at the east end of Candia, and had a
glorious scramble over the mountains, which seem built of adamant.
Time has worn away the softer portions of the rock, only leaving sharp,
jagged edges of steel; sea eagles soaring above our heads--old tanks,
ruins, and desolation at our feet. The ancient Arsinoe stood here: a
few blocks of marble with the cross attest the presence of Venetian
Christians; but now--the desolation of desolations. Mr. Liddell and I
separated from the rest, and when we had found a sure bay for the cable,
had a tremendous lively scramble back to the boat. These are the bits of
our life which I enjoy; which have some poetry, some grandeur in them.

May 29.-'Yesterday we ran round to the new harbour (of Alexandria),
landed the shore end of the cable close to Cleopatra's Bath, and made a
very satisfactory start about one in the afternoon. We had scarcely
gone 200 yards when I noticed that the cable ceased to run out, and I
wondered why the ship had stopped.'

The Elba had run her nose on a sandbank. After trying to force her over
it, an anchor was put out astern and the rope wound by a steam winch,
while the engines were backed; but all in vain. At length a small
Turkish steamer, the consort of the Elba, came to her assistance, and by
means of a hawser helped to tug her off: The pilot again ran her aground
soon after, but she was delivered by the same means without much damage.
When two-thirds of this cable was laid the line snapped in deep water,
and had to be recovered. On Saturday, June 4, they arrived at Syra,
where they had to perform four days' quarantine, during which, however,
they started repairing the Canea cable.

Bad weather coming on, they took shelter in Siphano, of which Jenkin
writes: 'These isles of Greece are sad, interesting places. They are
not really barren all over, but they are quite destitute of verdure; and
tufts of thyme, wild mastic, or mint, though they sound well, are not
nearly so pretty as grass. Many little churches, glittering white, dot
the islands; most of them, I believe, abandoned during the whole year
with the exception of one day sacred to their patron saint. The villages
are mean; but the inhabitants do not look wretched, and the men are
capital sailors. There is something in this Greek race yet; they will
become a powerful Levantine nation in the course of time.'

In 1861 Jenkin left the service of Newall & Co., and entered into
partnership with Mr. H. C. Forde, who had acted as engineer under
the British Government for the Malta-Alexandria cable, and was now
practising as a civil engineer. For several years after this business
was bad, and with a young family coming, it was an anxious time for him;
but he seems to have borne his troubles lightly. Mr. Stevenson says
it was his principle 'to enjoy each day's happiness as it arises, like
birds and children.'

In 1863 his first son was born, and the family removed to a cottage at
Claygate, near Esher. Though ill and poor at this period, he kept up
his self-confidence. 'The country,' he wrote to his wife, 'will give us,
please God, health and strength. I will love and cherish you more than
ever. You shall go where you wish, you shall receive whom you wish, and
as for money, you shall have that too. I cannot be mistaken. I have now
measured myself with many men. I do not feel weak. I do not feel that I
shall fail. In many things I have succeeded, and I will in this.... And
meanwhile, the time of waiting, which, please Heaven, shall not be so
long, shall also not be so bitter. Well, well, I promise much, and do
not know at this moment how you and the dear child are. If he is but
better, courage, my girl, for I see light.'

He took to gardening, without a natural liking for it, and soon became
an ardent expert. He wrote reviews, and lectured, or amused himself in
playing charades, and reading poetry. Clerk Maxwell, and Mr. Ricketts,
who was lost in the La Plata, were among his visitors. During October,
1860, he superintended the repairs of the Bona-Spartivento cable,
revisiting Chia and Cagliari, then full of Garibaldi's troops. The
cable, which had been broken by the anchors of coral fishers, was
grapnelled with difficulty. 'What rocks we did hook!' writes Jenkin. 'No
sooner was the grapnel down than the ship was anchored; and then came
such a business: ship's engines going, deck engine thundering, belt
slipping, tear of breaking ropes; actually breaking grapnels. It was
always an hour or more before we could get the grapnels down again.'

In 1865, on the birth of his second son, Mrs. Jenkin was very ill,
and Jenkin, after running two miles for a doctor, knelt by her bedside
during the night in a draught, not wishing to withdraw his hand from
hers. Never robust, he suffered much from flying rheumatism and sciatica
ever afterwards. It nearly disabled him while laying the Lowestoft
to Norderney cable for Mr. Reuter, in 1866. This line was designed by
Messrs. Forde & Jenkin, manufactured by Messrs. W. T. Henley & Co., and
laid by the Caroline and William Cory. Miss Clara Volkman, a niece of
Mr. Reuter, sent the first message, Mr. C. F, Varley holding her hand.

In 1866 Jenkin was appointed to the professorship of Engineering in
University College, London. Two years later his prospects suddenly
improved; the partnership began to pay, and he was selected to fill the
Chair of Engineering, which had been newly established, in Edinburgh
University. What he thought of the change may be gathered from a letter
to his wife: 'With you in the garden (at Claygate), with Austin in the
coach-house, with pretty songs in the little low white room, with the
moonlight in the dear room upstairs--ah! it was perfect; but the long
walk, wondering, pondering, fearing, scheming, and the dusty jolting
railway, and the horrid fusty office, with its endless disappointments,
they are well gone. It is well enough to fight, and scheme, and bustle
about in the eager crowd here (in London) for awhile now and then; but
not for a lifetime. What I have now is just perfect. Study for winter,
action for summer, lovely country for recreation, a pleasant town for

The liberality of the Scotch universities allowed him to continue his
private enterprises, and the summer holiday was long enough to make a
trip round the globe.

The following June he was on board the Great Eastern while she laid the
French Atlantic cable from Brest to St. Pierre. Among his shipmates
were Sir William Thomson, Sir James Anderson, C. F. Varley, Mr. Latimer
Clark, and Willoughby Smith. Jenkin's sketches of Clark and Varley are
particularly happy. At St. Pierre, where they arrived in a fog, which
lifted to show their consort, the William Cory, straight ahead, and the
Gulnare signalling a welcome, Jenkin made the curious observation
that the whole island was electrified by the battery at the telegraph

Jenkin's position at Edinburgh led to a partnership in cable work with
Sir William Thomson, for whom he always had a love and admiration.
Jenkin's clear, practical, and business-like abilities were doubtless
an advantage to Sir William, relieving him of routine, and sparing
his great abilities for higher work. In 1870 the siphon recorder, for
tracing a cablegram in ink, instead of merely flashing it by the moving
ray of the mirror galvanometer, was introduced on long cables, and
became a source of profit to Jenkin and Varley as well as to Sir
William, its inventor.

In 1873 Thomson and Jenkin were engineers for the Western and Brazilian
cable. It was manufactured by Messrs. Hooper & Co., of Millwall, and the
wire was coated with india-rubber, then a new insulator. The Hooper left
Plymouth in June, and after touching at Madeira, where Sir William was
up 'sounding with his special toy' (the pianoforte wire) 'at half-past
three in the morning,' they reached Pernambuco by the beginning of
August, and laid a cable to Para.

During the next two years the Brazilian system was connected to the
West Indies and the River Plate; but Jenkin was not present on the
expeditions. While engaged in this work, the ill-fated La Plata, bound
with cable from Messrs. Siemens Brothers to Monte Video, perished in
a cyclone off Cape Ushant, with the loss of nearly all her crew. The
Mackay-Bennett Atlantic cables were also laid under their charge.

As a professor Jenkin's appearance was against him; but he was a clear,
fluent speaker, and a successful teacher. Of medium height, and very
plain, his manner was youthful, and alert, but unimposing. Nevertheless,
his class was always in good order, for his eye instantly lighted on any
unruly member, and his reproof was keen.

His experimental work was not strikingly original. At Birkenhead he made
some accurate measurements of the electrical properties of materials
used in submarine cables. Sir William Thomson says he was the first to
apply the absolute methods of measurement introduced by Gauss and Weber.
He also investigated there the laws of electric signals in submarine
cables. As Secretary to the British Association Committee on Electrical
Standards he played a leading part in providing electricians with
practical standards of measurement. His Cantor lectures on submarine
cables, and his treatise on ELECTRICITY AND MAGNETISM, published
in 1873, were notable works at the time, and contained the latest
development of their subjects. He was associated with Sir William
Thomson in an ingenious 'curb-key' for sending signals automatically
through a long cable; but although tried, it was not adopted. His most
important invention was Telpherage, a means of transporting goods and
passengers to a distance by electric panniers supported on a wire or
conductor, which supplied them with electricity. It was first patented
in 1882, and Jenkin spent his last years on this work, expecting great
results from it; but ere the first public line was opened for traffic at
Glynde, in Sussex, he was dead.

In mechanical engineering his graphical methods of calculating strains
in bridges, and determining the efficiency of mechanism, are of much
value. The latter, which is based on Reulaux's prior work, procured him
the honour of the Keith Gold Medal from the Royal Society of Edinburgh.
Another successful work of his was the founding of the Sanitary
Protection Association, for the supervision of houses with regard to

In his leisure hours Jenkin wrote papers on a wide variety of subjects.
To the question, 'Is one man's gain another man's loss?' he answered
'Not in every case.' He attacked Darwin's theory of development, and
showed its inadequacy, especially in demanding more time than the
physicist could grant for the age of the habitable world. Darwin himself
confessed that some of his arguments were convincing; and Munro, the
scholar, complimented him for his paper on Lucretius and the Atomic
Theory.' In 1878 he constructed a phonograph from the newspaper reports
of this new invention, and lectured on it at a bazaar in Edinburgh,
then employed it to study the nature of vowel and consonantal sounds. An
interesting paper on Rhythm in English Verse,' was also published by him
in the SATURDAY REVIEW for 1883.

He was clever with his pencil, and could seize a likeness with
astonishing rapidity. He has been known while on a cable expedition to
stop a peasant woman in a shop for a few minutes and sketch her on the
spot. His artistic side also shows itself in a paper on 'Artist and
Critic,' in which he defines the difference between the mechanical and
fine arts. 'In mechanical arts,' he says, 'the craftsman uses his skill
to produce something useful, but (except in the rare case when he is at
liberty to choose what he shall produce) his sole merit lies in skill.
In the fine arts the student uses skill to produce something beautiful.
He is free to choose what that something shall be, and the layman claims
that he may and must judge the artist chiefly by the value in beauty of
the thing done. Artistic skill contributes to beauty, or it would not be
skill; but beauty is the result of many elements, and the nobler the art
the lower is the rank which skill takes among them.'

A clear and matter-of-fact thinker, Jenkin was an equally clear and
graphic writer. He read the best literature, preferring, among other
things, the story of David, the ODYSSEY, the ARCADIA, the saga of Burnt
Njal, and the GRAND CYRUS. Aeschylus, Sophocles, Shakespeare, Ariosto,
Boccaccio, Scott, Dumas, Dickens, Thackeray, and George Eliot, were
some of his favourite authors. He once began a review of George Eliot's
biography, but left it unfinished. Latterly he had ceased to admire
her work as much as before. He was a rapid, fluent talker, with excited
utterance at times. Some of his sayings were shrewd and sharp; but
he was sometimes aggressive. 'People admire what is pretty in an ugly
thing,' he used to say 'not the ugly thing.' A lady once said to him she
would never be happy again. 'What does that signify?' cried Jenkin; 'we
are not here to be happy, but to be good.' On a friend remarking that
Salvini's acting in OTHELLO made him want to pray, Jenkin answered,
'That is prayer.'

Though admired and liked by his intimates, Jenkin was never popular with
associates. His manner was hard, rasping, and unsympathetic. 'Whatever
virtues he possessed,' says Mr. Stevenson, 'he could never count on
being civil.' He showed so much courtesy to his wife, however, that a
Styrian peasant who observed it spread a report in the village that Mrs.
Jenkin, a great lady, had married beneath her. At the Saville Club,
in London, he was known as the 'man who dines here and goes up to
Scotland.' Jenkin was conscious of this churlishness, and latterly
improved. 'All my life,' he wrote,'I have talked a good deal, with the
almost unfailing result of making people sick of the sound of my
tongue. It appeared to me that I had various things to say, and I had
no malevolent feelings; but, nevertheless, the result was that expressed
above. Well, lately some change has happened. If I talk to a person one
day they must have me the next. Faces light up when they see me. "Ah!
I say, come here." "Come and dine with me." It's the most preposterous
thing I ever experienced. It is curiously pleasant.'

Jenkin was a good father, joining in his children's play as well as
directing their studies. The boys used to wait outside his office
for him at the close of business hours; and a story is told of little
Frewen, the second son, entering in to him one day, while he was at
work, and holding out a toy crane he was making, with the request, 'Papa
you might finiss windin' this for me, I'm so very busy to-day.' He was
fond of animals too, and his dog Plate regularly accompanied him to the
University. But, as he used to say, 'It's a cold home where a dog is the
only representative of a child.'

In summer his holidays were usually spent in the Highlands, where Jenkin
learned to love the Highland character and ways of life. He was a
good shot, rode and swam well, and taught his boys athletic exercises,
boating, salmon fishing, and such like. He learned to dance a Highland
reel, and began the study of Gaelic; but that speech proved too
stubborn, craggy, and impregnable even for Jenkin. Once he took his
family to Alt Aussee, in the Stiermark, Styria, where he hunted chamois,
won a prize for shooting at the Schutzen-fest, learned the dialect of
the country, sketched the neighbourhood, and danced the STEIERISCH and
LANDLER with the peasants. He never seemed to be happy unless he was
doing, and what he did was well done.

Above all, he was clear-headed and practical, mastering many things;
no dreamer, but an active, business man. Had he confined himself to
engineering he might have adorned his profession more, for he liked and
fitted it; but with his impulses on other lines repressed, he might have
been less happy. Moreover, he was one who believed, with the sage, that
all good work is profitable, having its value, if only in exercise and

His own parents and those of his wife had come to live in Edinburgh;
but he lost them all within ten months of each other. Jenkin had showed
great devotion to them in their illnesses, and was worn out with grief
and watching. His telpherage, too, had given him considerable anxiety to
perfect; and his mother's illness, which affected her mind, had caused
himself to fear.

He was meditating a holiday to Italy with his wife in order to
recuperate, and had a trifling operation performed on his foot, which
resulted, it is believed, in blood poisoning. There seemed to be no
danger, and his wife was reading aloud to him as he lay in bed, when his
intellect began to wander. It is doubtful whether he regained his senses
before he died, on June 12, 1885.

At one period of his life Jenkin was a Freethinker, holding, as Mr.
Stevenson says, all dogmas as 'mere blind struggles to express the
inexpressible.' Nevertheless, as time went on he came back to a belief
in Christianity. 'The longer I live,' he wrote, 'the more convinced
I become of a direct care by God--which is reasonably impossible--but
there it is.' In his last year he took the Communion.


Johann Philipp Reis, the first inventor of an electric telephone, was
born on January 7, 1834, at the little town of Gelnhausen, in Cassel,
where his father was a master baker and petty farmer. The boy lost
his mother during his infancy, and was brought up by his paternal
grandmother, a well-read, intelligent woman, of a religious turn. While
his father taught him to observe the material world, his grandmother
opened his mind to the Unseen.

At the age of six he was sent to the common school of the town, where
his talents attracted the notice of his instructors, who advised his
father to extend his education at a higher college. Mr. Reis died before
his son was ten years old; but his grandmother and guardians afterwards
placed him at Garnier's Institute, in Friedrichsdorf, where he showed a
taste for languages, and acquired both French and English, as well as a
stock of miscellaneous information from the library. At the end of
his fourteenth year he passed to Hassel's Institute, at
Frankfort-on-the-Main, where he picked up Latin and Italian. A love of
science now began to show itself, and his guardians were recommended to
send him to the Polytechnic School of Carlsruhe; but one of them, his
uncle, wished him to become a merchant, and on March 1, 1850, Reis
was apprenticed to the colour trade in the establishment of Mr. J. F
Beyerbach, of Frankfort, against his own will. He told his uncle that he
would learn the business chosen for him, but should continue his proper
studies by-and-by.

By diligent service he won the esteem of Mr. Beyerbach, and devoted his
leisure to self-improvement, taking private lessons in mathematics and
physics, and attending the lectures of Professor R. Bottger on mechanics
at the Trade School. When his apprenticeship ended he attended the
Institute of Dr. Poppe, in Frankfort, and as neither history nor
geography was taught there, several of the students agreed to instruct
each other in these subjects. Reis undertook geography, and believed
he had found his true vocation in the art of teaching. He also became a
member of the Physical Society of Frankfort.

In 1855 he completed his year of military service at Cassel, then
returned to Frankfort to qualify himself as a teacher of mathematics and
science in the schools by means of private study and public lectures.
His intention was to finish his training at the University of
Heidelberg, but in the spring of 1858 he visited his old friend and
master, Hofrath Garnier, who offered him a post in Garnier's Institute.
In the autumn of 1855 he removed to Friedrichsdorf, to begin his new
career, and in September following he took a wife and settled down.

Reis imagined that electricity could be propagated through space, as
light can, without the aid of a material conductor, and he made some
experiments on the subject. The results were described in a paper 'On
the Radiation of Electricity,' which, in 1859, he posted to Professor
Poggendorff; for insertion in the well-known periodical, the ANNALEN
DER PHYSIK. The memoir was declined, to the great disappointment of the
sensitive young teacher.

Reis had studied the organs of hearing, and the idea of an apparatus for
transmitting sound by means of electricity had been floating in his
mind for years. Incited by his lessons on physics, in the year 1860 he
attacked the problem, and was rewarded with success. In 1862 he again
tried Poggendorff, with an account of his 'Telephon,' as he called
it;[The word 'telephone' occurs in Timbs' REPOSITORY OF SCIENCE AND ART
for 1845, in connection With a signal trumpet operated by compressed
air.] but his second offering was rejected like the first. The learned
professor, it seems, regarded the transmission of speech by electricity
as a chimera; but Reis, in the bitterness of wounded feeling, attributed
the failure to his being 'only a poor schoolmaster.'

Since the invention of the telephone, attention has been called to the
fact that, in 1854, M. Charles Bourseul, a French telegraphist, [Happily
still alive (1891).] had conceived a plan for conveying sounds and even
speech by electricity. 'Suppose,' he explained, 'that a man speaks near
a movable disc sufficiently flexible to lose none of the vibrations of
the voice; that this disc alternately makes and breaks the currents
from a battery: you may have at a distance another disc which will
simultaneously execute the same vibrations.... It is certain that, in a
more or less distant future, speech will be transmitted by electricity.
I have made experiments in this direction; they are delicate and demand
time and patience, but the approximations obtained promise a favourable
result.'[See Du Moncel's EXPOSE DES APPLICATIONS, etc.]

Bourseul deserves the credit of being perhaps the first to devise an
electric telephone and try to make it; but to Reis belongs the honour of
first realising the idea. A writer may plot a story, or a painter invent
a theme for a picture; but unless he execute the work, of what benefit
is it to the world? True, a suggestion in mechanics may stimulate
another to apply it in practice, and in that case the suggester is
entitled to some share of the credit, as well as the distinction of
being the first to think of the matter. But it is best when the original
deviser also carries out the work; and if another should independently
hit upon the same idea and bring it into practice, we are bound to
honour him in full, though we may also recognise the merit of his

Bourseul's idea seems to have attracted little notice at the time, and
was soon forgotten. Even the Count du Moncel, who was ever ready to
welcome a promising invention, evidently regarded it as a fantastic
notion. It is very doubtful if Reis had ever heard of it. He was led to
conceive a similar apparatus by a study of the mechanism of the human
ear, which he knew to contain a membrane, or 'drum,' vibrating under the
waves of sound, and communicating its vibrations through the hammer-bone
behind it to the auditory nerve. It therefore occurred to him, that if
he made a diaphragm in imitation of the drum, and caused it by vibrating
to make and break the circuit of an electric current, he would be able
through the magnetic power of the interrupted current to reproduce the
original sounds at a distance.

In 1837-8 Professor Page, of Massachusetts, had discovered that' a
needle or thin bar of iron, placed in the hollow of a coil or bobbin of
insulated wire, would emit an audible 'tick' at each interruption of a
current, flowing in the coil, and that if these separate ticks followed
each other fast enough, by a rapid interruption of the current, they
would run together into a continuous hum, to which he gave the name of
'galvanic music.' The pitch of this note would correspond to the rate of
interruption of the current. From these and other discoveries which had
been made by Noad, Wertheim, Marrian, and others, Reis knew that if
the current which had been interrupted by his vibrating diaphragm were
conveyed to a distance by a metallic circuit, and there passed through
a coil like that of Page, the iron needle would emit a note like that
which had caused the oscillation of the transmitting diaphragm. Acting
on this knowledge, he constructed a rude telephone.

Dr. Messel informs us that his first transmitter consisted of the bung
of a beer barrel hollowed out in imitation of the external ear. The cup
or mouth-piece thus formed was closed by the skin of a German sausage to
serve as a drum or diaphragm. To the back of this he fixed, with a
drop of sealing-wax, a little strip of platinum, representing the
hammer-bone, which made and broke the metallic circuit of the current as
the membrane oscillated under the sounds which impinged against it. The
current thus interrupted was conveyed by wires to the receiver, which
consisted of a knitting-needle loosely surrounded by a coil of wire
fastened to the breast of a violin as a sounding-board. When a musical
note was struck near the bung, the drum vibrated in harmony with the
pitch of the note, the platinum lever interrupted the metallic circuit
of the current, which, after traversing the conducting wire, passed
through the coil of the receiver, and made the needle hum the original
tone. This primitive arrangement, we are told, astonished all who heard
it. [It is now in the museum of the Reichs Post-Amt, Berlin.]

Another of his early transmitters was a rough model of the human ear,
carved in oak, and provided with a drum which actuated a bent and
pivoted lever of platinum, making it open and close a springy contact
of platinum foil in the metallic circuit of the current. He devised some
ten or twelve different forms, each an improvement on its predecessors,
which transmitted music fairly well, and even a word or two of speech
with more or less perfection. But the apparatus failed as a practical
means of talking to a distance.

