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Two related questions emerge from these controversies