The discovery of the microphone by Professor Hughes has enabled us to
understand the reason of this failure. The transmitter of Reis was based
on the plan of interrupting the current, and the spring was intended to
close the contact after it had been opened by the shock of a vibration.
So long as the sound was a musical tone it proved efficient, for a
musical tone is a regular succession of vibrations. But the vibrations
of speech are irregular and complicated, and in order to transmit
them the current has to be varied in strength without being altogether
broken. The waves excited in the air by the voice should merely produce
corresponding waves in the current. In short, the current ought to
UNDULATE in sympathy with the oscillations of the air. It appears
from the report of Herr Von Legat, inspector of the Royal Prussian
Telegraphs, on the Reis telephone, published in 1862, that the inventor
was quite aware of this principle, but his instrument was not well
adapted to apply it. No doubt the platinum contacts he employed in the
transmitter behaved to some extent as a crude metal microphone, and
hence a few words, especially familiar or expected ones, could be
transmitted and distinguished at the other end of the line. But Reis
does not seem to have realised the importance of not entirely breaking
the circuit of the current; at all events, his metal spring is not in
practice an effective provision against this, for it allows the metal
contacts to jolt too far apart, and thus interrupt the current. Had he
lived to modify the spring and the form or material of his contacts so
as to keep the current continuous--as he might have done, for example,
by using carbon for platinum--he would have forestalled alike Bell,
Edison, and Hughes in the production of a good speaking telephone. Reis
in fact was trembling on the verge of a great discovery, which was,
however, reserved for others.

His experiments were made in a little workshop behind his home at
Friedrichsdorff; and wires were run from it to an upper chamber. Another
line was erected between the physical cabinet at Garnier's Institute
across the playground to one of the class-rooms, and there was a
tradition in the school that the boys were afraid of creating an uproar
in the room for fear Herr Reis should hear them with his 'telephon.'

The new invention was published to the world in a lecture before the
Physical Society of Frankfort on October 26, 1861, and a description,
written by himself for the JAHRESBERICHT, a month or two later. It
excited a good deal of scientific notice in Germany; models of it were
sent abroad, to London, Dublin, Tiflis, and other places. It became a
subject for popular lectures, and an article for scientific cabinets.
Reis obtained a brief renown, but the reaction soon set in. The Physical
Society of Frankfort turned its back on the apparatus which had given
it lustre. Reis resigned his membership in 1867; but the Free German
Institute of Frankfort, which elected him an honorary member, also
slighted the instrument as a mere 'philosophical toy.' At first it was
a dream, and now it is a plaything. Have we not had enough of that
superior wisdom which is another name for stupidity? The dreams of the
imagination are apt to become realities, and the toy of to-day has a
knack of growing into the mighty engine of to-morrow.

Reis believed in his invention, if no one else did; and had he been
encouraged by his fellows from the beginning, he might have brought it
into a practical shape. But rebuffs had preyed upon his sensitive heart,
and he was already stricken with consumption. It is related that, after
his lecture on the telephone at Geissen, in 1854, Professor Poggendorff,
who was present, invited him to send a description of his instrument
to the ANNALEN. Reis answered him,'Ich danke Ihnen recht Sehr, Herr
Professor; es ist zu spaty. Jetzt will ICH nicht ihn schickeny. Mein
Apparat wird ohne Beschreibung in den ANNALEN bekannt werden.' ('Thank
you very much, Professor, but it is too late. I shall not send it now.
My apparatus will become known without any writing in the ANNALEN.')

Latterly Reis had confined his teaching and study to matters of science;
but his bad health was a serious impediment. For several years it was
only by the exercise of a strong will that he was able to carry on his
duties. His voice began to fail as the disease gained upon his lungs,
and in the summer of 1873 he was obliged to forsake tuition during
several weeks. The autumn vacation strengthened his hopes of recovery,
and he resumed his teaching with his wonted energy. But this was the
last flicker of the expiring flame. It was announced that he would show
his new gravity-machine at a meeting of the Deutscher Naturforscher of
Wiesbaden in September, but he was too ill to appear. In December he lay
down, and, after a long and painful illness, breathed his last at five
o'clock in the afternoon of January 14, 1874.

In his CURRICULUM VITAE he wrote these words: 'As I look back upon my
life I call indeed say with the Holy Scriptures that it has been "labour
and sorrow." But I have also to thank the Lord that He has given me His
blessing in my calling and in my family, and has bestowed more good upon
me than I have known how to ask of Him. The Lord has helped hitherto; He
will help yet further.'

Reis was buried in the cemetery of Friedrichsdorff, and in 1878, after
the introduction of the speaking telephone, the members of the Physical
Society of Frankfort erected over his grave an obelisk of red sandstone
bearing a medallion portrait.


The first to produce a practicable speaking telephone was Alexander
Graham Bell. He was born at Edinburgh on March 1, 1847, and comes of
a family associated with the teaching of elocution. His grandfather in
London, his uncle in Dublin, and his father, Mr. Andrew Melville Bell,
in Edinburgh, were all professed elocutionists. The latter has published
a variety of works on the subject, several of which are well known,
especially his treatise on Visible Speech, which appeared in Edinburgh
in 1868. In this he explains his ingenious method of instructing deaf
mutes, by means of their eyesight, how to articulate words, and also
how to read what other persons are saying by the motions of their lips.
Graham Bell, his distinguished son, was educated at the high school of
Edinburgh, and subsequently at Warzburg, in Germany, where he obtained
the degree of Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy). While still in Scotland he
is said to have turned his attention to the science of acoustics, with a
view to ameliorate the deafness of his mother.

In 1873 he accompanied his father to Montreal, in Canada, where he was
employed in teaching the system of visible speech. The elder Bell was
invited to introduce it into a large day-school for mutes at Boston, but
he declined the post in favour of his son, who soon became famous in the
United States for his success in this important work. He published more
than one treatise on the subject at Washington, and it is, we believe,
mainly through his efforts that thousands of deaf mutes in America are
now able to speak almost, if not quite, as well as those who are able to

Before he left Scotland Mr. Graham Bell had turned his attention to
telephony, and in Canada he designed a piano which could transmit its
music to a distance by means of electricity. At Boston he continued his
researches in the same field, and endeavoured to produce a telephone
which would not only send musical notes, but articulate speech.

If it be interesting to trace the evolution of an animal from its
rudimentary germ through the lower phases to the perfect organism, it
is almost as interesting to follow an invention from the original model
through the faultier types to the finished apparatus.

In 1860 Philipp Reis, as we have seen, produced a telephone which could
transmit musical notes, and even a lisping word or two; and some ten
years later Mr. Cromwell Fleetwood Varley, F.R.S., a well-known English
electrician, patented a number of ingenious devices for applying the
musical telephone to transmit messages by dividing the notes into short
or long signals, after the Morse code, which could be interpreted by
the ear or by the eye in causing them to mark a moving paper. These
inventions were not put in practice; but four years afterwards Herr Paul
la Cour, a Danish inventor, experimented with a similar appliance on a
line of telegraph between Copenhagen and Fredericia in Jutland. In this
a vibrating tuning-fork interrupted the current, which, after traversing
the line, passed through an electro-magnet, and attracted the limbs of
another fork, making it strike a note like the transmitting fork. By
breaking up the note at the sending station with a signalling key, the
message was heard as a series of long and short hums. Moreover, the hums
were made to record themselves on paper by turning the electro-magnetic
receiver into a relay, which actuated a Morse printer by means of a
local battery.

Mr. Elisha Gray, of Chicago, also devised a tone telegraph of this kind
about the same time as Herr La Cour. In this apparatus a vibrating
steel tongue interrupted the current, which at the other end of the line
passed through the electro-magnet and vibrated a band or tongue of iron
near its poles. Gray's 'harmonic telegraph,' with the vibrating tongues
or reeds, was afterwards introduced on the lines of the Western Union
Telegraph Company in America. As more than one set of vibrations--that
is to say, more than one note--can be sent over the same wire
simultaneously, it is utilised as a 'multiplex' or many-ply telegraph,
conveying several messages through the same wire at once; and these can
either be interpreted by the sound, or the marks drawn on a ribbon of
travelling paper by a Morse recorder.

Gray also invented a 'physiological receiver,' which has a curious
history. Early in 1874 his nephew was playing with a small induction
coil, and, having connected one end of the secondary circuit to the zinc
lining of a bath, which was dry, he was holding the other end in his
left hand. While he rubbed the zinc with his right hand Gray noticed
that a sound proceeded from it, which had the pitch and quality of the
note emitted by the vibrating contact or electrotome of the coil. 'I
immediately took the electrode in my hand,' he writes, 'and, repeating
the operation, found to my astonishment that by rubbing hard and rapidly
I could make a much louder sound than the electrotome. I then changed
the pitch of the vibration, and found that the pitch of the sound under
my hand was also changed, agreeing with that of the vibration.'
Gray lost no time in applying this chance discovery by designing the
physiological receiver, which consists of a sounding-box having a zinc
face and mounted on an axle, so that it can be revolved by a handle. One
wire of the circuit is connected to the revolving zinc, and the other
wire is connected to the finger which rubs on the zinc. The sounds are
quite distinct, and would seem to be produced by a microphonic action
between the skin and the metal.

All these apparatus follow in the track of Reis and Bourseul--that is
to say, the interruption of the current by a vibrating contact. It
was fortunate for Bell that in working with his musical telephone an
accident drove him into a new path, which ultimately brought him to the
invention of a speaking telephone. He began his researches in 1874 with
a musical telephone, in which he employed the interrupted current to
vibrate the receiver, which consisted of an electro-magnet causing an
iron reed or tongue to vibrate; but, while trying it one day with his
assistant, Mr. Thomas A. Watson, it was found that a reed failed to
respond to the intermittent current. Mr. Bell desired his assistant,
who was at the other end of the line, to pluck the reed, thinking it
had stuck to the pole of the magnet. Mr. Watson complied, and to his
astonishment Bell observed that the corresponding reed at his end of the
line thereupon began to vibrate and emit the same note, although there
was no interrupted current to make it. A few experiments soon showed
that his reed had been set in vibration by the magneto-electric currents
induced in the line by the mere motion of the distant reed in the
neighbourhood of its magnet. This discovery led him to discard the
battery current altogether and rely upon the magneto-induction currents
of the reeds themselves. Moreover, it occurred to him that, since the
circuit was never broken, all the complex vibrations of speech might be
converted into sympathetic currents, which in turn would reproduce the
speech at a distance.

Reis had seen that an undulatory current was needed to transmit sounds
in perfection, especially vocal sounds; but his mode of producing the
undulations was defective from a mechanical and electrical point of
view. By forming 'waves' of magnetic disturbance near a coil of wire,
Professor Bell could generate corresponding waves of electricity in the
line so delicate and continuous that all the modulations of sound could
be reproduced at a distance.

As Professor of Vocal Physiology in the University of Boston, he was
engaged in training teachers in the art of instructing deaf mutes how to
speak, and experimented with the Leon Scott phonautograph in recording
the vibrations of speech. This apparatus consists essentially of a thin
membrane vibrated by the voice and carrying a light stylus, which traces
an undulatory line on a plate of smoked glass. The line is a graphic
representation of the vibrations of the membrane and the waves of sound
in the air.

On the suggestion of Dr. Clarence J. Blake, an eminent Boston aurist,
Professor Bell abandoned the phonautograph for the human ear, which it
resembled; and, having removed the stapes bone, moistened the drum with
glycerine and water, attached a stylus of hay to the nicus or anvil, and
obtained a beautiful series of curves in imitation of the vocal sounds.
The disproportion between the slight mass of the drum and the bones
it actuated, is said to have suggested to him the employment of
goldbeater's skin as membrane in his speaking telephone. Be this as it
may, he devised a receiver, consisting of a stretched diaphragm or drum
of this material having an armature of magnetised iron attached to its
middle, and free to vibrate in front of the pole of an electro-magnet in
circuit with the line.

This apparatus was completed on June 2, 1875, and the same day he
succeeded in transmitting SOUNDS and audible signals by magneto-electric
currents and without the aid of a battery. On July 1, 1875, he
instructed his assistant to make a second membrane-receiver which could
be used with the first, and a few days later they were tried together,
one at each end of the line, which ran from a room in the inventor's
house at Boston to the cellar underneath. Bell, in the room, held one
instrument in his hands, while Watson in the cellar listened at the
other. The inventor spoke into his instrument, 'Do you understand what
I say?' and we can imagine his delight when Mr. Watson rushed into the
room, under the influence of his excitement, and answered,'Yes.'

A finished instrument was then made, having a transmitter formed of
a double electro-magnet, in front of which a membrane, stretched on a
ring, carried an oblong piece of soft iron cemented to its middle. A
mouthpiece before the diaphragm directed the sounds upon it, and as
it vibrated with them, the soft iron 'armature' induced corresponding
currents in the cells of the electro-magnet. These currents after
traversing the line were passed through the receiver, which consisted
of a tubular electro-magnet, having one end partially closed by a thin
circular disc of soft iron fixed at one point to the end of the tube.
This receiver bore a resemblance to a cylindrical metal box with thick
sides, having a thin iron lid fastened to its mouth by a single screw.
When the undulatory current passed through the coil of this magnet, the
disc, or armature-lid, was put into vibration and the sounds evolved
from it.

The apparatus was exhibited at the Centennial Exhibition, Philadelphia,
in 1876, and at the meeting of the British Association in Glasgow,
during the autumn of that year, Sir William Thomson revealed its
existence to the European public. In describing his visit to the
Exhibition, he went on to say: 'In the Canadian department I heard,
"To be or not to be... there's the rub," through an electric wire;
but, scorning monosyllables, the electric articulation rose to higher
flights, and gave me passages taken at random from the New York
newspapers: "s.s. Cox has arrived" (I failed to make out the s.s. Cox);
"The City of New York," "Senator Morton," "The Senate has resolved to
print a thousand extra copies," "The Americans in London have resolved
to celebrate the coming Fourth of July!" All this my own ears heard
spoken to me with unmistakable distinctness by the then circular disc
armature of just such another little electro-magnet as this I hold in my

To hear the immortal words of Shakespeare uttered by the small inanimate
voice which had been given to the world must indeed have been a rare
delight to the ardent soul of the great electrician.

The surprise created among the public at large by this unexpected
communication will be readily remembered. Except one or two inventors,
nobody had ever dreamed of a telegraph that could actually speak,
any more than they had ever fancied one that could see or feel; and
imagination grew busy in picturing the outcome of it. Since it was
practically equivalent to a limitless extension of the vocal powers,
the ingenious journalist soon conjured up an infinity of uses for the
telephone, and hailed the approaching time when ocean-parted friends
would be able to whisper to one another under the roaring billows of the
Atlantic. Curiosity, however, was not fully satisfied until Professor
Bell, the inventor of the instrument, himself showed it to British
audiences, and received the enthusiastic applause of his admiring

The primitive telephone has been greatly improved, the double
electro-magnet being replaced by a single bar magnet having a small coil
or bobbin of fine wire surrounding one pole, in front of which a thin
disc of ferrotype is fixed in a circular mouthpiece, and serves as a
combined membrane and armature. On speaking into the mouthpiece, the
iron diaphragm vibrates with the voice in the magnetic field of the
pole, and thereby excites the undulatory currents in the coil, which,
after travelling through the wire to the distant place, are received in
an identical apparatus. [This form was patented January 30, 1877.] In
traversing the coil of the latter they reinforce or weaken the magnetism
of the pole, and thus make the disc armature vibrate so as to give out
a mimesis of the original voice. The sounds are small and elfin, a minim
of speech, and only to be heard when the ear is close to the mouthpiece,
but they are remarkably distinct, and, in spite of a disguising twang,
due to the fundamental note of the disc itself, it is easy to recognise
the speaker.

This later form was publicly exhibited on May 4, 1877 at a lecture
given by Professor Bell in the Boston Music Hall. 'Going to the small
telephone box with its slender wire attachments,' says a report, 'Mr.
Bell coolly asked, as though addressing some one in an adjoining room,
"Mr. Watson, are you ready!" Mr. Watson, five miles away in Somerville,
promptly answered in the affirmative, and soon was heard a voice singing
"America."....Going to another instrument, connected by wire with
Providence, forty-three miles distant, Mr. Bell listened a moment, and
said, "Signor Brignolli, who is assisting at a concert in Providence
Music Hall, will now sing for us." In a moment the cadence of the
tenor's voice rose and fell, the sound being faint, sometimes lost, and
then again audible. Later, a cornet solo played in Somerville was very
distinctly heard. Still later, a three-part song floated over the
wire from the Somerville terminus, and Mr. Bell amused his audience
exceedingly by exclaiming, "I will switch off the song from one part of
the room to another, so that all can hear." At a subsequent lecture
in Salem, Massachusetts, communication was established with Boston,
eighteen miles distant, and Mr. Watson at the latter place sang "Auld
Lang Syne," the National Anthem, and "Hail Columbia," while the audience
at Salem joined in the chorus.'

Bell had overcome the difficulty which baffled Reis, and succeeded in
making the undulations of the current fit the vibrations of the voice
as a glove will fit the hand. But the articulation, though distinct, was
feeble, and it remained for Edison, by inventing the carbon transmitter,
and Hughes, by discovering the microphone, to render the telephone the
useful and widespread apparatus which we see it now.

Bell patented his speaking telephone in the United States at the
beginning of 1876, and by a strange coincidence, Mr. Elisha Gray applied
on the same day for another patent of a similar kind. Gray's transmitter
is supposed to have been suggested by the very old device known as
the 'lovers' telephone,' in which two diaphragms are joined by a taut
string, and in speaking against one the voice is conveyed through the
string, solely by mechanical vibration, to the other. Gray employed
electricity, and varied the strength of the current in conformity with
the voice by causing the diaphragm in vibrating to dip a metal probe
attached to its centre more or less deep into a well of conducting
liquid in circuit with the line. As the current passed from the probe
through the liquid to the line a greater or less thickness of liquid
intervened as the probe vibrated up and down, and thus the strength of
the current was regulated by the resistance offered to the passage of
the current. His receiver was an electro-magnet having an iron plate as
an armature capable of vibrating under the attractions of the varying
current. But Gray allowed his idea to slumber, whereas Bell continued
to perfect his apparatus. However, when Bell achieved an unmistakable
success, Gray brought a suit against him, which resulted in a
compromise, one public company acquiring both patents.

Bell's invention has been contested over and over again, and more than
one claimant for the honour and reward of being the original inventor
of the telephone have appeared. The most interesting case was that
of Signor Antonio Meucci, an Italian emigrant, who produced a mass of
evidence to show that in 1849, while in Havanna, Cuba, he experimented
with the view of transmitting speech by the electric current. He
continued his researches in 1852-3, and subsequently at Staten Island,
U.S.; and in 1860 deputed a friend visiting Europe to interest people
in his invention. In 1871 he filed a caveat in the United States Patent
Office, and tried to get Mr. Grant, President of the New York District
Telegraph Company, to give the apparatus a trial. Ill-health and
poverty, consequent on an injury due to an explosion on board the Staten
Island ferry boat Westfield, retarded his experiments, and prevented
him from completing his patent. Meucci's experimental apparatus was
exhibited at the Philadelphia Exhibition of 1884, and attracted much
attention. But the evidence he adduces in support of His early claims is
that of persons ignorant of electrical science, and the model shown
was not complete. The caveat of 1871 is indeed a reliable document; but
unfortunately for him it is not quite clear from it whether he employed
a 'lovers' telephone,' with a wire instead of a string, and joined a
battery to it in the hope of enhancing the effect. 'I employ,' he says,
'the well known conducting effect of continuous metallic conductors as
a medium for sound, and increase the effect by electrically insulating
both the conductor and the parties who are communicating. It forms
a speaking telegraph without the necessity of any hollow tube.' In
connection with the telephone he used an electric alarm. It is by
no means evident from this description that Meucci had devised a
practicable speaking telephone; but he may have been the first to employ
electricity in connection with the transmission of speech. [Meucci is

'This crowning marvel of the electric telegraph,' as Sir William Thomson
happily expressed it, was followed by another invention in some respects
even more remarkable. During the winter of 1878 Professor Bell was
in England, and while lecturing at the Royal Institution, London, he
conceived the idea of the photophone. It was known that crystalline
selenium is a substance peculiarly sensitive to light, for when a ray
strikes it an electric current passes far more easily through it than if
it were kept in the dark. It therefore occurred to Professor Bell that
if a telephone were connected in circuit with the current, and the ray
of light falling on the selenium was eclipsed by means of the vibrations
of sound, the current would undulate in keeping with the light, and
the telephone would emit a corresponding note. In this way it might be
literally possible 'to hear a shadow fall athwart the stillness.'

He was not the first to entertain the idea, for in the summer of 1878,
one 'L. F. W.,' writing from Kew on June 3 to the scientific journal
NATURE describes an arrangement of the kind. To Professor Bell, in
conjunction with Mr. Summer Tainter, belongs the honour of having, by
dint of patient thought and labour, brought the photophone into material
existence. By constructing sensitive selenium cells through which the
current passed, then directing a powerful beam of light upon them, and
occulting it by a rotary screen, he was able to vary the strength of the
current in such a manner as to elicit musical tones from the telephone
in circuit with the cells. Moreover, by reflecting the beam from a
mirror upon the cells, and vibrating the mirror by the action of the
voice, he was able to reproduce the spoken words in the telephone. In
both cases the only connecting line between the transmitting screen or
mirror and the receiving cells and telephone was the ray of light. With
this apparatus, which reminds us of the invocation to Apollo in the

   'Lord of the speaking lyre,
   That with a touch of fire
   Strik'st music which delays the charmed spheres.'

Professor Bell has accomplished the curious feat of speaking along a
beam of sunshine 830 feet long. The apparatus consisted of a transmitter
with a mouthpiece, conveying the sound of the voice to a silvered
diaphragm or mirror, which reflected the vibratory beam through a lens
towards the selenium receiver, which was simply a parabolic reflector,
in the focus of which was placed the selenium cells connected in
circuit with a battery and a pair of telephones, one for each ear.
The transmitter was placed in the top of the Franklin schoolhouse,
at Washington, and the receiver in the window of Professor Bell's
laboratory in L Street. 'It was impossible,' says the inventor,
'to converse by word of mouth across that distance; and while I was
observing Mr. Tainter, on the top of the schoolhouse, almost blinded by
the light which was coming in at the window of my laboratory, and vainly
trying to understand the gestures he was making to me at that great
distance, the thought occurred to me to listen to the telephones
connected with the selenium receiver. Mr. Tainter saw me disappear from
the window, and at once spoke to the transmitter. I heard him distinctly
say, "Mr. Bell, if you hear what I say, come to the window and wave your
hat!" It is needless to say with what gusto I obeyed.'

The spectroscope has demonstrated the truth of the poet, who said that
'light is the voice of the stars,' and we have it on the authority
of Professor Bell and M. Janssen, the celebrated astronomer, that the
changing brightness of the photosphere, as produced by solar hurricanes,
has produced a feeble echo in the photophone.

Pursuing these researches, Professor Bell discovered that not only
the selenium cell, but simple discs of wood, glass, metal, ivory,
india-rubber, and so on, yielded a distinct note when the intermittent
ray of light fell upon them. Crystals of sulphate of copper, chips
of pine, and even tobacco-smoke, in a test-tube held before the beam,
emitted a musical tone. With a thin disc of vulcanite as receiver, the
dark heat rays which pass through an opaque screen were found to yield a
note. Even the outer ear is itself a receiver, for when the intermittent
beam is focussed in the cavity a faint musical tone is heard.

Another research of Professor Bell was that in which he undertook to
localise the assassin's bullet in the body of the lamented President
Garfield. In 1879 Professor Hughes brought out his beautiful induction
balance, and the following year Professor Bell, who had already worked
in the same field, consulted him by telegraph as to the best mode of
applying the balance to determining the place of the bullet, which had
hitherto escaped the probes of the President's physicians. Professor
Hughes advised him by telegraph, and with this and other assistance an
apparatus was devised which indicated the locality of the ball. A full
account of his experiments was given in a paper read before the American
Association for the Advancement of Science in August, 1882.

Professor Bell continues to reside in the United States, of which he is
a naturalised citizen. He is married to a daughter of Mr. Gardiner G.
Hubbard, who in 1860, when she was four years of age, lost her hearing
by an illness, but has learned to converse by the Horace-Mann system of
watching the lips. Both he and his father-in-law (who had a pecuniary
interest in his patents) have made princely fortunes by the introduction
of the telephone.


Thomas Alva Edison, the most famous inventor of his time and country,
was born at Milan, Erie County, Ohio, in the United States, on February
11, 1847. His pedigree has been traced for two centuries to a family
of prosperous millers in Holland, some of whom emigrated to America
in 1730. Thomas, his great-grandfather, was an officer of a bank in
Manhattan Island during the Revolution, and his signature is extant on
the old notes of the American currency. Longevity seems a characteristic
of the strain, for Thomas lived to the patriarchal term of 102, his son
to 103, and Samuel, the father of the inventor, is, we understand, a
brisk and hale old man of eighty-six.

Born at Digby, in the county of Annapolis, Nova Scotia, on August 16,
1804, Samuel was apprenticed to a tailor, but in his manhood he forsook
the needle to engage in the lumber trade, and afterwards in grain. He
resided for a time in Canada, where, at Vienna, he was married to Miss
Nancy Elliott, a popular teacher in the high school. She was of Scotch
descent, and born in Chenango County, New York, on January 10, 1810.
After his marriage he removed, in 1837, to Detroit, Michigan, and the
following year settled in Milan.

In his younger days Samuel Edison was a man of fine appearance. He stood
6 feet 2 inches in his stockings, and even at the age of sixty-four
he was known to outjump 260 soldiers of a regiment quartered at Fort
Gratiot, in Michigan. His wife was a fine-looking woman, intelligent,
well-educated, and a social favourite. The inventor probably draws his
physical endurance from his father, and his intellect from his mother.

Milan is situated on the Huron River, about ten miles from the lake, and
was then a rising town of 3,000 inhabitants, mostly occupied with the
grain and timber trade. Mr. Edison dwelt in a plain cottage with a low
fence in front, which stood beside the roadway under the shade of one or
two trees.

The child was neither pale nor prematurely thoughtful; he was
rosy-cheeked, laughing, and chubby. He liked to ramble in the woods,
or play on the banks of the river, and could repeat the songs of the
boatmen ere he was five years old. Still he was fond of building little
roads with planks, and scooping out canals or caverns in the sand.

An amusing anecdote is imputed to his sister, Mrs. Homer Page, of Milan.
Having been told one day that a goose hatches her goslings by the warmth
of her body, the child was missed, and subsequently found in the barn
curled up in a nest beside a quantity of eggs!

The Lake Shore Railway having injured the trade of Milan, the family
removed to Port Huron, in Michigan, when Edison was about seven years
old. Here they lived in an old-fashioned white frame-house, surrounded
by a grove, and commanding a fine view of the broad river, with the
Canadian hills beyond. His mother undertook his education, and with
the exception of two months he never went to school. She directed his
opening mind to the acquisition of knowledge, and often read aloud to
the family in the evening. She and her son were a loving pair, and it
is pleasant to know that although she died on April 9, 1871, before he
finally emerged from his difficulties, her end was brightened by the
first rays of his coming glory.

Mr. Edison tells us that his son never had any boyhood in the ordinary
sense, his early playthings being steam-engines and the mechanical
powers. But it is like enough that he trapped a wood-chuck now and then,
or caught a white-fish with the rest.

He was greedy of knowledge, and by the age of ten had read the PENNY
HISTORY OF THE WORLD. His father, we are told, encouraged his love of
study by making him a small present for every book he read.

At the age of twelve he became a train-boy, or vendor of candy, fruit,
and journals to the passengers on the Grand Trunk Railway, between Port
Huron and Detroit. The post enabled him to sleep at home, and to extend
his reading by the public library at Detroit. Like the boy Ampere, he
proposed, it is said, to master the whole collection, shelf by shelf,
and worked his way through fifteen feet of the bottom one before he
began to select his fare.

Even the PRINCIPIA of Newton never daunted him; and if he did not
understand the problems which have puzzled some of the greatest
minds, he read them religiously, and pressed on. Burton's ANATOMY OF
MELANCHOLY, Ure's DICTIONARY OF CHEMISTRY, did not come amiss; but
in Victor Hugo's LES MISERABLES and THE TOILERS OF THE SEA he found
a treasure after his own heart. Like Ampere, too, he was noted for a
memory which retained many of the facts thus impressed upon it, as the
sounds are printed on a phonogram.

The boy student was also a keen man of business, and his pursuit of
knowledge in the evening did not sap his enterprises of the day. He soon
acquired a virtual monopoly for the sale of newspapers on the line, and
employed four boy assistants. His annual profits amounted to about 500
dollars, which were a substantial aid to his parents. To increase the
sale of his papers, he telegraphed the headings of the war news to
the stations in advance of the trains, and placarded them to tempt the
passengers. Ere long he conceived the plan of publishing a newspaper
of his own. Having bought a quantity of old type at the office of the
DETROIT FREE PRESS, he installed it in a spingless car, or 'caboose' of
the train meant for a smoking-room, but too uninviting to be much used
by the passengers. Here he set the type, and printed a smallsheet about
a foot square by pressing it with his hand. The GRAND TRUNK HERALD,
as he called it, was a weekly organ, price three cents, containing a
variety of local news, and gossip of the line. It was probably the only
journal ever published on a railway train; at all events with a boy for
editor and staff, printer and 'devil,' publisher and hawker. Mr. Robert
Stephenson, then building the tubular bridge at Montreal, was taken with
the venture, and ordered an extra edition for his own use. The London
TIMES correspondent also noticed the paper as a curiosity of journalism.
This was a foretaste of notoriety.

Unluckily, however, the boy did not keep his scientific and literary
work apart, and the smoking-car was transformed into a laboratory as
well as a printing house.

Having procured a copy of Fresenius' QUALITIVE ANALYSIS and some
old chemical gear; he proceeded to improve his leisure by making
experiments. One day, through an extra jolt of the car, a bottle of
phosphorus broke on the floor, and the car took fire. The incensed
conductor of the train, after boxing his ears, evicted him with all his

Finding an asylum in the basement of his father's house (where he
took the precaution to label all his bottles 'poison'), he began the
publication of a new and better journal, entitled the PAUL PRY. It
boasted of several contributors and a list of regular subscribers.
One of these (Mr. J.H.B.), while smarting under what he considered a
malicious libel, met the editor one day on the brink of the St. Clair,
and taking the law into his own hands, soused him in the river. The
editor avenged his insulted dignity by excluding the subscriber's name
from the pages of the PAUL PRY.

Youthful genius is apt to prove unlucky, and another story (we hope
they are all true, though we cannot vouch for them), is told of his
partiality for riding with the engine-driver on the locomotive. After
he had gained an insight into the working of the locomotive he would run
the train himself; but on one occasion he pumped so much water into the
boiler that it was shot from the funnel, and deluged the engine with
soot. By using his eyes and haunting the machine shops he was able to
construct a model of a locomotive.

But his employment of the telegraph seems to have diverted his thoughts
in that direction, and with the help of a book on the telegraph he
erected a makeshift line between his new laboratory and the house of
James Ward, one of his boy helpers. The conductor was run on trees, and
insulated with bottles, and the apparatus was home-made, but it seems
to have been of some use. Mr. James D. Reid, author of THE TELEGRAPH IN
AMERICA, would have us believe that an attempt was made to utilise the
electricity obtained by rubbing a cat connected up in lieu of a battery;
but the spirit of Artemus Ward is by no means dead in the United States,
and the anecdote may be taken with a grain of salt. Such an experiment
was at all events predestined to an ignominious failure.

An act of heroism was the turning-point in his career. One day, at the
risk of his life, he saved the child of the station-master at Mount
Clemens, near Port Huron, from being run over by an approaching train,
and the grateful father, Mr. J. A. Mackenzie, learning of his interest
in the telegraph, offered to teach him the art of sending and receiving
messages. After his daily service was over, Edison returned to Mount
Clemens on a luggage train and received his lesson.

At the end of five months, while only sixteen years of age, he forsook
the trains, and accepted an offer of twenty-five dollars a month, with
extra pay for overtime, as operator in the telegraph office at Port
Huron, a small installation in a jewelry store. He worked hard to
acquire more skill; and after six months, finding his extra pay
withheld, he obtained an engagement as night operator at Stratford, in
Canada. To keep him awake the operator was required to report the word
'six,' an office call, every half-hour to the manager of the circuit.
Edison fulfilled the regulation by inventing a simple device which
transmitted the required signals. It consisted of a wheel with the
characters cut on the rim, and connected with the circuit in such a
way that the night watchman, by turning the wheel, could transmit the
signals while Edison slept or studied.

His employment at Stratford came to a grievous end. One night he
received a service message ordering a certain train to stop, and before
showing it to the conductor he, perhaps for greater certainty, repeated
it back again. When he rushed out of the office to deliver it the train
was gone, and a collision seemed inevitable; but, fortunately, the
opposing trains met on a straight portion of the track, and the accident
was avoided. The superintendent of the railway threatened to prosecute
Edison, who was thoroughly frightened, and returned home without his

During this vacation at Port Huron his ingenuity showed itself in a more
creditable guise. An 'ice-jam' occurred on the St. Clair, and broke the
telegraph cable between Port Huron and Sarnia, on the opposite
shore. Communication was therefore interrupted until Edison mounted a
locomotive and sounded the whistle in short and long calls according to
the well-known 'Morse,' or telegraphic code. After a time the reporter
at Sarnia caught the idea, and messages were exchanged by the new

His next situation was at Adrian, in Michigan, where he fitted up a
small shop, and employed his spare time in repairing telegraph apparatus
and making crude experiments. One day he violated the rules of the
office by monopolising the use of the line on the strength of having a
message from the superintendent, and was discharged.

He was next engaged at Fort Wayne, and behaved so well that he was
promoted to a station at Indianapolis. While there he invented an
'automatic repeater,' by which a message is received on one line and
simultaneously transmitted on another without the assistance of an
operator. Like other young operators, he was ambitious to send or
receive the night reports for the press, which demand the highest speed
and accuracy of sending. But although he tried to overcome his faults by
the device of employing an auxiliary receiver working at a slower rate
than the direct one, he was found incompetent, and transferred to a day
wire at Cincinnati. Determined to excel, however, he took shift for
the night men as often as he could, and after several months, when
a delegation of Cleveland operators came to organise a branch of the
Telegraphers' Union, and the night men were out on 'strike,' he received
the press reports as well as he was able, working all the night. For
this feat his salary was raised next day from sixty-five to one hundred
and five dollars, and he was appointed to the Louisville circuit, one
of the most desirable in the office. The clerk at Louisville was Bob
Martin, one of the most expert telegraphists in America, and Edison soon
became a first-class operator.

In 1864, tempted by a better salary, he removed to Memphis, where
he found an opportunity of introducing his automatic repeater,
thus enabling Louisville to communicate with New Orleans without an
intermediary clerk. For this innovation he was complimented; but nothing
more. He embraced the subject of duplex telegraphy, or the simultaneous
transmission of two messages on the same wire, one from each end; but
his efforts met with no encouragement. Men of routine are apt to look
with disfavour on men of originality; they do not wish to be disturbed
from the official groove; and if they are not jealous of improvement,
they have often a narrow-minded contempt or suspicion of the servant who
is given to invention, thinking him an oddity who is wasting time which
might be better employed in the usual way. A telegraph operator, in
their eyes, has no business to invent. His place is to sit at his
instrument and send or receive the messages as fast as he can, without
troubling his mind with inventions or anything else. When his shift is
over he can amuse himself as he likes, provided he is always fit for
work. Genius is not wanted.

The clerks themselves, reckless of a culture which is not required, and
having a good string to their bow in the matter of livelihood, namely,
the mechanical art of signalling, are prone to lead a careless, gay, and
superficial life, roving from town to town throughout: the length and
breadth of the States. But for his genius and aspirations, Edison
might have yielded to the seductions of this happy-go-lucky, free, and
frivolous existence. Dissolute comrades at Memphis won upon his good
nature; but though he lent them money, he remained abstemious, working
hard, and spending his leisure upon books and experiments. To them he
appeared an extraordinary fellow; and so far from sympathising with his
inventions, they dubbed him 'Luny,' and regarded him as daft.

What with the money he had lent, or spent on books or apparatus, when
the Memphis lines were transferred from the Government to a private
company and Edison was discharged, he found himself without a dollar.
Transported to Decatur, he walked to Nashville, where he found another
operator, William Foley, in the like straits, and they went in company
to Louisville. Foley's reputation as an operator was none of the best;
but on his recommendation Edison obtained a situation, and supported
Foley until he too got employment.

The squalid office was infested with rats, and its discipline was lax,
in all save speed and quality of work, and some of his companions were
of a dissipated stamp. To add to his discomforts, the line he worked was
old and defective; but he improved the signals by adjusting three sets
of instruments, and utilising them for three different states of
the line. During nearly two years of drudgery under these depressing
circumstances, Edison's prospects of becoming an inventor seemed further
off than ever. Perhaps he began to fear that stern necessity would
grind him down, and keep him struggling for a livelihood. None of his
improvements had brought him any advantage. His efforts to invent had
been ridiculed and discountenanced. Nobody had recognised his talent,
at least as a thing of value and worthy of encouragement, let alone
support. All his promotion had come from trying to excel in his routine
work. Perhaps he lost faith in himself, or it may be that the glowing
accounts he received of South America induced him to seek his fortune
there. At all events he caught the 'craze' for emigration that swept
the Southern States on the conclusion of the Civil War, and resolved to
emigrate with two companions, Keen and Warren.

But on their arriving at New Orleans the vessel had sailed. In this
predicament Edison fell in with a travelled Spaniard, who depicted the
inferiority of other countries, and especially of South America, in
such vivid colours, that he changed his intention and returned home
to Michigan. After a pleasant holiday with his friends he resumed his
occupation in the Louisville office.

Contact with home seems to have charged him with fresh courage. He wrote
a work on electricity, which for lack of means was never published, and
improved his penmanship until he could write a fair round backhand at
the rate of forty-five words a minute--that is to say, the utmost that
an operator can send by the Morse code. The style was chosen for its
clearness, each letter being distinctly formed, with little or no

His comrades were no better than before. On returning from his work in
the small hours, Edison would sometimes find two or three of them asleep
in his bed with their boots on, and have to shift them to the floor in
order that he might 'turn in.'

A new office was opened, but strict orders were issued that nobody was
to interfere with the instruments and their connections. He could
not resist the infringement of this rule, however, and continued his

In drawing some vitriol one night, he upset the carboy, and the acid
eating its way through the floor, played havoc with the furniture of a
luxurious bank in the flat below. He was discharged for this, but soon
obtained another engagement as a press operator in Cincinnati. He spent
his leisure in the Mechanics' Library, studying works on electricity and
general science. He also developed his ideas on the duplex system;
and if they were not carried out, they at least directed him to the
quadruplex system with which his name was afterwards associated.

These attempts to improve his time seem to have made him unpopular, for
after a short term in Cincinnati, he returned to Port Huron. A friend,
Mr. F. Adams, operator in the Boston office of the Western Union
Telegraph Company, recommended Edison to his manager, Mr. G. F.
Milliken, as a good man to work the New York wire, and the berth was
offered to Edison by telegraph. He accepted, and left at once for Boston
by the Grand Trunk Railway, but the train was snowed up for two days
near the bluffs of the St. Lawrence. The consequence might have been
serious had provisions not been found by a party of foragers.

Mr. Milliken was the first of Edison's masters, and perhaps his fellows,
who appreciated him. Mediocrity had only seen the gawky stripling, with
his moonstruck air, and pestilent habit of trying some new crotchet.
Himself an inventor, Milliken recognised in his deep-set eye and musing
brow the fire of a suppressed genius. He was then just twenty-one. The
friendship of Mr. Milliken, and the opportunity for experiment, rendered
the Boston office a congenial one.

His by-hours were spent in a little workshop he had opened. Among his
inventions at this period were a dial telegraph, and a 'printer' for
use on private lines, and an electro-chemical vote recorder, which the
Legislature of Massachusetts declined to adopt. With the assistance of
Mr. F. L. Pope, patent adviser to the Western Union Telegraph Company,
his duplex system was tried, with encouraging results.

The ready ingenuity of Edison is shown by his device for killing the
cockroaches which overran the Boston office. He arranged some strips of
tinfoil on the wall, and connected these to the poles of a battery
in such a way that when the insects ran towards the bait which he had
provided, they stepped from one foil to the other, and completed the
circuit of the current, thus receiving a smart shock, which dislodged
them into a pail of water, standing below.

In 1870, after two years in Boston, where he had spent all his earnings,
chiefly on his books and workshop, he found himself in New York,
tramping the streets on the outlook for a job, and all but destitute.
After repeated failures he chanced to enter the office of the Laws Gold
Reporting Telegraph Company while the instrument which Mr. Laws had
invented to report the fluctuations of the money market had broken down.
No one could set it right; there was a fever in the market, and Mr.
Laws, we are told, was in despair. Edison volunteered to set it right,
and though his appearance was unpromising, he was allowed to try.

The insight of the born mechanic, the sleight of hand which marks the
true experimenter, have in them something magical to the ignorant. In
Edison's hands the instrument seemed to rectify itself. This was his
golden opportunity. He was engaged by the company, and henceforth his
career as an inventor was secure. The Gold Indicator Company afterwards
gave him a responsible position. He improved their indicator, and
invented the Gold and Stock Quotation Printer, an apparatus for a
similar purpose. He entered into partnership with Mr. Pope and Mr.
Ashley, and introduced the Pope and Edison Printer. A private line which
he established was taken over by the Gold and Stock Telegraph Company,
and soon their system was worked almost exclusively with Edison's

He was retained in their service, and that of the Western Union
Telegraph Company, as a salaried inventor, they having the option of
buying all his telegraphic inventions at a price to be agreed upon.

At their expense a large electrical factory was established under his
direction at Newark, New Jersey, where he was free to work out his
ideas and manufacture his apparatus. Now that he was emancipated from
drudgery, and fairly started on the walk which Nature had intended for
him, he rejoiced in the prolific freedom of his mind, which literally
teemed with projects. His brain was no longer a prey to itself from
the 'local action,' or waste energy of restrained ideas and revolving
thoughts. [The term 'local action' is applied by electricians to the
waste which goes on in a voltaic battery, although its current is not
flowing in the outer circuit and doing useful work.] If anything, he
attempted too much. Patents were taken out by the score, and at one time
there were no less than forty-five distinct inventions in progress. The
Commissioner of Patents described him as 'the young man who kept the
path to the Patent Office hot with his footsteps.'

His capacity for labouring without rest is very remarkable. On one
occasion, after improving his Gold and Stock Quotation Printer, an order
for the new instruments, to the extent of 30,000 dollars, arrived at the
factory. The model had acted well, but the first instruments made after
it proved a failure. Edison thereupon retired to the upper floor of the
factory with some of his best workmen, and intimated that they must
all remain there until the defect was put right. After sixty hours of
continuous toil, the fault was remedied, and Edison went to bed, where
he slept for thirty-six hours.

Mr. Johnson, one of his assistants, informs us that for ten years he
worked on an average eighteen hours a day, and that he has been known
to continue an experiment for three months day and night, with the
exception of a nap from six o'clock to nine of the morning. In the
throes of invention, and under the inspiration of his ideas, he is apt
to make no distinction between day and night, until he arrives at a
result which he considers to be satisfactory one way or the other. His
meals are brought to him in the laboratory, and hastily eaten, although
his dwelling is quite near. Long watchfulness and labour seem to
heighten the activity of his mind, which under its 'second wind,' so
to speak, becomes preternaturally keen and suggestive. He likes best
to work at night in the silence and solitude of his laboratory when the
noise of the benches or the rumble of the engines is stilled, and all
the world about him is asleep.

Fortunately, he can work without stimulants, and, when the strain is
over, rest without narcotics; otherwise his exhausted constitution,
sound as it is, would probably break down. Still, he appears to be
ageing before his time, and some of his assistants, not so well endowed
with vitality, have, we believe, overtaxed their strength in trying to
keep up with him.

At this period he devised his electric pen, an ingenious device for
making copies of a document. It consists essentially of a needle,
rapidly jogged up and down by means of an electro-magnet actuated by
an intermittent current of electricity. The writing is traced with the
needle, which perforates another sheet of paper underneath, thus forming
a stencil-plate, which when placed on a clean paper, and evenly inked
with a rolling brush, reproduces the original writing.

In 1873 Edison was married to Miss Mary Stillwell, of Newark, one of his
employees. His eldest child, Mary Estelle, was playfully surnamed 'Dot,'
and his second, Thomas Alva, jun., 'Dash,' after the signals of the
Morse code. Mrs. Edison died several years ago.

While seeking to improve the method of duplex working introduced by
Mr. Steams, Edison invented the quadruplex, by which four messages are
simultaneously sent through one wire, two from each end. Brought out
in association with Mr. Prescott, it was adopted by the Western Union
Telegraph Company, and, later, by the British Post Office. The President
of the Western Union reported that it had saved the Company 500,000
dollars a year in the construction of new lines. Edison also improved
the Bain chemical telegraph, until it attained an incredible speed. Bain
had left it capable of recording 200 words a minute; but Edison, by dint
of searching a pile of books ordered from New York, Paris, and London,
making copious notes, and trying innumerable experiments, while eating
at his desk and sleeping in his chair, ultimately prepared a solution
which enabled it to register over 1000 words a minute. It was exhibited
at the Philadelphia Centenial Exhibition in 1876, where it astonished
Sir William Thomson.

In 1876, Edison sold his factory at Newark, and retired to Menlo Park, a
sequestered spot near Metuchin, on the Pennsylvania Railroad, and about
twenty-four miles from New York. Here on some rising ground he built a
wooden tenement, two stories high, and furnished it as a workshop and
laboratory. His own residence and the cottages of his servants completed
the little colony.

The basement of the main building was occupied by his office, a choice
library, a cabinet replete with instruments of precision, and a large
airy workshop, provided with lathes and steam power, where his workmen
shaped his ideas into wood and metal.

The books lying about, the designs and placards on the walls, the
draught-board on the table, gave it the appearance of a mechanics'
club-room. The free and lightsome behaviour of the men, the humming at
the benches, recalled some school of handicraft. There were no rigid
hours, no grinding toil under the jealous eye of the overseer. The
spirit of competition and commercial rivalry was absent. It was not
a question of wringing as much work as possible out of the men in the
shortest time and at the lowest price. Moreover, they were not mere
mechanical drudges--they were interested in their jobs, which demanded
thought as well as skill.

Upstairs was the laboratory proper--a long room containing an array of
chemicals; for Edison likes to have a sample of every kind, in case it
might suddenly be requisite. On the tables and in the cupboards were
lying all manner of telegraphic apparatus, lenses, crucibles, and pieces
of his own inventions. A perfect tangle of telegraph wires coming
from all parts of the Union were focussed at one end of the room. An
ash-covered forge, a cabinet organ, a rusty stove with an old pivot
chair, a bench well stained with oils and acids, completed the equipment
of this curious den, into which the sunlight filtered through the
chemical jars and fell in coloured patches along the dusty floor.

The moving spirit of this haunt by day and night is well described as an
overgrown school-boy. He is a man of a slim, but wiry figure, about
five feet ten inches in height. His face at this period was juvenile and
beardless. The nose and chin were shapely and prominent, the mouth firm,
the forehead wide and full above, but not very high. It was shaded
by dark chestnut hair, just silvered with grey. His most remarkable
features were his eyes, which are blue-grey and deeply set, with an
intense and piercing expression. When his attention was not aroused, he
seemed to retire into himself, as though his mind had drifted far away,
and came back slowly to the present. He was pale with nightwork, and his
thoughtful eyes had an old look in serious moments. But his smile was
boyish and pleasant, and his manner a trifle shy.

There was nothing of the dandy about Edison, He boasted no jewelled
fingers or superfine raiment. An easy coat soiled with chemicals, a
battered wide-awake, and boots guiltless of polish, were good enough
for this inspired workman. An old silver watch, sophisticated with
magnetism, and keeping an eccentric time peculiar to it, was his only
ornament. On social occasions, of course, he adopted a more
conventional costume. Visitors to the laboratory often found him in his
shirt-sleeves, with dishevelled hair and grimy hands.

The writer of 'A Night with Edison' has described him as bending like
a wizard over the smoky fumes of some lurid lamps arranged on a brick
furnace, as if he were summoning the powers of darkness.

'It is much after midnight now,' says this author. 'The machinery below
has ceased to rumble, and the tired hands have gone to their homes.
A hasty lunch has been sent up. We are at the thermoscope. Suddenly a
telegraph instrument begins to click. The inventor strikes a grotesque
attitude, a herring in one hand and a biscuit in the other, and with
a voice a little muffled with a mouthful of both, translates aloud,
slowly, the sound intelligible to him alone: "London.--News of death
of Lord John Russell premature." "John Blanchard, whose failure was
announced yesterday, has suicided (no, that was a bad one) SUCCEEDED! in
adjusting his affairs, and will continue in business."'

His tastes are simple and his habits are plain. On one occasion, when
invited to a dinner at Delmonico's restaurant, he contented himself
with a slice of pie and a cup of tea. Another time he is said to have
declined a public dinner with the remark that 100,000 dollars would
not tempt him to sit through two hours of 'personal glorification.' He
dislikes notoriety, thinking that a man is to be 'measured by what he
does, not by what is said about him.' But he likes to talk about his
inventions and show them to visitors at Menlo Park. In disposition he
is sociable, affectionate, and generous, giving himself no airs, and
treating all alike. His humour is native, and peculiar to himself, so
there is some excuse for the newspaper reporters who take his jokes
about the capabilities of Nature AU SERIEUX; and publish them for

His assistants are selected for their skill and physical endurance. The
chief at Menlo Park was Mr. Charles Batchelor, a Scotchman, who had
a certain interest in the inventions, but the others, including
mathematicians, chemists, electricians, secretary, bookkeeper, and
mechanics, were paid a salary. They were devoted to Edison, who, though
he worked them hard at times, was an indulgent master, and sometimes
joined them in a general holiday. All of them spoke in the highest terms
of the inventor and the man.

The Menlo establishment was unique in the world. It was founded for the
sole purpose of applying the properties of matter to the production
of new inventions. For love of science or the hope of gain, men had
experimented before, and worked out their inventions in the laboratories
of colleges and manufactories. But Edison seems to have been the first
to organise a staff of trained assistants to hunt up useful facts in
books, old and modern, and discover fresh ones by experiment, in order
to develop his ideas or suggest new ones, together with skilled workmen
to embody them in the fittest manner; and all with the avowed object of
taking out patents, and introducing the novel apparatus as a commercial
speculation. He did not manufacture his machines for sale; he simply
created the models, and left their multiplication to other people. There
are different ways of looking at Nature:

       'To some she is the goddess great;
       To some the milch-cow of the field;
       Their business is to calculate
       The butter she will yield.'

The institution has proved a remarkable success. From it has emanated
a series of marvellous inventions which have carried the name of Edison
throughout the whole civilised world. Expense was disregarded in making
the laboratory as efficient as possible; the very best equipment was
provided, the ablest assistants employed, and the profit has been
immense. Edison is a millionaire; the royalties from his patents alone
are said to equal the salary of a Prime Minister.

Although Edison was the master spirit of the band, it must not be
forgotten that his assistants were sometimes co-inventors with himself.
No doubt he often supplied the germinal ideas, while his assistants only
carried them out. But occasionally the suggestion was nothing more than
this: 'I want something that will do so-and-so. I believe it will be
a good thing, and can be done.' The assistant was on his mettle,
and either failed or triumphed. The results of the experiments and
researches were all chronicled in a book, for the new facts, if not then
required, might become serviceable at a future time. If a rare material
was wanted, it was procured at any cost.

With such facilities, an invention is rapidly matured. Sometimes the
idea was conceived in the morning, and a working model was constructed
by the evening. One day, we are told, a discovery was made at 4 P.M.,
and Edison telegraphed it to his patent agent, who immediately drew up
the specification, and at nine o'clock next morning cabled it to London.
Before the inventor was out of bed, he received an intimation that
his patent had been already deposited in the British Patent Office. Of
course, the difference of time was in his favour.

When Edison arrived at the laboratory in the morning, he read his
letters, and then overlooked his employees, witnessing their results and
offering his suggestions; but it often happened that he became totally
engrossed with one experiment or invention. His work was frequently
interrupted by curious visitors, who wished to see the laboratory and
the man. Although he had chosen that out-of-the-way place to avoid
disturbance, they were never denied: and he often took a pleasure in
showing his models, or explaining the work on which he was engaged.
There was no affectation of mystery, no attempt at keeping his
experiments a secret. Even the laboratory notes were open to inspection.
Menlo Park became a kind of Mecca to the scientific pilgrim; the
newspapers and magazines despatched reporters to the scene; excursion
parties came by rail, and country farmers in their buggies; till at last
an enterprising Yankee even opened a refreshment room.

The first of Edison's greater inventions in Menlo Park was the
'loud-speaking telephone.' Professor Graham Bell had introduced his
magneto-electric telephone, but its effect was feeble. It is, we
believe, a maxim in biology that a similarity between the extremities
of a creature is an infallible sign of its inferiority, and that in
proportion as it rises in the scale of being, its head is found to
differ from its tail. Now, in the Bell apparatus, the transmitter and
the receiver were alike, and hence Clerk Maxwell hinted that it would
never be good for much until they became differentiated from each other.
Consciously or unconsciously Edison accomplished the feat. With the
hardihood of genius, he attempted to devise a telephone which would
speak out loud enough to be heard in any corner of a large hall.

In the telephone of Bell, the voice of the speaker is the motive power
which generates the current in the line. The vibrations of the sound may
be said to transform themselves into electrical undulations. Hence the
current is very weak, and the reproduction of the voice is relatively
faint. Edison adopted the principle of making the vibrations of the
voice control the intensity of a current which was independently
supplied to the line by a voltaic battery. The plan of Bell, in short,
may be compared to a man who employs his strength to pump a quantity
of water into a pipe, and that of Edison to one who uses his to open a
sluice, through which a stream of water flows from a capacious dam into
the pipe. Edison was acquainted with two experimental facts on which to
base the invention.

In 1873, or thereabout, he claimed to have observed, while constructing
rheostats, or electrical resistances for making an artificial telegraph
line, that powdered plumbago and carbon has the property of varying in
its resistance to the passage of the current when under pressure. The
variation seemed in a manner proportional to the pressure. As a matter
of fact, powdered carbon and plumbago had been used in making small
adjustable rheostats by M. Clerac, in France, and probably also in
Germany, as early as 1865 or 1866. Clerac's device consisted of a small
wooden tube containing the material, and fitted with contacts for the
current, which appear to have adjusted the pressure. Moreover, the
Count Du Moncel, as far back as 1856, had clearly discovered that when
powdered carbon was subjected to pressure, its electrical resistance
altered, and had made a number of experiments on the phenomenon. Edison
may have independently observed the fact, but it is certain he was not
the first, and his claim to priority has fallen to the ground.

Still he deserves the full credit of utilising it in ways which were
highly ingenious and bold. The 'pressure-relay,' produced in 1877, was
the first relay in which the strength of the local current working
the local telegraph instrument was caused to vary in proportion to
the variation; of the current in the main line. It consisted of an
electro-magnet with double poles and an armature which pressed upon a
disc or discs of plumbago, through which the local current Passed. The
electro-magnet was excited by the main line current and the armature
attracted to its poles at every signal, thus pressing on the plumbago,
and by reducing its resistance varying the current in the local circuit.
According as the main line current was strong or weak, the pressure
on the plumbago was more or less, and the current in the local circuit
strong or weak. Hence the signals of the local receiver were in
accordance with the currents in the main line.

Edison found that the same property might be applied to regulate the
strength of a current in conformity with the vibrations of the
voice, and after a great number of experiments produced his 'carbon
transmitter.' Plumbago in powder, in sticks, or rubbed on fibres and
sheets of silk, were tried as the sensitive material, but finally
abandoned in favour of a small cake or wafer of compressed lamp-black,
obtained from the smoke of burning oil, such as benzolene or rigolene.
This was the celebrated 'carbon button,' which on being placed between
two platinum discs by way of contact, and traversed by the electric
current, was found to vary in resistance under the pressure of the sound
waves. The voice was concentrated upon it by means of a mouthpiece and a

The property on which the receiver was based had been observed and
applied by him some time before. When a current is passed from a
metal contact through certain chemical salts, a lubricating effect was
noticeable. Thus if a metal stylus were rubbed or drawn over a prepared
surface, the point of the stylus was found to slip or 'skid' every time
a current passed between them, as though it had been oiled. If your pen
were the stylus, and the paper on which you write the surface, each
wave of electricity passing from the nib to the paper would make the
pen start, and jerk your fingers with it. He applied the property to the
recording of telegraph signals without the help of an electro-magnet,
by causing the currents to alter the friction between the two rubbing
surfaces, and so actuate a marker, which registered the message as in
the Morse system.

This instrument was called the 'electromotograph,' and it occurred to
Edison that in a similar way the undulatory currents from his carbon
transmitter might, by varying the friction between a metal stylus and
the prepared surface, put a tympanum in vibration, and reproduce the
original sounds. Wonderful as it may appear, he succeeded in doing so
by the aid of a piece of chalk, a brass pin, and a thin sheet or disc
of mica. He attached the pin or stylus to the centre of the mica, and
brought its point to bear on a cylindrical surface of prepared chalk.
The undulatory current from the line was passed through the stylus and
the chalk, while the latter was moved by turning a handle; and at every
pulse of the electricity the friction between the pin and chalk was
diminished, so that the stylus slipped upon its surface. The consequence
was a vibration of the mica diaphragm to which the stylus was attached.
Thus the undulatory current was able to establish vibrations of the
disc, which communicated themselves to the air and reproduced the
original sounds. The replica was loud enough to be heard by a large
audience, and by reducing the strength of the current it could be
lowered to a feeble murmur. The combined transmitter and receiver took
the form of a small case with a mouthpiece to speak into, an car-piece
on a hinged bracket for listening to it, press-keys for manipulating the
call-bell and battery, and a small handle by which to revolve the
little chalk cylinder. This last feature was a practical drawback to the
system, which was patented in 1877.

The Edison telephone, when at its best, could transmit all kinds of
noises, gentle or harsh; it could lift up its voice and cry aloud, or
sink it to a confidential whisper. There was a slight Punchinellian
twang about its utterances, which, if it did not altogether disguise the
individuality of the distant speaker, gave it the comicality of a clever
parody, and to hear it singing a song, and quavering jauntily on the
high notes, was irresistibly funny. Instrumental notes were given in all
their purity, and, after the phonograph, there was nothing more magical
in the whole range of science than to hear that fragment of common chalk
distilling to the air the liquid melody of sweet bells jingling in tune.
It brought to mind that wonderful stone of Memnon, which responded
to the rays of sunrise. It seemed to the listener that if the age of
miracles was past that of marvels had arrived, and considering the
simplicity of the materials, and the obscurity of its action, the
loud-speaking telephone was one of the most astonishing of recent

After Professor Hughes had published his discovery of the microphone,
Edison, recognising, perhaps, that it and the carbon transmitter were
based on the same principle, and having learnt his knowledge of the
world in the hard school of adversity, hastily claimed the microphone as
a variety of his invention, but imprudently charged Professor Hughes and
his friend, Mr. W. H. Preece, who had visited Edison at Menlo Park, with
having 'stolen his thunder.' The imputation was indignantly denied, and
it was obvious to all impartial electricians that Professor Hughes
had arrived at his results by a path quite independent of the carbon
transmitter, and discovered a great deal more than Edison had done. For
one thing, Edison believed the action of his transmitter as due to a
property of certain poor or 'semi-conductors,' whereby their electric
resistance varied under pressure. Hughes taught us to understand that
it was owing to a property of loose electrical contact between any two

The soft and springy button of lamp-black became no longer necessary,
since it was not so much the resistance of the material which varied as
the resistance at the contacts of its parts and the platinum electrodes.
Two metals, or two pieces of hard carbon, or a piece of metal and a
piece of hard carbon, were found to regulate the current in accordance
with the vibrations of the voice. Edison therefore discarded the soft
and fragile button, replacing it by contacts of hard carbon and
metal, in short, by a form of microphone. The carbon, or microphone
transmitter, was found superior to the magneto-electric transmitter of
Bell; but the latter was preferable as a receiver to the louder but
less convenient chemical receiver of Edison, and the most successful
telephonic system of the day is a combination of the microphone, or new
carbon transmitter, with the Bell receiver.

The 'micro-tasimeter,' a delicate thermoscope, was constructed in 1878,
and is the outcome of Edison's experiments with the carbon button.
Knowing the latter to be extremely sensitive to minute changes of
pressure, for example, those of sonorous vibrations, he conceived the
idea of measuring radiant heat by causing it to elongate a thin bar
or strip of metal or vulcanite, bearing at one end on the button. To
indicate the effect, he included a galvanometer in the circuit of the
battery and the button. The apparatus consisted of a telephone button
placed between two discs of platinum and connected in circuit with the
battery and a sensitive galvanometer. The strip was supported so that
one end bore upon the button with a pressure which could be regulated by
an adjustable screw at the other. The strip expanded or contracted when
exposed to heat or cold, and thrust itself upon the button more or less,
thereby varying the electric current and deflecting the needle of
the galvanometer to one side or the other. The instrument was said to
indicate a change of temperature equivalent to one-millionth of a degree
Fahrenheit. It was tested by Edison on the sun's corona during the
eclipse observations of July 29, 1875, at Rawlings, in the territory of
Wyoming. The trial was not satisfactory, however, for the apparatus was
mounted on a hen-house, which trembled to the gale, and before he could
get it properly adjusted the eclipse was over.

It is reported that on another trial the light from the star Arcturus,
when focussed on the vulcanite, was capable of deflecting the needle
of the galvanometer. When gelatine is substituted for vulcanite, the
humidity of the atmosphere can also be measured in the same way.

Edison's crowning discovery at Menlo Park was the celebrated
'phonograph,' or talking machine. It was first announced by one of
his assistants in the pages of the SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN for 1878. The
startling news created a general feeling of astonishment, mingled with
incredulity or faith. People had indeed heard of the talking heads of
antiquity, and seen the articulating machines of De Kempelen and Faber,
with their artificial vocal organs and complicated levers, manipulated
by an operator. But the phonograph was automatic, and returned the
words which had been spoken into it by a purely mechanical mimicry. It
captured and imprisoned the sounds as the photograph retained the images
of light. The colours of Nature were lost in the photograph, but the
phonograph was said to preserve the qualities even of the human voice.
Yet this wonderful appliance had neither tongue nor teeth, larynx nor
pharynx. It appeared as simple as a coffee-mill. A vibrating diaphragm
to collect the sounds, and a stylus to impress them on a sheet of
tinfoil, were its essential parts. Looking on the record of the sound,
one could see only the scoring of the stylus on the yielding surface of
the metal, like the track of an Alpine traveller across the virgin snow.
These puzzling scratches were the foot-prints of the voice.

Speech is the most perfect utterance of man; but its powers are limited
both in time and space. The sounds of the voice are fleeting, and do not
carry far; hence the invention of letters to record them, and of signals
to extend their range. These twin lines of invention, continued through
the ages, have in our own day reached their consummation. The smoke
of the savage, the semaphore, and the telegraph have ended in the
telephone, by which the actual voice can speak to a distance; and now
at length the clay tablet of the Assyrian, the wax of the ancient
Greek, the papyrus of the Egyptian, and the modern printing-press have
culminated in the phonograph, by which the living words can be preserved
into the future. In the light of a new discovery, we are apt to wonder
why our fathers were so blind as not to see it. When a new invention
has been made, we ask ourselves, Why was it not thought of before? The
discovery seems obvious, and the invention simple, after we know them.
Now that speech itself can be sent a thousand miles away, or heard a
thousand years after, we discern in these achievements two goals toward
which we have been making, and at which we should arrive some day. We
marvel that we had no prescience of these, and that we did not attain
to them sooner. Why has it taken so many generations to reach a foregone
conclusion? Alas! they neither knew the conclusion nor the means of
attaining to it. Man works from ignorance towards greater knowledge with
very limited powers. His little circle of light is surrounded by a wall
of darkness, which he strives to penetrate and lighten, now groping
blindly on its verge, now advancing his taper light and peering forward;
yet unable to go far, and even afraid to venture, in case he should be

To the Infinite Intelligence which knows all that is hidden in that
darkness, and all that man will discover therein, how poor a thing
is the telephone or phonograph, how insignificant are all his 'great
discoveries'! This thought should imbue a man of science with humility
rather than with pride. Seen from another standpoint than his own, from
without the circle of his labours, not from within, in looking back, not
forward, even his most remarkable discovery is but the testimony of his
own littleness. The veil of darkness only serves to keep these little
powers at work. Men have sometimes a foreshadowing of what will come to
pass without distinctly seeing it. In mechanical affairs, the notion of
a telegraph is very old, and probably immemorial. Centuries ago the poet
and philosopher entertained the idea of two persons far apart being able
to correspond through the sympathetic property of the lodestone. The
string or lovers' telephone was known to the Chinese, and even the
electric telephone was thought about some years before it was invented.
Bourseul, Reis, and others preceded Graham Bell.

The phonograph was more of a surprise; but still it was no exception to
the rule. Naturally, men and women had desired to preserve the accents
as well as the lineaments of some beloved friend who had passed away.
The Chinese have a legend of a mother whose voice was so beautiful that
her children tried to store it in a bamboo cane, which was carefully
sealed up. Long after she was dead the cane was opened, and her voice
came out in all its sweetness, but was never heard again. A similar
idea (which reminds us of Munchausen's trumpet) is found in the NATURAL
MAGICK of John Baptista Porta, the celebrated Neapolitan philosopher,
and published at London in 1658. He proposes to confine the sound of
the voice in leaden pipes, such as are used for speaking through; and he
goes on to say that 'if any man, as the words are spoken, shall stop the
end of the pipe, and he that is at the other end shall do the like, the
voice may be intercepted in the middle, and be shut up as in a prison,
and when the mouth is opened, the voice will come forth as out of his
mouth that spake it.... I am now upon trial of it. If before my book
be printed the business take effect, I will set it down; if not, if
God please, I shall write of it elsewhere.' Porta also refers to the
speaking head of Albertus Magnus, whom, however, he discredits. He
likewise mentions a colossal trumpeter of brass, stated to have been
erected in some ancient cities, and describes a plan for making a kind
of megaphone, 'wherewith we may hear many miles.'

In the VOYAGE A LA LUNE of De Cyrano Bergerac, published at Paris in
1650, and subsequently translated into English, there is a long account
of a 'mechanical book' which spoke its contents to the listener. 'It was
a book, indeed,' says Cyrano, 'but a strange and wonderful book, which
had neither leaves nor letters,' and which instructed the Youth in their
walks, so that they knew more than the Greybeards of Cyrano's country,
and need never lack the company of all the great men living or dead to
entertain them with living voices. Sir David Brewster surmised that a
talking machine mould be invented before the end of the century. Mary
Somerville, in her CONNECTION OF THE PHYSICAL SCIENCES, wrote some
fifty years ago: 'It may be presumed that ultimately the utterances or
pronunciation of modern languages will be conveyed, not only to the eye,
but also to the ear of posterity. Had the ancients possessed the means
of transmitting such definite sounds, the civilised world must have
responded in sympathetic notes at the distance of many ages.' In the
MEMOIRES DU GEANT of M. Nadar, published in 1864, the author says:
'These last fifteen years I have amused myself in thinking there is
nothing to prevent a man one of these days from finding a way to give us
a daguerreotype of sound--the phonograph--something like a box in
which melodies will be fixed and kept, as images are fixed in the dark
chamber.' It is also on record that, before Edison had published his
discovery to the world, M. Charles Cros deposited a sealed packet at the
Academie des Sciences, Paris, giving an account of an invention similar
to the phonograph.

Ignorance of the true nature of sound had prevented the introduction of
such an instrument. But modern science, and in particular the invention
of the telephone with its vibrating plate, had paved the way for it. The
time was ripe, and Edison was the first to do it.

In spite of the unbridled fancies of the poets and the hints of
ingenious writers, the announcement that a means of hoarding speech had
been devised burst like a thunderclap upon the world.

[In seeing his mother's picture Byron wished that he might hear her
voice. Tennyson exclaims, 'Oh for the touch of a vanished hand, and the
sound of a voice that is still!' Shelley, in the WITCH OF ATLAS, wrote:

      'The deep recesses of her odorous dwelling
      Were stored with magic treasures--sounds of air,
      Which had the power all spirits of compelling,
      Folded in cells of crystal silence there;
      Such as we hear in youth, and think the feeling
      Will never die--yet ere we are aware,
      The feeling and the sound are fled and gone,
      And the regret they leave remains alone.'
      Again, in his SPIRIT OF SOLITUDE, we find:
      'The fire of those soft orbs has ceased to burn,
      And silence too enamoured of that voice
      Locks its mute music in her rugged cell,']

The phonograph lay under the very eyes of Science, and yet she did not
see it. The logograph had traced all the curves of speech with ink on
paper; and it only remained to impress them on a solid surface in such a
manner as to regulate the vibrations of an artificial tympanum or
drum. Yet no professor of acoustics thought of this, and it was left
to Edison, a telegraphic inventor, to show them what was lying at their

Mere knowledge, uncombined in the imagination, does not bear fruit in
new inventions. It is from the union of different facts that a new
idea springs. A scholar is apt to be content with the acquisition of
knowledge, which remains passive in his mind. An inventor seizes upon
fresh facts, and combines them with the old, which thereby become
nascent. Through accident or premeditation he is able by uniting
scattered thoughts to add a novel instrument to a domain of science with
which he has little acquaintance. Nay, the lessons of experience and the
scruples of intimate knowledge sometimes deter a master from attempting
what the tyro, with the audacity of genius and the hardihood of
ignorance, achieves. Theorists have been known to pronounce against a
promising invention which has afterwards been carried to success, and it
is not improbable that if Edison had been an authority in acoustics
he would never have invented the phonograph. It happened in this wise.
During the spring of 1877, he was trying a device for making a telegraph
message, received on one line, automatically repeat itself along another
line. This he did by embossing the Morse signals on the travelling paper
instead of merely inking them, and then causing the paper to pass under
the point of a stylus, which, by rising and falling in the indentations,
opened and closed a sending key included in the circuit of the second
line. In this way the received message transmitted itself further,
without the aid of a telegraphist. Edison was running the cylinder which
carried the embossed paper at a high speed one day, partly, as we are
told, for amusement, and partly to test the rate at which a clerk could
read a message. As the speed was raised, the paper gave out a humming
rhythmic sound in passing under the stylus. The separate signals of the
message could no longer be distinguished by the ear, and the instrument
seemed to be speaking in a language of its own, resembling 'human talk
heard indistinctly.' Immediately it flashed on the inventor that if
he could emboss the waves of speech upon the paper the words would be
returned to him. To conceive was to execute, and it was but the work
of an hour to provide a vibrating diaphragm or tympanum fitted with an
indenting stylus, and adapt it to the apparatus. Paraffined paper was
selected to receive the indentations, and substituted for the Morse
paper on the cylinder of the machine. On speaking to the tympanum, as
the cylinder was revolved, a record of the vibrations was indented on
the paper, and by re-passing this under the indenting point an imperfect
reproduction of the sounds was heard. Edison 'saw at once that the
problem of registering human speech, so that it could be repeated by
mechanical means as often as might he desired, was solved.' [T. A.

The experiment shows that it was partly by accident, and not by
reasoning on theoretical knowledge, that the phonograph was discovered.
The sound resembling 'human talk heard indistinctly' seems to have
suggested it to his mind. This was the germ which fell upon the soil
prepared for it. Edison's thoughts had been dwelling on the telephone;
he knew that a metal tympanum was capable of vibrating with all the
delicacies of speech, and it occurred to him that if these vibrations
could be impressed on a yielding material, as the Morse signals were
embossed upon the paper, the indentations would reproduce the speech,
just as the furrows of the paper reproduced the Morse signals. The
tympanum vibrating in the curves of speech was instantly united in
his imagination with the embossing stylus and the long and short
indentations on the Morse paper; the idea of the phonograph flashed upon
him. Many a one versed in acoustics would probably have been restrained
by the practical difficulty of impressing the vibrations on a yielding
material, and making them react upon the reproducing tympanum. But
Edison, with that daring mastery over matter which is a characteristic
of his mechanical genius, put it confidently to the test.

Soon after this experiment, a phonograph was constructed, in which a
sheet of tinfoil was wrapped round a revolving barrel having a spiral
groove cut in its surface to allow the point of the indenting stylus
to sink into the yielding foil as it was thrust up and down by the
vibrating tympanum. This apparatus--the first phonograph--was published
to the world in 1878, and created a universal sensation. [SCIENTIFIC
AMERICAN, March 30, 1878] It is now in the South Kensington Museum, to
which it was presented by the inventor.

The phonograph was first publicly exhibited in England at a meeting of
the Society of Telegraph Engineers, where its performances filled the
audience with astonishment and delight. A greeting from Edison to
his electrical brethren across the Atlantic had been impressed on the
tinfoil, and was spoken by the machine. Needless to say, the voice of
the inventor, however imperfectly reproduced, was hailed with great
enthusiasm, which those who witnessed will long remember. In this
machine, the barrel was fitted with a crank, and rotated by handle. A
heavy flywheel was attached to give it uniformity of motion. A sheet of
tinfoil formed the record, and the delivery could be heard by a roomful
of people. But articulation was sacrificed at the expense of loudness.
It was as though a parrot or a punchinello spoke, and sentences which
were unexpected could not be understood. Clearly, if the phonograph
were to become a practical instrument, it required to be much improved.
Nevertheless this apparatus sufficiently demonstrated the feasibility of
storing up and reproducing speech, music, and other sounds. Numbers of
them were made, and exhibited to admiring audiences, by license, and
never failed to elicit both amusement and applause. To show how striking
were its effects, and how surprising, even to scientific men, it may be
mentioned that a certain learned SAVANT, on hearing it at a SEANCE of
the Academie des Sciences, Paris, protested that it was a fraud, a piece
of trickery or ventriloquism, and would not be convinced.

After 1878 Edison became too much engaged with the development of the
electric light to give much attention to the phonograph, which, however,
was not entirely overlooked. His laboratory at Menlo Park, New Jersey,
where the original experiments were made, was turned into a factory for
making electric light machinery, and Edison removed to New York until
his new laboratory at Orange, New Jersey, was completed. Of late he has
occupied the latter premises, and improved the phonograph so far that it
is now a serviceable instrument. In one of his 1878 patents, the use
of wax to take the records in place of tinfoil is indicated, and it
is chiefly to the adoption of this material that the success of the
'perfected phonograph' is due. Wax is also employed in the 'graphophone'
of Mr. Tainter and Professor Bell, which is merely a phonograph under
another name. Numerous experiments have been made by Edison to find
the bees-wax which is best adapted to receive the record, and he has
recently discovered a new material or mixture which is stated to yield
better results than white wax.

The wax is moulded into the form of a tube or hollow cylinder, usually 4
1/4 inches long by 2 inches in diameter, and 1/8 inch thick. Such a size
is capable of taking a thousand words on its surface along a delicate
spiral trace; and by paring off one record after another can be used
fifteen times. There are a hundred or more lines of the trace in the
width of an inch, and they are hardly visible to the naked eye. Only
with a magnifying glass can the undulations caused by the vibrating
stylus be distinguished. This tube of wax is filed upon a metal barrel
like a sleeve, and the barrel, which forms part of a horizontal spindle,
is rotated by means of a silent electro-motor, controlled by a very
sensitive governor. A motion of translation is also given to the barrel
as it revolves, so that the marking stylus held over it describes
a spiral path upon its surface. In front of the wax two small metal
tympanums are supported, each carrying a fine needle point or stylus on
its under centre. One of these is the recording diaphragm, which prints
the sounds in the first place; the other is the reproducing diaphragm,
which emits the sounds recorded on the wax. They are used, one at a
time, as the machine is required, to take down or to render back a
phonographic message.

The recording tympanum, which is about the size of a crown-piece, is
fitted with a mouthpiece, and when it is desired to record a sentence
the spindle is started, and you speak into the mouthpiece. The tympanum
vibrates under your voice, and the stylus, partaking of its motion, digs
into the yielding surface of the wax which moves beneath, and leaves a
tiny furrow to mark its passage. This is the sonorous record which, on
being passed under the stylus of the reproducing tympanum, will cause
it to give out a faithful copy of the original speech. A flexible
india-rubber tube, branching into two ear-pieces, conveys the sound
emitted by the reproducing diaphragm to the ears. This trumpet is used
for privacy and loudness; but it may be replaced by a conical funnel
inserted by its small end over the diaphragm, which thereby utters its
message aloud. It is on this plan that Edison has now constructed a
phonograph which delivers its reproduction to a roomful of people.
Keys and pedals are provided with which to stop the apparatus either in
recording or receiving, and in the latter case to hark back and repeat a
word or sentence if required. This is a convenient arrangement in using
the phonograph for correspondence or dictation. Each instrument, as we
have seen, can be employed for receiving as well as recording; and as
all are made to one pattern, a phonogram coming from any one, in any art
of the world, can be reproduced in any other instrument. A little box
with double walls has been introduced for transmitting the phonograms by
post. A knife or cutter is attached to the instrument for the purpose of
paring off an old message, and preparing a fresh surface of the wax for
the reception of a new one. This can be done in advance while the new
record is being made, so that no time is lost in the operation. A small
voltaic battery, placed under the machine, serves to work the electric
motor, and has to be replenished from time to time. A process has
also been devised for making copies of the phonograms in metal by
electro-deposition, so as to produce permanent records. But even the wax
phonogram may be used over and over again, hundreds of times, without
diminishing the fidelity of the reproduction.

The entire phonograph is shown in our figure. [The figure is omitted
from this e-text] It consists of a box, B, containing the silent
electro-motor which drives the machine, and supporting the works for
printing and reproducing the sounds. Apart from the motive power, which
might, as in the graphophone, be supplied by foot, the apparatus is
purely mechanical, the parts acting with smoothness and precision. These
are, chiefly, the barrel or cylinder, C, on which the hollow wax is
placed; the spindle, S, which revolves the cylinder and wax; and the two
tympana, T, T', which receive the sounds and impress them on the
soft surface of the wax. A governor, G, regulates the movement of the
spindle; and there are other ingenious devices for starting and stopping
the apparatus. The tympanum T is that which is used for recording
the sounds, and M is a mouthpiece, which is fixed to it for speaking
purposes. The other tympanum, T', reproduces the sounds; and E E is a
branched ear-piece, conveying them to the two ears of the listener. The
separate wax tube, P, is a phonogram with the spiral trace of the sounds
already printed on its surface, and ready for posting.

The box below the table contains the voltaic battery which actuates the
electro-motor. A machine which aims at recording and reproducing actual
speech or music is, of course, capable of infinite refinement, and
Edison is still at work improving the instrument, but even now it is
substantially perfected.

Phonographs have arrived in London, and through the kindness of Mr.
Edison and his English representative, Colonel G. E. Gouraud, we have
had an opportunity of testing one. A number of phonograms, taken in
Edison's laboratory, were sent over with the instruments, and several of
them were caused to deliver in our hearing the sounds which were

      'sealed in crystal silence there.'

The first was a piece which had been played on the piano, quick time,
and the fidelity and loudness with which it was delivered by the hearing
tube was fairly astonishing, especially when one considered the frail
and hair-like trace upon the wax which had excited it. There seemed to
be something magical in the effect, which issued, as it were, from the
machine itself. Then followed a cornet solo, concert piece of cornet,
violin, and piano, and a very beautiful duet of cornet and piano. The
tones and cadences were admirably rendered, and the ear could also
faintly distinguish the noises of the laboratory. Speaking was
represented by a phonogram containing a dialogue between Mr. Edison
and Colonel Gouraud which had been imprinted some three weeks before in
America. With this we could hear the inventor addressing his old friend,
and telling him to correspond entirely with the phonograph. Colonel
Gouraud answers that he will be delighted to do so, and be spared the
trouble of writing; while Edison rejoins that he also will be glad to
escape the pains of reading the gallant colonel's letters. The sally is
greeted with a laugh, which is also faithfully rendered.

One day a workman in Edison's laboratory caught up a crying child and
held it over the phonograph. Here is the phonogram it made, and here
in England we can listen to its wailing, for the phonograph reproduces
every kind of sound, high or low, whistling, coughing, sneezing, or
groaning. It gives the accent, the expression, and the modulation, so
that one has to be careful how one speaks, and probably its use will
help us to improve our utterance.

By speaking into the phonograph and reproducing the words, we are
enabled for the first time to hear ourselves speak as others hear us;
for the vibrations of the head are understood to mask the voice a little
to our own ears. Moreover, by altering the speed of the barrel the voice
can be altered, music can be executed in slow or quick time, however it
is played, inaudible notes can be raised or lowered, as the case may
be, to audibility. The phonograph will register notes as low as ten
vibrations a second, whereas it is well known the lowest note audible to
the human ear is sixteen vibrations a second. The instrument is equally
capable of service and entertainment. It can be used as a stenograph, or
shorthand-writer. A business man, for instance, can dictate his letters
or instructions into it, and they can be copied out by his secretary.
Callers can leave a verbal message in the phonograph instead of a note.
An editor or journalist can dictate articles, which may be written out
or composed by the printer, word by word, as they are spoken by the
reproducer in his ears.

Correspondence can be carried on by phonograms, distant friends and
lovers being able thus to hear each other's accents as though they
were together, a result more conducive to harmony and good feeling than
letter-writing. In matters of business and diplomacy the phonogram will
teach its users to be brief, accurate, and honest in their speech; for
the phonograph is a mechanical memory more faithful than the living one.
Its evidence may even be taken in a court of law in place of documents,
and it is conceivable that some important action might be settled by
the voice of this DEUS EX MACHINA. Will it therefore add a new terror
to modern life? Shall a visitor have to be careful what he says in a
neighbour's house, in case his words are stored up in some concealed
phonograph, just as his appearance may be registered by a detective
camera? In ordinary life--no; for the phonograph has its limitations,
like every other machine, and it is not sufficiently sensitive to record
a conversation unless it is spoken close at hand. But there is here a
chance for the sensational novelist to hang a tale upon.

The 'interviewer' may make use of it to supply him with 'copy,' but this
remains to be seen. There are practical difficulties in the way which
need not be told over. Perhaps in railway trains, steamers, and other
unsteady vehicles, it will be-used for communications. The telephone may
yet be adapted to work in conjunction with it, so that a phonogram can
be telephoned, or a telephone message recorded in the phonograph. Such
a 'telephonograph' is, however, a thing of the future. Wills and other
private deeds may of course be executed by phonograph. Moreover, the
loud-speaking instrument which Edison is engaged upon will probably be
applied to advertising and communicating purposes. The hours of the
day, for example, can be called out by a clock, the starting of a train
announced, and the merits of a particular commodity descanted on.
All these uses are possible; but it is in a literary sense that the
phonograph is more interesting. Books can now be spoken by their
authors, or a good elocutionist, and published in phonograms, which
will appeal to the ear of the 'reader' instead of to his eye. 'On, four
cylinders 8 inches long, with a diameter of 5,' says Edison, 'I can put
the whole of NICHOLAS NICKLEBY.' To the invalid, especially, this use
would come as a boon; and if the instrument were a loud speaker, a
circle of listeners could be entertained. How interesting it would be
to have NICHOLAS NICKLEBY read to us in the voice of Dickens, or TAM O'
SHANTER in that of Burns! If the idea is developed, we may perhaps have
circulating libraries which issue phonograms, and there is already some
talk of a phonographic newspaper which will prattle politics and scandal
at the breakfast-table. Addresses, sermons, and political speeches
may be delivered by the phonograph; languages taught, and dialects
preserved; while the study of words cannot fail to benefit by its

Musicians will now be able to record their improvisations by a
phonograph placed near the instrument they are playing. There need
in fact be no more 'lost chords.' Lovers of music, like the inventor
himself, will be able to purchase songs and pieces, sung and played by
eminent performers, and reproduce them in their own homes. Music-sellers
will perhaps let them out, like books, and customers can choose their
piece in the shop by having it rehearsed to them.

In preserving for us the words of friends who have passed away, the
sound of voices which are stilled, the phonograph assumes its most
beautiful and sacred character. The Egyptians treasured in their homes
the mummies of their dead. We are able to cherish the very accents of
ours, and, as it were, defeat the course of time and break the silence
of the grave. The voices of illustrious persons, heroes and statesmen,
orators, actors, and singers, will go down to posterity and visit us in
our homes. A new pleasure will be added to life. How pleasant it would
be if we could listen to the cheery voice of Gordon, the playing of
Liszt, or the singing of Jenny Lind!

Doubtless the rendering of the phonograph will be still further improved
as time goes on; but even now it is remarkable; and the inventor must
be considered to have redeemed his promises with regard to it.
Notwithstanding his deafness, the development of the instrument has been
a labour of love to him; and those who knew his rare inventive skill
believed that he would some time achieve success. It is his favourite,
his most original, and novel work. For many triumphs of mind over matter
Edison has been called the 'Napoleon of Invention,' and the aptness
of the title is enhanced by his personal resemblance to the great
conqueror. But the phonograph is his victory of Austerlitz; and, like
the printing-press of Gutenberg, it will assuredly immortalise his name.

'The phonograph,' said Edison of his favourite, 'is my baby, and I
expect it to grow up a big fellow and support me in my old age.' Some
people are still in doubt whether it will prove more than a curious
plaything; but even now it seems to be coming into practical use in
America, if not in Europe.

After the publication of the phonograph, Edison, owing, it is stated,
to an erroneous description of the instrument by a reporter, received
letters from deaf people inquiring whether it would enable them to hear
well. This, coupled with the fact that he is deaf himself, turned his
thoughts to the invention of the 'megaphone,' a combination of one large
speaking and two ear-trumpets, intended for carrying on a conversation
beyond the ordinary range of the voice--in short, a mile or two. It is
said to render a whisper audible at a distance of 1000 yards; but its
very sensitiveness is a drawback, since it gathers up extraneous sounds.

To the same category belongs the 'aerophone,' which may be described
as a gigantic tympanum, vibrated by a piston working in a cylinder of
compressed air, which is regulated by the vibrations of the sound to be
magnified. It was designed to call out fog or other warnings in a loud
and penetrating tone, but it has not been successful.

The 'magnetic ore separator' is an application of magnetism to the
extraction of iron particles from powdered ores and unmagnetic matter.
The ground material is poured through a funnel or 'hopper,' and falls in
a shower between the poles of a powerful electro-magnet, which draws the
metal aside, thus removing it from the dress.

Among Edison's toys and minor inventions may be mentioned a 'voice
mill,' or wheel driven by the vibrations of the air set up in speaking.
It consists of a tympanum or drum, having a stylus attached as in the
phonograph. When the tympanum vibrates under the influence of the voice,
the stylus acts as a pawl and turns a ratchet-wheel. An ingenious smith
might apply it to the construction of a lock which would operate at the
command of 'Open, Sesame!' Another trifle perhaps worthy of note is his
ink, which rises on the paper and solidifies, so that a blind person can
read the writing by passing his fingers over the letters.

Edison's next important work was the adaptation of the electric light
for domestic illumination. At the beginning of the century the Cornish
philosopher, Humphrey Davy, had discovered that the electric current
produced a brilliant arch or 'arc' of light when passed between two
charcoal points drawn a little apart, and that it heated a fine rod of
charcoal or a metal wire to incandescence--that is to say, a glowing
condition. A great variety of arc lamps were afterwards introduced; and
Mr. Staite, on or about the year 1844-5, invented an incandescent lamp
in which the current passed through a slender stick of carbon, enclosed
in a vacuum bulb of glass. Faraday discovered that electricity could
be generated by the relative motion of a magnet and a coil of wire, and
hence the dynamo-electric generator, or 'dynamo,' was ere long invented
and improved.

In 1878 the boulevards of Paris were lit by the arc lamps of Jablochkoff
during the season of the Exhibition, and the display excited a
widespread interest in the new mode of illumination. It was too
brilliant for domestic use, however, and, as the lamps were connected
one after another in the same circuit like pearls upon a string, the
breakage of one would interrupt the current and extinguish them all
but for special precautions. In short, the electric light was not yet

Edison, in common with others, turned his attention to the subject, and
took up the neglected incandescent lamp. He improved it by reducing the
rod of carbon to a mere filament of charcoal, having a comparatively
high resistance and resembling a wire in its elasticity, without being
so liable to fuse under the intense heat of the current. This he moulded
into a loop, and mounted inside a pear-shaped bulb of glass. The bulb
was then exhausted of its air to prevent the oxidation of the carbon,
and the whole hermetically sealed. When a sufficient current was passed
through the filament, it glowed with a dazzling lustre. It was not too
bright or powerful for a room; it produced little heat, and absolutely
no fumes. Moreover, it could be connected not in but across the main
circuit of the current, and hence, if one should break, the others would
continue glowing. Edison, in short, had 'subdivided' the electric light.

In October, 1878, he telegraphed the news to London and Paris, where,
owing to his great reputation, it caused an immediate panic in the
gas market. As time passed, and the new illuminant was backward in
appearing, the shares recovered their old value. Edison was severely
blamed for causing the disturbance; but, nevertheless, his announcement
had been verified in all but the question of cost. The introduction of a
practical system of electric lighting employed his resources for several
years. Dynamos, types of lamps and conductors, electric meters, safety
fuses, and other appliances had to be invented. In 1882 he returned to
New York, to superintend the installation of his system in that city.

His researches on the dynamo caused him to devise what he calls an
'harmonic engine.' It consists of a tuning-fork, kept in vibration by
two small electro-magnets, excited with three or four battery cells. It
is capable of working a small pump, but is little more than a scientific
curiosity. With the object of transforming heat direct from the furnace
into electricity, he also devised a 'pyro-electric generator,' but it
never passed beyond the experimental stage.

The same may be said for his pyro-electric motor. His dynamo-electric
motors and system of electric railways are, however, a more promising
invention. His method of telegraphing to and from a railway train in
motion, by induction through the air to a telegraph wire running along
the line, is very ingenious, and has been tried with a fair amount of

At present he is working at the 'Kinetograph,' a combination of
the phonograph and the instantaneous photograph as exhibited in
the zoetrope, by which he expects to produce an animated picture or
simulacrum of a scene in real life or the drama, with its appropriate
words and sounds.

Edison now resides at Llewellyn Park, Orange, a picturesque suburb of
New York. His laboratory there is a glorified edition of Menlo Park, and
realises the inventor's dream. The main building is of brick, in three
stories; but there are several annexes. Each workshop and testing room
is devoted to a particular purpose. The machine shops and dynamo rooms
are equipped with the best engines and tools, the laboratories with
the finest instruments that money can procure. There are drawing,
photographic, and photometric chambers, physical, chemical, and
metallurgical laboratories. There is a fine lecture-hall, and a splendid
library and reading-room. He employs several hundred workmen and
assistants, all chosen for their intelligence and skill. In this retreat
Edison is surrounded with everything that his heart desires. In the
words of a reporter, the place is equally capable of turning out a
'chronometer or a Cunard steamer.' It is probably the finest laboratory
in the world.

In 1889, Edison, accompanied by his second wife, paid a holiday visit
to Europe and the Paris Exhibition. He was received everywhere with the
greatest enthusiasm, and the King of Italy created him a Grand Officer
of the Crown of Italy, with the title of Count. But the phonograph
speaks more for his genius than the voice of the multitude, the electric
light is a better illustration of his energy than the ribbon of an
order, and the finest monument to his pluck, sagacity, and perseverance
is the magnificent laboratory which has been built through his own
efforts at Llewellyn Park. [One of his characteristic sayings may be
quoted here: 'Genius is an exhaustless capacity for work in detail,
which, combined with grit and gumption and love of right, ensures to
every man success and happiness in this world and the next.']


There are some leading electricians who enjoy a reputation based partly
on their own efforts and partly on those of their paid assistants.
Edison, for example, has a large following, who not only work out his
ideas, but suggest, improve, and invent of themselves. The master in
such a case is able to avail himself of their abilities and magnify
his own genius, so to speak. He is not one mind, but the chief of many
minds, and absorbs into himself the glory and the work of a hundred
willing subjects.

Professor Hughes is not one of these. His fame is entirely self-earned.
All that he has accomplished, and he has done great things, has been the
labour of his own hand and brain. He is an artist in invention; working
out his own conceptions in silence and retirement, with the artist's
love and self-absorption. This is but saying that he is a true inventor;
for a mere manufacturer of inventions, who employs others to assist him
in the work, is not an inventor in the old and truest sense.

Genius, they say, makes its own tools, and the adage is strikingly
verified in the case of Professor Hughes, who actually discovered the
microphone in his own drawing-room, and constructed it of toy boxes and
sealing wax. He required neither lathe, laboratory, nor assistant to
give the world this remarkable and priceless instrument.

Having first become known to fame in America, Professor Hughes is
usually claimed by the Americans as a countryman, and through some
error, the very date and place of his birth there are often given in
American publications; but we have the best authority for the accuracy
of the following facts, namely that of the inventor himself.

David Edwin Hughes was born in London in 1831. His parents came from
Bala, at the foot of Snowdon, in North Wales, and in 1838, when David
was seven years old, his father, taking with him his family, emigrated
to the United States, and became a planter in Virginia. The elder Mr.
Hughes and his children seem to have inherited the Welsh musical gift,
for they were all accomplished musicians. While a mere child, David
could improvise tunes in a remarkable manner, and when he grew up this
talent attracted the notice of Herr Hast, an eminent German pianist in
America, who procured for him the professorship of music in the College
of Bardstown, Kentucky. Mr. Hughes entered upon his academical career at
Bardstown in 1850, when he was nineteen years of age. Although very
fond of music and endowered by Nature with exceptional powers for its
cultivation, Professor Hughes had, in addition, an inborn liking and
fitness for physical science and mechanical invention. This duality of
taste and genius may seem at first sight strange; but experience shows
that there are many men of science and inventors who are also votaries
of music and art. The source of this apparent anomaly is to be found in
the imagination, which is the fountain-head of all kinds of creation.

Professor Hughes now taught music by day for his livelihood, and studied
science at night for his recreation, thus reversing the usual order of
things. The college authorities, knowing his proficiency in the subject,
also offered him the Chair of Natural Philosophy, which became vacant;
and he united the two seemingly incongruous professorships of music and
physics in himself. He had long cherished the idea of inventing a new
telegraph, and especially one which should print the message in Roman
characters as it is received. So it happened that one evening while he
was under the excitement of a musical improvisation, a solution of the
problem flashed into his ken. His music and his science had met at this
nodal point.

All his spare time was thenceforth devoted to the development of his
design and the construction of a practical type-printer. As the work
grew on his hands, the pale young student, beardless but careworn,
became more and more engrossed with it, until his nights were almost
entirely given to experiment. He begrudged the time which had to be
spent in teaching his classes and the fatigue was telling upon his
health, so in 1853 he removed to Bowlingreen, in Warren Co., Kentucky,
where he acquired more freedom by taking pupils.

The main principle of his type-printer was the printing of each letter
by a single current; the Morse instrument, then the principal receiver
in America, required, on the other hand, an average of three currents
for each signal. In order to carry out this principle it was necessary
that the sending and receiving apparatus should keep in strict time
with each other, or be synchronous in action; and to effect this was the
prime difficulty which Professor Hughes had to overcome in his work. In
estimating the Hughes' type-printer as an invention we must not forget
the state of science at that early period. He had to devise his own
governors for the synchronous mechanism, and here his knowledge of
acoustics helped him. Centrifugal governors and pendulums would not do,
and he tried vibrators, such as piano-strings and tuning-forks. He at
last found what he wanted in two darning needles, borrowed from an old
lady in the house where he lived. These steel rods fixed at one end
vibrated with equal periods, and could be utilised in such a way that
the printing wheel could be corrected into absolute synchronism by each
signal current.

In 1854, Professor Hughes went to Louisville to superintend the making
of his first instrument; but it was unprotected by a patent in the
United States until 1855. In that form straight vibrators were used
as governors, and a separate train of wheel-work was employed in
correcting: but in later forms the spiral governor was adopted, and the
printing and correcting is now done by the same action. In 1855, the
invention may be said to have become fit for employment, and no sooner
was this the case, than Professor Hughes received a telegram from the
editors of the New York Associated Press, summoning him to that city.
The American Telegraph Company, then a leading one, was in possession
of the Morse instrument, and levied rates for transmission of news which
the editors found oppressive. They took up the Hughes' instrument in
opposition to the Morse, and introduced it on the lines of several
companies. After a time, however, the separate companies amalgamated
into one large corporation, the Western Union Telegraph Company of
to-day. With the Morse, Hughes, and other apparatus in its power, the
editors were again left in the lurch.

In 1857, Professor Hughes leaving his instrument in the hands of
the Western Union Telegraph Company, came to England to effect its
introduction here. He endeavoured to get the old Electric Telegraph
Company to adopt it, but after two years of indecision on their part,
he went over to France in 1860, where he met with a more encouraging
reception. The French Government Telegraph Administration became at
once interested in the new receiver, and a commission of eminent
electricians, consisting of Du Moncel, Blavier, Froment, Gaugain, and
other practical and theoretical specialists, was appointed to decide on
its merits. The first trial of the type-printer took place on the Paris
to Lyons circuit, and there is a little anecdote connected with it which
is worthy of being told. The instrument was started, and for a while
worked as well as could be desired; but suddenly it came to a stop, and
to the utter discomfiture of the inventor he could neither find out
what was wrong nor get the printer to go again. In the midst of his
confusion, it seemed like satire to him to hear the commissioners
say, as they smiled all round, and bowed themselves gracefully off,
matter was explained next morning, when Professor Hughes learned that
the transmitting clerk at Lyons had been purposely instructed to earth
the line at the time in question, to test whether there was no deception
in the trial, a proceeding which would have seemed strange, had not the
occurrence of a sham trial some months previous rendered it a prudent
course. The result of this trial was that the French Government agreed
to give the printer a year of practical work on the French lines, and
if found satisfactory, it was to be finally adopted. Daily reports were
furnished of its behaviour during that time, and at the expiration
of the term it was adopted, and Professor Hughes was constituted by
Napoleon III. a Chevalier of the Legion of Honour.

The patronage of France paved the way of the type-printer into almost
all other European countries; and the French agreement as to its use
became the model of those made by the other nations. On settling with
France in 1862, Professor Hughes went to Italy. Here a commission was
likewise appointed, and a period of probation--only six months--was
settled, before the instrument was taken over. From Italy, Professor
Hughes received the Order of St. Maurice and St. Lazare. In 1863, the
United Kingdom Telegraph Co., England, introduced the type-printer in
their system. In 1865, Professor Hughes proceeded to Russia, and in that
country his invention was adopted after six months' trial on the St.
Petersburg to Moscow circuit. At St. Petersburg he had the honour of
being a guest of the Emperor in the summer palace, Czarskoizelo, the
Versailles of Russia, where he was requested to explain his invention,
and also to give a lecture on electricity to the Czar and his court. He
was there created a Commander of the Order of St. Anne.

In 1865, Professor Hughes also went to Berlin, and introduced his
apparatus on the Prussian lines. In 1867, he went on a similar mission
to Austria, where he received the Order of the Iron Crown; and to
Turkey, where the reigning Sultan bestowed on him the Grand Cross of the
Medjidie. In this year, too he was awarded at the Paris Exhibition, a
grand HORS LIGNE gold medal, one out of ten supreme honours designed
to mark the very highest achievements. On the same occasion another of
these special medals was bestowed on Cyrus Field and the Anglo-American
Telegraph Company. In 1868, he introduced it into Holland; and in 1869,
into Bavaria and Wurtemburg, where he obtained the Noble Order of St.
Michael. In 1870, he also installed it in Switzerland and Belgium.

Coming back to England, the Submarine Telegraph Company adopted the
type-printer in 1872, when they had only two instruments at work. In
1878 they had twenty of them in constant use, of which number nine were
working direct between London and Paris, one between London and Berlin,
one between London and Cologne, one between London and Antwerp, and one
between London and Brussels. All the continental news for the TIMES and
the DAILY TELEGRAPH is received by the Hughes' type-printer, and is
set in type by a type-setting machine as it arrives. Further, by
the International Telegraph Congress it was settled that for all
international telegrams only the Hughes' instrument and the Morse
were to be employed. Since the Post Office acquired the cables to the
Continent in 1889, a room in St. Martin's-le-Grand has been provided for
the printers working to Paris, Berlin, and Rome.

In 1875, Professor Hughes introduced the type-printer into Spain, where
he was made a Commander of the Royal and Distinguished Order of
Carlos III. In every country to which it was taken, the merits of the
instrument were recognised, and Professor Hughes has none but pleasant
souvenirs of his visits abroad.

During all these years the inventor was not idle. He was constantly
improving his invention; and in addition to that, he had to act as an
instructor where-ever he went, and give courses of lectures explaining
the principles and practice of his apparatus to the various employees
into whose hands it was to be consigned.

The years 1876-8 will be distinguished in the history of our time for a
triad of great inventions which, so to speak, were hanging together. We
have already seen how the telephone and phonograph have originated; and
to these two marvellous contrivances we have now to add a third, the
microphone, which is even more marvellous, because, although in form it
is the simplest of them all, in its action it is still a mystery. The
telephone enables us to speak to distances far beyond the reach of eye
or ear, 'to waft a sigh from Indus to the Pole; 'the phonograph enables
us to seal the living speech on brazen tablets, and store it up for any
length of time; while it is the peculiar function of the microphone
to let us hear those minute sounds which are below the range of our
unassisted powers of hearing. By these three instruments we have thus
received a remarkable extension of the capacity of the human ear, and a
growth of dominion over the sounds of Nature. We have now a command over
sound such as we have over light. For the telephone is to the ear
what the telescope is to the eye, the phonograph is for sound what the
photograph is for light, and the microphone finds its analogue in the
microscope. As the microscope reveals to our wondering sight the rich
meshes of creation, so the microphone can interpret to our ears the jarr
of molecular vibrations for ever going on around us, perchance the clash
of atoms as they shape themselves into crystals, the murmurous ripple of
the sap in trees, which Humboldt fancied to make a continuous music in
the ears of the tiniest insects, the fall of pollen dust on flowers and
grasses, the stealthy creeping of a spider upon his silken web, and even
the piping of a pair of love-sick butterflies, or the trumpeting of a
bellicose gnat, like the 'horns of elf-land faintly blowing.'

The success of the Hughes type-printer may be said to have covered its
author with titles and scientific honours, and placed him above the
necessity of regular employment. He left America, and travelled from
place to place. For many years past, however, he has resided privately
in London, an eminent example of that modesty and simplicity which is
generally said to accompany true genius.

Mechanical invention is influenced to a very high degree by external
circumstances. It may sound sensational, but it is nevertheless true,
that we owe the microphone to an attack of bronchitis. During the thick
foggy weather of November 1877, Professor Hughes was confined to his
home by a severe cold, and in order to divert his thoughts he began to
amuse himself with a speaking telephone. Then it occurred to him that
there might be some means found of making the wire of the telephone
circuit speak of itself without the need of telephones at all, or
at least without the need of one telephone, namely, that used in
transmitting the sounds. The distinguished physicist Sir William
Thomson, had lately discovered the peculiar fact that when a current of
electricity is passed through a wire, the current augments when the wire
is extended, and diminishes when the wire is compressed, because in the
former case the resistance of the material of the wire to the passage of
the current is lessened, and in the latter case it becomes greater.

Now it occurred to Professor Hughes that, if this were so, it might
be possible to cause the air-vibrations of sound to so act upon a wire
conveying a current as to stretch and contract it in sympathy with
themselves, so that the sound-waves would create corresponding electric
waves in the current, and these electric waves, passed through a
telephone connected to the wire, would cause the telephone to give forth
the original sounds. He first set about trying the effect of vibrating a
wire in which a current flowed, to see if the stretching and compressing
thereby produced would affect the current so as to cause sounds in a
telephone connected up in circuit with the wire--but without effect.
He could hear no sound whatever in the telephone. Then he stretched
the wire till it broke altogether, and as the metal began to rupture he
heard a distinct grating in the telephone, followed by a sharp 'click,'
when the wire sundered, which indicated a 'rush' of electricity through
the telephone. This pointed out to him that the wire might be sensitive
to sound when in a state of fracture. Acting on the hint, he placed
the two broken ends of the wire together again, and kept them so by
the application of a definite pressure. To his joy he found that he had
discovered what he had been in search of. The imperfect contact between
the broken ends of the wire proved itself to be a means of transmitting
sounds, and in addition it was found to possess a faculty which he had
not anticipated--it proved to be sensitive to very minute sounds, and
was in fact a rude microphone. Continuing his researches, he soon found
that he had discovered a principle of wide application, and that it was
not necessary to confine his experiments to wires, since any substance
which conducted an electric current would answer the purpose. All that
was necessary was that the materials employed should be in contact
with each other under a slight but definite pressure, and, for the
continuance of the effects, that the materials should not oxidise in air
so as to foul the contact. For different materials a different degree
of pressure gives the best results, and for different sounds to be
transmitted a different degree of pressure is required. Any loose,
crazy unstable structure, of conducting bodies, inserted in a telephone
circuit, will act as a microphone. Such, for example, as a glass tube
filled with lead-shot or black oxide of iron, or 'white bronze' powder
under pressure; a metal watch-chain piled in a heap. Surfaces of
platinum, gold, or even iron, pressed lightly together give excellent
results. Three French nails, two parallel beneath and one laid across
them, or better still a log-hut of French nails, make a perfect
transmitter of audible sounds, and a good microphone. Because of its
cheapness, its conducting power, and its non-oxidisability, carbon is
the most select material. A piece of charcoal no bigger than a pin's
head is quite sufficient to produce articulate speech. Gas-carbon
operates admirably, but the best carbon is that known as
willow-charcoal, used by artists in sketching, and when this is
impregnated with minute globules of mercury by heating it white-hot and
quenching it in liquid mercury, it is in a highly sensitive microphonic
condition. The same kind of charcoal permeated by platinum, tin,
zinc, or other unoxidisable metal is also very suitable; and it is a
significant fact that the most resonant woods, such as pine, poplar, and
willow, yield the charcoals best adapted for the microphone. Professor
Hughes' experimental apparatus is of an amusingly simple description.
He has no laboratory at home, and all his experiments were made in the
drawing-room. His first microphones were formed of bits of carbon
and scraps of metal, mounted on slips of match-boxes by means of
sealing-wax; and the resonance pipes on which they were placed to
reinforce the effect of minute sounds, were nothing more than children's
toy money boxes, price one halfpenny, having one of the ends knocked
out. With such childish and worthless materials he has conquered Nature
in her strongholds, and shown how great discoveries can be made. The
microphone is a striking illustration of the truth that in science
any phenomenon whatever may be rendered useful. The trouble of one
generation of scientists may be turned to the honour and service of
the next. Electricians have long had sore reasons for regarding a 'bad
contact' as an unmitigated nuisance, the instrument of the evil one,
with no conceivable good in it, and no conceivable purpose except to
annoy and tempt them into wickedness and an expression of hearty but
ignominious emotion. Professor Hughes, however, has with a wizard's
power transformed this electrician's bane into a professional glory and
a public boon. Verily there is a soul of virtue in things evil.

The commonest and at the same time one of the most sensitive forms of
the instrument is called the 'pencil microphone,' from the pencil or
crayon of carbon which forms the principal part of it. This pencil
may be of mercurialised charcoal, but the ordinary gas-carbon, which
incrusts the interior of the retorts in gas-works, is usually employed.
The crayon is supported in an upright position by two little brackets of
carbon, hollowed out so as to receive the pointed ends in shallow cups.
The weight of the crayon suffices to give the required pressure on the
contacts, both upper and lower, for the upper end of the Pencil should
lean against the inner wall of the cup in the upper bracket. The
brackets are fixed to an upright board of light, dry, resonant
pine-wood, let into a solid base of the same timber. The baseboard is
with advantage borne by four rounded india-rubber feet, which insulate
it from the table on which it may be placed. To connect the microphone
up for use, a small voltaic battery, say three cells (though a single
cell will give surprising results), and a Bell speaking telephone are
necessary. A wire is led from one of the carbon brackets to one pole
of the battery, and another wire is led from the other bracket to one
terminal screw of the telephone, and the circuit is completed by a
wire from the other terminal of the telephone to the other pole of the
battery. If now the slightest mechanical jar be given to the wooden
frame of the microphone, to the table, or even to the walls of the room
in which the experiment takes place, a corresponding noise will be
heard in the microphone. By this delicate arrangement we can play the
eavesdropper on those insensible vibrations in the midst of which
we exist. If a feather or a camel-hair pencil be stroked along the
base-board, we hear a harsh grating sound; if a pin be laid upon it, we
hear a blow like a blacksmith's hammer; and, more astonishing than all,
if a fly walk across it we hear it tramping like a charger, and even
its peculiar cry, which has been likened, with some allowance for
imagination, to the snorting of an elephant. Moreover it should not be
forgotten that the wires connecting up the telephone may be lengthened
to any desired extent, so that, in the words of Professor Hughes, 'the
beating of a pulse, the tick of a watch, the tramp of a fly can then be
heard at least a hundred miles from the source of sound.' If we whisper
or speak distinctly in a monotone to the pencil, our words will be heard
in the telephone; but with this defect, that the TIMBRE or quality is,
in this particular form of the instrument, apt to be lost, making it
difficult to recognise the speaker's voice. But although a single pencil
microphone will under favourable circumstances transmit these varied
sounds, the best effect for each kind of sound is obtained by one
specially adjusted. There is one pressure best adapted for minute
sounds, another for speech, and a third for louder sounds. A simple
spring arrangement for adjusting the pressure of the contacts is
therefore an advantage, and it can easily be applied to a microphone
formed of a small rod of carbon pivoted at its middle, with one end
resting on a block or anvil of carbon underneath. The contact between
the rod and the block in this 'hammer-and-anvil' form is, of course, the
portion which is sensitive to sound.

The microphone is a discovery as well as an invention, and the true
explanation of its action is as yet merely an hypothesis. It is supposed
that the vibrations put the carbons in a tremor and cause them to
approach more or less nearly, thus closing or opening the breach between
them, which is, as it were, the floodgate of the current.

The applications of the microphone were soon of great importance. Dr. B.
W. Richardson succeeded in fitting it for auscultation of the heart
and lungs; while Sir Henry Thompson has effectively used it in those
surgical operations, such as probing wounds for bullets or fragments of
bone, in which the surgeon has hitherto relied entirely on his delicacy
of touch for detecting the jar of the probe on the foreign body.
There can be no doubt that in the science of physiology, in the art of
surgery, and in many other walks of life, the microphone has proved a
valuable aid.

Professor Hughes communicated his results to the Royal Society in the
early part of 1878, and generously gave the microphone to the world. For
his own sake it would perhaps have been better had he patented and
thus protected it, for Mr. Edison, recognising it as a rival to
his carbon-transmitter, then a valuable property, claimed it as an
infringement of his patents and charged him with plagiarism. A spirited
controversy arose, and several bitter lawsuits were the consequence, in
none of which, however, Professor Hughes took part, as they were only
commercial trials. It was clearly shown that Clerac, and not Edison, had
been the first to utilise the variable resistance of powdered carbon or
plumbage under pressure, a property on which the Edison transmitter was
founded, and that Hughes had discovered a much wider principle, which
embraced not only the so-called 'semi-conducting' bodies, such as
carbon; but even the best conductors, such as gold, silver, and
other metals. This principle was not a mere variation of electrical
conductivity in a mass of material brought about by compression, but a
mysterious variation in some unknown way of the strength of an electric
current in traversing a loose joint or contact between two conductors.
This discovery of Hughes really shed a light on the behaviour of
Edison's own transmitter, whose action he had until then misunderstood.
It was now seen that the particles of carbon dust in contact which
formed the button were a congeries of minute micro-phones. Again it was
proved that the diaphragm or tympanum to receive the impression of
the sound and convey it to the carbon button, on which Edison had laid
considerable stress, was non-essential; for the microphone, pure and
simple, was operated by the direct impact of the sonorous waves, and
required no tympanum. Moreover, the microphone, as its name implies,
could magnify a feeble sound, and render audible the vibrations which
would otherwise escape the ear. The discovery of these remarkable and
subtle properties of a delicate contact had indeed confronted Edison;
he had held them in his grasp, they had stared him in the face, but
not-withstanding all his matchless ingenuity and acumen, he, blinded
perhaps by a false hypothesis, entirely failed to discern them. The
significant proof of it lies in the fact that after the researches of
Professor Hughes were published the carbon transmitter was promptly
modified, and finally abandoned for practical work as a telephone, in
favour of a variety of new transmitters, such as the Blake, now
employed in the United Kingdom, in all of which the essential part is
a microphone of hard carbon and metal. The button of soot has vanished
into the limbo of superseded inventions.

Science appears to show that every physical process is reciprocal,
and may be reversed. With this principle in our minds, we need not be
surprised that the microphone should not only act as a TRANSMITTER of
sounds, but that it should also act as a RECEIVER. Mr. James Blyth, of
Edinburgh, was the first to announce that he had heard sounds and
even speech given out by a microphone itself when substituted for the
telephone. His transmitting microphone and his receiving one were simply
jelly-cans filled with cinders from the grate. It then transpired that
Professor Hughes had previously obtained the same remarkable effects
from his ordinary 'pencil' microphones. The sounds were extremely
feeble, however, but the transmitting microphones proved the best
articulating ones. Professor Hughes at length constructed an adjustable
hammer-and-anvil microphone of gas-carbon, fixed to the top of a
resonating drum, which articulated fairly well, although not so
perfectly as a Bell telephone. Perhaps a means of improving both the
volume and distinctness of the articulation will yet be forthcoming
and we may be able to speak solely by the microphone, if it is found
desirable. The marvellous fact that a little piece of charcoal can, as
it were, both listen and speak, that a person may talk to it so that
his friend can hear him at a similar piece a hundred miles away, is a
miracle of nineteenth century science which far transcends the oracles
of antiquity.

The articulating telephone was the forerunner of the phonograph and
microphone, and led to their discovery. They in turn will doubtless lead
to other new inventions, which it is now impossible to foresee. We ask
in vain for an answer to the question which is upon the lips of every
one-What next? The microphone has proved itself highly useful in
strengthening the sounds given out by the telephone, and it is probable
that we shall soon see those three inventions working unitedly; for the
microphone might make the telephone sounds so powerful as to enable them
to be printed by phonograph as they are received, and thus a durable
record of telephonic messages would be obtained. We can now transmit
sound by wire, but it may yet be possible to transmit light, and see by
telegraph. We are apparently on the eve of other wonderful inventions,
and there are symptoms that before many years a great fundamental
discovery will be made, which will elucidate the connection of all the
physical forces, and will illumine the very frame-work of Nature.

In 1879, Professor Hughes endowed the scientific world with another
beautiful apparatus, his 'induction balance.' Briefly described, it
is an arrangement of coils whereby the currents inducted by a primary
circuit in the secondary are opposed to each other until they balance,
so that a telephone connected in the secondary circuit is quite silent.
Any disturbance of this delicate balance, however, say by the movement
of a coil or a metallic body in the neighbourhood of the apparatus, will
be at once reported by the induction currents in the telephone. Being
sensitive to the presence of minute masses of metal, the apparatus was
applied by Professor Graham Bell to indicate the whereabouts of the
missing bullet in the frame of President Garfield, as already mentioned,
and also by Captain McEvoy to detect the position of submerged torpedoes
or lost anchors. Professor Roberts-Austen, the Chemist to the Mint,
has also employed it with success in analysing the purity and temper
of coins; for, strange to say, the induction is affected as well by the
molecular quality as the quantity of the disturbing metal. Professor
Hughes himself has modified it for the purpose of sonometry, and the
measurement of the hearing powers.

To the same year, 1879, belong his laborious investigations on current
induction, and some ingenious plans for eliminating its effects on
telegraph and telephone circuits.

Soon after his discovery of the microphone he was invited to become a
Fellow of the Royal Society, and a few years later, in 1885 he received
the Royal Medal of the Society for his experiments, and especially
those of the microphone. In 1881 he represented the United Kingdom as a
Commissioner at the Paris International Exhibition of Electricity,
and was elected President of one of the sections of the International
Congress of Electricians. In 1886 he filled the office of President of
the Society of Telegraph Engineers and of Electricians.

The Hughes type-printer was a great mechanical invention, one of the
greatest in telegraphic science, for every organ of it was new, and had
to be fashioned out of chaos; an invention which stamped its author's
name indelibly into the history of telegraphy, and procured for him a
special fame; while the microphone is a discovery which places it on the
roll of investigators, and at the same time brings it to the knowledge
of the people. Two such achievements might well satisfy any scientific
ambition. Professor Hughes has enjoyed a most successful career.
Probably no inventor ever before received so many honours, or bore them
with greater modesty.




CHARLES FERDINAND GAUSS was born at Braunschweig on April 30, 1777. His
father, George Dietrich, was a mason, who employed himself otherwise in
the hard winter months, and finally became cashier to a TODTENCASSE, or
burial fund. His mother Dorothy was the daughter of Christian Benze
of the village of Velpke, near Braunschweig, and a woman of talent,
industry, and wit, which her son appears to have inherited. The father
died in 1808 after his son had become distinguished. The mother lived to
the age of ninety-seven, but became totally blind. She preserved her low
Saxon dialect, her blue linen dress and simple country manners, to
the last, while living beside her son at the Observatory of Gottingen.
Frederic, her younger brother, was a damask weaver, but a man with a
natural turn for mathematics and mechanics.

When Gauss was a boy, his parents lived in a small house in the
Wendengrahen, on a canal which joined the Ocker, a stream flowing
through Braunschweig. The canal is now covered, and is the site of the
Wilhelmstrasse, but a tablet marks the house. When a child, Gauss used
to play on the bank of the canal, and falling in one day he was nearly
drowned. He learned to read by asking the letters from his friends, and
also by studying an old calendar which hung on a wall of his father's
house, and when four years old he knew all the numbers on it, in spite
of a shortness of sight which afflicted him to the end. On Saturday
nights his father paid his workmen their wages, and once the boy, who
had been listening to his calculations, jumped up and told him that he
was wrong. Revision showed that his son was right.

At the age of seven, Gauss went to the Catherine Parish School at
Braunschweig, and remained at it for several years. The master's name
was Buttner, and from a raised seat in the middle of the room, he kept
order by means of a whip suspended at his side. A bigger boy, Bartels
by name, used to cut quill pens, and assist the smaller boys in their
lessons. He became a friend of Gauss, and would procure mathematical
books, which they read together. Bartels subsequently rose to be a
professor in the University of Dorpat, where he died. At the parish
school the boys of fourteen to fifteen years were being examined in
arithmetic one day, when Gauss stepped forward and, to the astonishment
of Buttner, requested to be examined at the same time. Buttner, thinking
to punish him for his audacity, put a 'poser' to him, and awaited the
result. Gauss solved the problem on his slate, and laid it face downward
on the table, crying 'Here it is,' according to the custom. At the end
of an hour, during which the master paced up and down with an air of
dignity, the slates were turned over, and the answer of Gauss was found
to be correct while many of the rest were erroneous. Buttner praised
him, and ordered a special book on arithmetic for him all the way from

From the parish school Gauss went to the Catherine Gymnasium, although
his father doubted whether he could afford the money. Bartels had gone
there before him, and they read the higher mathematics. Gauss also
devoted much of his time to acquiring the ancient and modern languages.
From there he passed to the Carolinean College in the spring of 1792.
Shortly before this the Duke Charles William Ferdinand of Braunschweig
among others had noticed his talents, and promised to further his

In 1793 he published his first papers; and in the autumn of 1795 he
entered the University of Gottingen. At this time he was hesitating
between the pursuit of philology or mathematics; but his studies became
more and more of the latter order. He discovered the division of the
circle, a problem published in his DISQUISITIONES ARITHMETICAE, and
henceforth elected for mathematics. The method of least squares,
was also discovered during his first term. On arriving home the
duke received him in the friendliest manner, and he was promoted to
Helmstedt, where with the assistance of his patron he published his

On January 1, 1801, Piazzi, the astronomer of Palermo, discovered a
small planet, which he named CERES FERDINANDIA, and communicated the
news by post to Bode of Berlin, and Oriani of Milan. The letter was
seventy-two days in going, and the planet by that time was lost in the
glory of the sun, By a method of his own, published in his THEORIA MOTUS
CORPORUM COELESTIUM, Gauss calculated the orbit of this planet, and
showed that it moved between Mars and Jupiter. The planet, after eluding
the search of several astronomers, was ultimately found again by Zach on
December 7, 1801, and on January 1, 1802. The ellipse of Gauss was found
to coincide with its orbit.

This feat drew the attention of the Hanoverian Government, and of
Dr. Olbers, the astronomer, to the young mathematician. But some time
elapsed before he was fitted with a suitable appointment. The battle
of Austerlitz had brought the country into danger, and the Duke of
Braunschweig was entrusted with a mission from Berlin to the Court of
St. Petersburg. The fame of Gauss had travelled there, but the duke
resisted all attempts to bring or entice him to the university of that
place. On his return home, however, he raised the salary of Gauss.

At the beginning of October 1806, the armies of Napoleon were moving
towards the Saale, and ere the middle of the month the battles of
Auerstadt and Jena were fought and lost. Duke Charles Ferdinand was
mortally wounded, and taken back to Braunschweig. A deputation waited on
the offended Emperor at Halle, and begged him to allow the aged duke
to die in his own house. They were brutally denied by the Emperor,
and returned to Braunschweig to try and save the unhappy duke from
imprisonment. One evening in the late autumn, Gauss, who lived in the
Steinweg (or Causeway), saw an invalid carriage drive slowly out of the
castle garden towards the Wendenthor. It contained the wounded duke on
his way to Altona, where he died on November 10, 1806, in a small house
at Ottensen, 'You will take care,' wrote Zach to Gauss, in 1803, 'that
his great name shall also be written on the firmament.'

For a year and a half after the death of the duke Gauss continued in
Braunschweig, but his small allowance, and the absence of scientific
company made a change desirable. Through Olbers and Heeren he received
a call to the directorate of Gottingen University in 1807, and at once
accepted it. He took a house near the chemical laboratory, to which he
brought his wife and family. The building of the observatory, delayed
for want of funds, was finished in 1816, and a year or two later it was
fully equipped with instruments.

In 1819, Gauss measured a degree of latitude between Gottingen and
Altona. In geodesy he invented the heliotrope, by which the sunlight
reflected from a mirror is used as a "sight" for the theodolite at a
great distance. Through Professor William Weber he was introduced to
the science of electro-magnetism, and they devised an experimental
telegraph, chiefly for sending time signals, between the Observatory and
the Physical Cabinet of the University. The mirror receiving instrument
employed was the heavy prototype of the delicate reflecting galvanometer
of Sir William Thomson. In 1834 messages were transmitted through the
line in presence of H.R.H. the Duke of Cambridge; but it was hardly
fitted for general use. In 1883 (?) he published an absolute system of
magnetic measurements.

On July 16, 1849, the jubilee of Gauss was celebrated at the University;
the famous Jacobi, Miller of Cambridge, and others, taking part in it.
After this he completed several works already begun, read a great deal
of German and foreign literature, and visited the Museum daily between
eleven and one o'clock.

In the winters of 1854-5 Gauss complained of his declining health,
and on the morning of February 23, 1855, about five minutes past one
o'clock, he breathed his last. He was laid on a bed of laurels, and
buried by his friends. A granite pillar marks his resting-place at


WILLIAM EDWARD WEBER was born on October 24, 1804, at Wittenberg, where
his father, Michael Weber, was professor of theology. William was the
second of three brothers, all of whom were distinguished by an aptitude
for the study of science. After the dissolution of the University of
Wittenberg his father was transferred to Halle in 1815. William had
received his first lessons from his father, but was now sent to the
Orphan Asylum and Grammar School at Halle. After that he entered the
University, and devoted himself to natural philosophy. He distinguished
himself so much in his classes, and by original work, that after taking
his degree of Doctor and becoming a Privat-Docent he was appointed
Professor Extraordinary of natural philosophy at Halle.

In 1831, on the recommendation of Gauss, he was called to Gottingen
as professor of physics, although but twenty-seven years of age. His
lectures were interesting, instructive, and suggestive. Weber thought
that, in order to thoroughly understand physics and apply it to
daily life, mere lectures, though illustrated by experiments, were
insufficient, and he encouraged his students to experiment themselves,
free of charge, in the college laboratory. As a student of twenty
years he, with his brother, Ernest Henry Weber, Professor of Anatomy
at Leipsic, had written a book on the 'Wave Theory and Fluidity,' which
brought its authors a considerable reputation. Acoustics was a
favourite science of his, and he published numerous papers upon it in
and the musical journal CAECILIA. The 'mechanism of walking in mankind'
was another study, undertaken in conjunction with his younger brother,
Edward Weber. These important investigations were published between the
years 1825 and 1838.

Displaced by the Hanoverian Government for his liberal opinions in
politics Weber travelled for a time, visiting England, among other
countries, and became professor of physics in Leipsic from 1843 to 1849,
when he was reinstalled at Gottingen. One of his most important works
was the ATLAS DES ERDMAGNETISMUS, a series of magnetic maps, and it was
chiefly through his efforts that magnetic observatories were
instituted. He studied magnetism with Gauss, and in 1864 published his
'Electrodynamic Proportional Measures' containing a system of absolute
measurements for electric currents, which forms the basis of those in
use. Weber died at Gottingen on June 23, 1891.


WILLIAM Fothergill Cooke was born near Ealing on May 4, 1806, and was a
son of Dr. William Cooke, a doctor of medicine, and professor of anatomy
at the University of Durham. The boy was educated at a school in Durham,
and at the University of Edinburgh. In 1826 he joined the East India
Army, and held several staff appointments. While in the Madras Native
Infantry, he returned home on furlough, owing to ill-health, and
afterwards relinquished this connection. In 1833-4 he studied anatomy
and physiology in Paris, acquiring great skill at modelling dissections
in coloured wax.

In the summer of 1835, while touring in Switzerland with his parents, he
visited Heidelberg, and was induced by Professor Tiedeman, director
of the Anatomical Institute, to return there and continue his wax
modelling. He lodged at 97, Stockstrasse, in the house of a brewer,
and modelled in a room nearly opposite. Some of his models have been
preserved in the Anatomical Museum at Heidelberg. In March 1836, hearing
accidentally from Mr. J. W. R. Hoppner, a son of Lord Byron's friend,
that the Professor of Natural Philosophy in the University, Geheime
Hofrath Moncke had a model of Baron Schilling's telegraph, Cooke went
to see it on March 6, in the Professor's lecture room, an upper storey
of an old convent of Dominicans, where he also lived. Struck by what he
witnessed, he abandoned his medical studies, and resolved to apply all
his energies to the introduction of the telegraph. Within three weeks
he had made, partly at Heidelberg, and partly at Frankfort, his first
galvanometer, or needle telegraph. It consisted of three magnetic
needles surrounded by multiplying coils, and actuated by three separate
circuits of six wires. The movements of the needles under the action of
the currents produced twenty-six different signals corresponding to the
letters of the alphabet.

'Whilst completing the model of my original plan,' he wrote to
his mother on April 5, 'others on entirely fresh systems suggested
themselves, and I have at length succeeded in combining the UTILE of
each, but the mechanism requires a more delicate hand than mine to
execute, or rather instruments which I do not possess. These I can
readily have made for me in London, and by the aid of a lathe I shall
be able to adapt the several parts, which I shall have made by different
mechanicians for secrecy's sake. Should I succeed, it may be the means
of putting some hundreds of pounds in my pocket. As it is a subject
on which I was profoundly ignorant, until my attention was casually
attracted to it the other day, I do not know what others may have done
in the same way; this can best be learned in London.'

The 'fresh systems' referred to was his 'mechanical' telegraph,
consisting of two letter dials, working synchronously, and on which
particular letters of the message were indicated by means of an
electro-magnet and detent. Before the end of March he invented the
clock-work alarm, in which an electro-magnet attracted an armature of
soft iron, and thus withdrew a detent, allowing the works to strike the
alarm. This idea was suggested to him on March 17, 1836, while reading
Mrs. Mary Somerville's 'Connexion of the Physical Sciences,' in
travelling from Heidelberg to Frankfort.

Cooke arrived in London on April 22, and wrote a pamphlet setting forth
his plans for the establishment of an electric telegraph; but it was
never published. According to his own account he also gave considerable
attention to the escapement principle, or step by step movement,
afterwards perfected by Wheatstone. While busy in preparing his
apparatus for exhibition, part of which was made by a clock-maker
in Clerkenwell, he consulted Faraday about the construction of
electro-magnets, The philosopher saw his apparatus and expressed
his opinion that the 'principle was perfectly correct,' and that
the 'instrument appears perfectly adapted to its intended uses.'
Nevertheless he was not very sanguine of making it a commercial success.
'The electro-magnetic telegraph shall not ruin me,' he wrote to his
mother, 'but will hardly make my fortune.' He was desirous of taking
a partner in the work, and went to Liverpool in order to meet some
gentleman likely to forward his views, and endeavoured to get his
instrument adopted on the incline of the tunnel at Liverpool; but it
gave sixty signals, and was deemed too complicated by the directors.
Soon after his return to London, by the end of April, he had two simpler
instruments in working order. All these preparations had already cost
him nearly four hundred pounds.

On February 27, Cooke, being dissatisfied with an experiment on a mile
of wire, consulted Faraday and Dr. Roget as to the action of a current
on an electro-magnet in circuit with a long wire. Dr. Roget sent him
to Wheatstone, where to his dismay he learned that Wheatstone had been
employed for months on the construction of a telegraph for practical
purposes. The end of their conferences was that a partnership in
the undertaking was proposed by Cooke, and ultimately accepted by
Wheatstone. The latter had given Cooke fresh hopes of success when he
was worn and discouraged. 'In truth,' he wrote in a letter, after his
first interview with the Professor, 'I had given the telegraph up since
Thursday evening, and only sought proofs of my being right to do so ere
announcing it to you. This day's enquiries partly revives my hopes,
but I am far from sanguine. The scientific men know little or nothing
absolute on the subject: Wheatstone is the only man near the mark.'

It would appear that the current, reduced in strength by its passage
through a long wire, had failed to excite his electro-magnet, and he was
ignorant of the reason. Wheatstone by his knowledge of Ohm's law and
the electro-magnet was probably able to enlighten him. It is clear that
Cooke had made considerable progress with his inventions before he met
Wheatstone; he possessed a needle telegraph like Wheatstone, an alarm,
and a chronometric dial telegraph, which at all events are a proof that
he himself was an inventor, and that he doubtless bore a part in
the production of the Cooke and Wheatstone apparatus. Contrary to a
statement of Wheatstone, it appears from a letter of Cooke dated March
4, 1837, that Wheatstone 'handsomely acknowledged the advantage' of
Cooke's apparatus had it worked;' his (Wheatstone's) are ingenious, but
not practicable.' But these conflicting accounts are reconciled by
the fact that Cooke's electro-magnetic telegraph would not work, and
Wheatstone told him so, because he knew the magnet was not strong enough
when the current had to traverse a long circuit.

Wheatstone subsequently investigated the conditions necessary to obtain
electro-magnetic effects at a long distance. Had he studied the paper
of Professor Henry in SILLIMAN'S JOURNAL for January 1831, he would have
learned that in a long circuit the electro-magnet had to be wound with a
long and fine wire in order to be effective.

As the Cooke and Wheatstone apparatus became perfected, Cooke was busy
with schemes for its introduction. Their joint patent is dated June 12,
1837, and before the end of the month Cooke was introduced to Mr. Robert
Stephenson, and by his address and energy got leave to try the invention
from Euston to Camden Town along the line of the London and Birmingham
Railway. Cooke suspended some thirteen miles of copper, in a shed at the
Euston terminus, and exhibited his needle and his chronometric telegraph
in action to the directors one morning. But the official trial took
place as we have already described in the life of Wheatstone.

The telegraph was soon adopted on the Great Western Railway, and also
on the Blackwall Railway in 1841. Three years later it was tried on
a Government line from London to Portsmouth. In 1845, the Electric
Telegraph Company, the pioneer association of its kind, was started, and
Mr. Cooke became a director. Wheatstone and he obtained a considerable
sum for the use of their apparatus. In 1866, Her Majesty conferred the
honour of knighthood on the co-inventors; and in 1871, Cooke was granted
a Civil List pension of L100 a year. His latter years were spent
in seclusion, and he died at Farnham on June 25th, 1879. Outside of
telegraphic circles his name had become well-nigh forgotten.


Alexander Bain was born of humble parents in the little town of Thurso,
at the extreme north of Scotland, in the year 1811. At the age of twelve
he went to hear a penny lecture on science which, according to his own
account, set him thinking and influenced his whole future. Learning the
art of clockmaking, he went to Edinburgh, and subsequently removed to
London, where he obtained work in Clerkenwell, then famed for its clocks
and watches. His first patent is dated January 11th, 1841, and is in the
name of John Barwise, chronometer maker, and Alexander Bain, mechanist,
Wigmore Street. It describes his electric clock in which there is an
electro-magnetic pendulum, and the electric current is employed to keep
it going instead of springs or weights. He improved on this idea in
following patents, and also proposed to derive the motive electricity
from an 'earth battery,' by burying plates of zinc and copper in the
ground. Gauss and Steinheil had priority in this device which, owing
to 'polarisation' of the plates and to drought, is not reliable. Long
afterwards Mr. Jones of Chester succeeded in regulating timepieces from
a standard astronomical clock by an improvement on the method of Bain.
On December 21, 1841, Bain, in conjunction with Lieut. Thomas Wright,
R.N., of Percival Street, Clerkenwell, patented means of applying
electricity to control railway engines by turning off the steam, marking
time, giving signals, and printing intelligence at different places. He
also proposed to utilise 'natural bodies of water' for a return wire,
but the earlier experimenters had done so, particularly Steinheil in
1838. The most important idea in the patent is, perhaps, his plan for
inverting the needle telegraph of Ampere, Wheatstone and others, and
instead of making the signals by the movements of a pivoted magnetic
needle under the influence of an electrified coil, obtaining them by
suspending a movable coil traversed by the current, between the poles of
a fixed magnet, as in the later siphon recorder of Sir William Thomson.
Bain also proposed to make the coil record the message by printing it in
type; and he developed the idea in a subsequent patent.

Next year, on December 31st, 1844, he projected a mode of measuring
the speed of ships by vanes revolving in the water and indicating their
speed on deck by means of the current. In the same specification he
described a way of sounding the sea by an electric circuit of wires,
and of giving an alarm when the temperature of a ship's hold reached a
certain degree. The last device is the well-known fire-alarm in which
the mercury of a thermometer completes an electric circuit, when it
rises to a particular point of the tube, and thus actuates an electric
bell or other alarm.

On December 12, 1846, Bain, who was staying in Edinburgh at that time,
patented his greatest invention, the chemical telegraph, which bears his
name. He recognised that the Morse and other telegraph instruments in
use were comparatively slow in speed, owing to the mechanical inertia
of the parts; and he saw that if the signal currents were made to pass
through a band of travelling paper soaked in a solution which would
decompose under their action, and leave a legible mark, a very high
speed could be obtained. The chemical he employed to saturate the paper
was a solution of nitrate of ammonia and prussiate of potash, which left
a blue stain on being decomposed by the current from an iron contact or
stylus. The signals were the short and long, or 'dots' and 'dashes' of
the Morse code. The speed of marking was so great that hand signalling
could not keep up with it, and Bain devised a plan of automatic
signalling by means of a running band of paper on which the signals of
the message were represented by holes punched through it. Obviously
if this tape were passed between the contact of a signalling key the
current would merely flow when the perforations allowed the contacts of
the key to touch. This principle was afterwards applied by Wheatstone in
the construction of his automatic sender.

The chemical telegraph was tried between Paris and Lille before a
committee of the Institute and the Legislative Assembly. The speed of
signalling attained was 282 words in fifty-two seconds, a marvellous
advance on the Morse electro-magnetic instrument, which only gave about
forty words a minute. In the hands of Edison the neglected method of
Bain was seen by Sir William Thomson in the Centennial Exhibition,
Philadelphia, recording at the rate of 1057 words in fifty-seven
seconds. In England the telegraph of Bain was used on the lines of the
old Electric Telegraph Company to a limited extent, and in America about
the year 1850 it was taken up by the energetic Mr. Henry O'Reilly, and
widely introduced. But it incurred the hostility of Morse, who obtained
an injunction against it on the slender ground that the running paper
and alphabet used were covered by his patent. By 1859, as Mr. Shaffner
tells us, there was only one line in America on which the Bain system
was in use, namely, that from Boston to Montreal. Since those days of
rivalry the apparatus has never become general, and it is not easy to
understand why, considering its very high speed, the chemical telegraph
has not become a greater favourite.

In 1847 Bain devised an automatic method of playing on wind instruments
by moving a band of perforated paper which controlled the supply of
air to the pipes; and likewise proposed to play a number of keyed
instruments at a distance by means of the electric current. Both of
these plans are still in operation.

These and other inventions in the space of six years are a striking
testimony to the fertility of Bain's imagination at this period. But
after this extraordinary outburst he seems to have relapsed into sloth
and the dissipation of his powers. We have been told, and indeed it
is plain that he received a considerable sum for one or other of his
inventions, probably the chemical telegraph. But while he could rise
from the ranks, and brave adversity by dint of ingenuity and labour, it
would seem that his sanguine temperament was ill-fitted for prosperity.
He went to America, and what with litigation, unfortunate investment,
and perhaps extravagance, the fortune he had made was rapidly

Whether his inventive genius was exhausted, or he became disheartened,
it would be difficult to say, but he never flourished again. The rise
in his condition may be inferred from the preamble to his patent for
electric telegraphs and clocks, dated May 29, 1852, wherein he describes
himself as 'Gentleman,' and living at Beevor Lodge, Hammersmith.
After an ephemeral appearance in this character he sank once more into
poverty, if not even wretchedness. Moved by his unhappy circumstances,
Sir William Thomson, the late Sir William Siemens, Mr. Latimer Clark
and others, obtained from Mr. Gladstone, in the early part of 1873, a
pension for him under the Civil List of L80 a year; but the beneficiary
lived in such obscurity that it was a considerable time before his
lodging could be discovered, and his better fortune take effect. The
Royal Society had previously made him a gift of L150.

In his latter years, while he resided in Glasgow, his health failed,
and he was struck with paralysis in the legs. The massive forehead once
pregnant with the fire of genius, grew dull and slow of thought, while
the sturdy frame of iron hardihood became a tottering wreck. He was
removed to the Home for Incurables at Broomhill, Kirkintilloch, where he
died on January 2, 1877, and was interred in the Old Aisle Cemetery. He
was a widower, and had two children, but they were said to be abroad at
the time, the son in America and the daughter on the Continent.

Several of Bain's earlier patents are taken out in two names, but this
was perhaps owing to his poverty compelling him to take a partner. If
these and other inventions were substantially his own, and we have no
reason to suppose that he received more help from others than is usual
with inventors, we must allow that Bain was a mechanical genius of
the first order--a born inventor. Considering the early date of his
achievements, and his lack of education or pecuniary resource, we cannot
but wonder at the strength, fecundity, and prescience of his creative
faculty. It has been said that he came before his time; but had he been
more fortunate in other respects, there is little doubt that he would
have worked out and introduced all or nearly all his inventions, and
probably some others. His misfortunes and sorrows are so typical of the
'disappointed inventor' that we would fain learn more about his life;
but beyond a few facts in a little pamphlet (published by himself, we
believe), there is little to be gathered; a veil of silence has fallen
alike upon his triumphs, his errors and his miseries.


THE leading electrician of Germany is Dr. Ernst Werner Siemens, eldest
brother of the same distinguished family of which our own Sir William
Siemens was a member. Ernst, like his brother William, was born at
Lenthe, near Hanover, on December 13, 1816. He was educated at the
College of Lubeck in Maine, and entered the Prussian Artillery service
as a volunteer. He pursued his scientific studies at the Artillery
and Engineers' School in Berlin, and in 1838 obtained an officer's

Physics and chemistry were his favourite studies; and his original
researches in electro-gilding resulted in a Prussian patent in 1841.
The following year he, in conjunction with his brother William, took out
another patent for a differential regulator. In 1844 he was appointed
to a post in the artillery workshops in Berlin, where he learned
telegraphy, and in 1845 patented a dial and printing telegraph, which is
still in use in Germany.

In 1846, he was made a member of a commission organised in Berlin to
introduce electric telegraphs in place of the optical ones hitherto
employed in Prussia, and he succeeded in getting the commission to
adopt underground telegraph lines. For the insulation of the wires he
recommended gutta-percha, which was then becoming known as an insulator.
In the following year he constructed a machine for covering copper
wire with the melted gum by means of pressure; and this machine is
substantially the same as that now used for the purpose in cable

In 1848, when the war broke out with Denmark, he was sent to Kiel where,
together with his brother-in-law, Professor C. Himly, he laid the first
submarine mines, fired by electricity and thus protected the town of
Kiel from the advance of the enemies' fleet.

Of late years the German Government has laid a great network of
underground lines between the various towns and fortresses of the
empire; preferring them to overhead lines as being less liable to
interruption from mischief, accident, hostile soldiers, or stress of
weather. The first of such lines was, however, laid as long ago as
1848, by Werner Siemens, who, in the autumn of that year, deposited a
subterranean cable between Berlin and Frankfort-on-the-Main. Next year a
second cable was laid from the Capital to Cologne, Aix-la-Chapelle, and

In 1847 the subject of our memoir had, along with Mr. Halske, founded
a telegraph factory, and he now left the army to give himself up to
scientific work and the development of his business. This factory
prospered well, and is still the chief continental works of the kind.
The new departure made by Werner Siemens was fortunate for electrical
science; and from then till now a number of remarkable inventions have
proceeded from his laboratory.

The following are the more notable advances made:--In October 1845, a
machine for the measurement of small intervals of time, and the speed of
electricity by means of electric sparks, and its application in 1875 for
measuring the speed of the electric current in overland lines.

In January 1850, a paper on telegraph lines and apparatus, in which
the theory of the electro-static charge in insulated wires, as well as
methods and formula: for the localising of faults in underground wires
were first established. In 1851, the firm erected the first automatic
fire telegraphs in Berlin, and in the same year, Werner Siemens wrote
a treatise on the experience gained with the underground lines of the
Prussian telegraph system. The difficulty of communicating through long
underground lines led him to the invention of automatic translation,
which was afterwards improved upon by Steinheil, and, in 1852, he
furnished the Warsaw-Petersburg line with automatic fast-speed writers.
The messages were punched in a paper band by means of the well-known
Siemens' lever punching apparatus, and then automatically transmitted in
a clockwork instrument.

In 1854 the discovery (contemporaneous with that of Frischen) of
simultaneous transmission of messages in opposite directions, and
multiplex transmission of messages by means of electro-magnetic
apparatus. The 'duplex' system which is now employed both on land lines
and submarine cables had been suggested however, before this by Dr.
Zetsche, Gintl, and others.

In 1856 he invented the Siemens' magneto-electric dial instrument
giving alternate currents. From this apparatus originated the well-known
Siemens' armature, and from the receiver was developed the Siemens'
polarised relay, with which the working of submarine and other lines
could be effected with alternate currents; and in the same year, during
the laying of the Cagliari to Bona cable, he constructed and first
applied the dynamometer, which has become of such importance in the
operations of cable laying.

In 1857, he investigated the electro-static induction and retardation of
currents in insulated wires, a phenomenon which he had observed in 1850,
and communicated an account of it to the French Academy of Sciences.

'In these researches he developed mathematically Faraday's theory of
molecular induction, and thereby paved the way in great measure for
its general acceptance.' His ozone apparatus, his telegraph instrument
working with alternate currents, and his instrument for translating on
and automatically discharging submarine cables also belong to the year
1857. The latter instruments were applied to the Sardinia, Malta, and
Corfu cable.

In 1859, he constructed an electric log; he discovered that a dielectric
is heated by induction; he introduced the well known Siemens' mercury
unit, and many improvements in the manufacture of resistance coils. He
also investigated the law of change of resistance in wires by heating;
and published several formulae and methods for testing resistances
and determining 'faults' by measuring resistances. These methods were
adopted by the electricians of the Government service in Prussia, and by
Messrs. Siemens Brothers in London, during the manufacture of the
Malta to Alexandria cable, which, was, we believe, the first long cable
subjected to a system of continuous tests.

'In 1861, he showed that the electrical resistance of molten alloys is
equal to the sum of the resistances of the separate metals, and that
latent heat increases the specific resistance of metals in a greater
degree than free heat.' In 1864 he made researches on the heating of the
sides of a Leyden jar by the electrical discharge. In 1866 he published
the general theory of dynamo-electric machines, and the principle of
accumulating the magnetic effect, a principle which, however, had been
contemporaneously discovered by Mr. S. A. Varley, and described in
a patent some years before by Mr. Soren Hjorth, a Danish inventor.
Hjorth's patent is to be found in the British Patent Office Library, and
until lately it was thought that he was the first and true inventor of
the 'dynamo' proper, but we understand there is a prior inventor still,
though we have not seen the evidence in support of the statement.

The reversibility of the dynamo was enunciated by Werner Siemens in
1867; but it was not experimentally demonstrated on any practical scale
until 1870, when M. Hippolite Fontaine succeeded in pumping water at the
Vienna international exhibition by the aid of two dynamos connected in
circuit; one, the generator, deriving motion from a hydraulic engine,
and in turn setting in motion the receiving dynamo which worked the
pump. Professor Clerk Maxwell thought this discovery the greatest of the
century; and the remark has been repeated more than once. But it is a
remark which derives its chief importance from the man who made it, and
its credentials from the paradoxical surprise it causes. The discovery
in question is certainly fraught with very great consequences to the
mechanical world; but in itself it is no discovery of importance, and
naturally follows from Faraday's far greater and more original discovery
of magneto-electric generation.

In 1874, Dr. Siemens published a treatise on the laying and testing of
submarine cables. In 1875, 1876 and 1877, he investigated the action of
light on crystalline selenium, and in 1878 he studied the action of the

The recent work of Dr. Siemens has been to improve the pneumatic
railway, railway signalling, electric lamps, dynamos, electro-plating
and electric railways. The electric railway at Berlin in 1880, and Paris
in 1881, was the beginning of electric locomotion, a subject of great
importance and destined in all probability, to very wide extension in
the immediate future. Dr. Siemens has received many honours from learned
societies at home and abroad; and a title equivalent to knighthood from
the German Government.


MR. Clark was born at Great Marlow in 1822, and probably acquired his
scientific bent while engaged at a manufacturing chemist's business
in Dublin. On the outbreak of the railway mania in 1845 he took to
surveying, and through his brother, Mr. Edwin Clark, became assistant
engineer to the late Robert Stephenson on the Britannia Bridge. While
thus employed, he made the acquaintance of Mr. Ricardo, founder of the
Electric Telegraph Company, and joined that Company as an engineer in
1850. He rose to be chief engineer in 1854, and held the post till 1861,
when he entered into a partnership with Mr. Charles T. Bright. Prior to
this, he had made several original researches; in 1853, he found that
the retardation of current on insulated wires was independent of the
strength of current, and his experiments formed the subject of a Friday
evening lecture by Faraday at the Royal Institution--a sufficient mark
of their importance.

In 1854 he introduced the pneumatic dispatch into London, and, in 1856,
he patented his well-known double-cup insulator. In 1858, he and Mr.
Bright produced the material known as 'Clark's Compound,' which is so
valuable for protecting submarine cables from rusting in the sea-water.
In 1859, Mr. Clark was appointed engineer to the Atlantic Telegraph
Company which tried to lay an Anglo-American cable in 1865. in
partnership with Sir C. T. Bright, who had taken part in the first
Atlantic cable expedition, Mr. Clark laid a cable for the Indian
Government in the Red Sea, in order to establish a telegraph to India.
In 1886, the partnership ceased; but, in 1869, Mr Clark went out to the
Persian Gulf to lay a second cable there. Here he was nearly lost in the
shipwreck of the Carnatic on the Island of Shadwan in the Red Sea.

Subsequently Mr. Clark became the head of a firm of consulting
electricians, well known under the title of Clark, Forde and Company,
and latterly including the late Mr. C. Hockin and Mr. Herbert Taylor.

The Mediterranean cable to India, the East Indian Archipelago cable
to Australia, the Brazilian Atlantic cables were all laid under the
supervision of this firm. Mr. Clark is now in partnership with Mr.
Stanfield, and is the joint-inventor of Clark and Stanfield's circular
floating dock. He is also head of the well-known firm of electrical
manufacturers, Messrs. Latimer Clark, Muirhead and Co., of Regency
Street, Westminster.

The foregoing sketch is but an imperfect outline of a very successful
life. `But enough has been given to show that we have here an engineer
of various and even brilliant gifts. Mr. Clark has applied himself in
divers directions, and never applied himself in vain. There is always
some practical result to show which will be useful to others. In
technical literature he published a description of the Conway and
Britannia Tubular Bridges as long ago as 1849. There is a valuable
communication of his in the Board of Trade Blue Rook on Submarine
Cables. In 1868, he issued a useful work on ELECTRICAL MEASUREMENTS,
and in 1871 joined with Mr. Robert Sabine in producing the well-known
ELECTRICAL TABLES AND FORMULAE, a work which was for a long time the
electrician's VADE-MECUM. In 1873, he communicated a lengthy paper on
CELL; and quite recently he published a treatise on the USE OF THE

Mr. Clark is a Fellow of the Royal Society of London, as well as a
member of the Institution of Civil Engineers, the Royal Astronomical
Society, the Physical Society, etc., and was elected fourth President
of the Society of Telegraph Engineers and of Electricians, now the
Institution of Electrical Engineers.

He is a great lover of books and gardening--two antithetical
hobbies--which are charming in themselves, and healthily counteractive.
The rich and splendid library of electrical works which he is forming,
has been munificently presented to the Institution of Electrical


Theodose-Achille-Louis, Comte du Moncel, was born at Paris on March 6,
1821. His father was a peer of France, one of the old nobility, and a
General of Engineers. He possessed a model farm near Cherbourg, and
had set his heart on training his son to carry on this pet project; but
young Du Moncel, under the combined influence of a desire for travel, a
love of archaeology, and a rare talent for drawing, went off to Greece,
and filled his portfolio with views of the Parthenon and many other
pictures of that classic region. His father avenged himself by declining
to send him any money; but the artist sold his sketches and relied
solely on his pencil. On returning to Paris he supported himself by
his art, but at the same time gratified his taste for science in a
discursive manner. A beautiful and accomplished lady of the Court,
Mademoiselle Camille Clementine Adelaide Bachasson de Montalivet,
belonging to a noble and distinguished family, had plighted her
troth with him, and, as we have been told, descended one day from her
carriage, and wedded the man of her heart, in the humble room of a flat
not far from the Grand Opera House. They were a devoted pair, and Madame
du Moncel played the double part of a faithful help-meet, and inspiring
genius. Heart and soul she encouraged her husband to distinguish himself
by his talents and energy, and even assisted him in his labours.

About 1852 he began to occupy himself almost exclusively with electrical
science. His most conspicuous discovery is that pressure diminishes the
resistance of contact between two conductors, a fact which Clerac in
1866 utilised in the construction of a variable resistance from carbon,
such as plumbage, by compressing it with an adjustable screw. It is
also the foundation of the carbon transmitter of Edison, and the more
delicate microphone of Professor Hughes. But Du Moncel is best known as
an author and journalist. His 'Expose des applications de l'electricite'
published in 1856 ET SEQ., and his 'Traite pratique de Telegraphie,'
not to mention his later books on recent marvels, such as the telephone,
microphone, phonograph, and electric light, are standard works of
reference. In the compilation of these his admirable wife assisted him
as a literary amanuensis, for she had acquired a considerable knowledge
of electricity.

In 1866 he was created an officer of the Legion of Honour, and he became
a member of numerous learned societies. For some time he was an adviser
of the French telegraph administration, but resigned the post in 1873.
The following year he was elected a Member of the Academy of Sciences,
Paris. In 1879, he became editor of a new electrical journal established
at Paris under the title of 'La Lumiere Electrique,' and held the
position until his death, which happened at Paris after a few days'
illness on February 16, 1884. His devoted wife was recovering from a
long illness which had caused her affectionate husband much anxiety, and
probably affected his health. She did not long survive him, but died on
February 4, 1887, at Mentone in her fifty-fifth year. Count du Moncel
was an indefatigable worker, who, instead of abandoning himself to
idleness and pleasure like many of his order, believed it his duty to be
active and useful in his own day, as his ancestors had been in the past.


THIS distinguished American electrician was born at Barnesville in
Belmont county, Ohio, on August 2, 1835. His family were Quakers, and
in early life he was apprenticed to a carpenter, but showed a taste
for chemistry, and at the age of twenty-one he went to Oberlin College,
where he studied for five years. At the age of thirty he turned his
attention to electricity, and invented a relay which adapted itself to
the varying insulation of the telegraph line. He was then led to devise
several forms of automatic repeaters, but they are not much employed. In
1870-2, he brought out a needle annunciator for hotels, and another for
elevators, which had a large sale. His 'Private Telegraph Line Printer'
was also a success. From 1873-5 he was engaged in perfecting his
'Electro-harmonic telegraph.' His speaking telegraph was likewise the
outcome of these researches. The 'Telautograph,' or telegraph which
writes the messages as a fac-simile of the sender's penmanship by an
ingenious application of intermittent currents, is the latest of his
more important works. Mr. Gray is a member of the firm of Messrs.
Gray and Barton, and electrician to the Western Electric Manufacturing
Company of Chicago. His home is at Highland Park near that city.

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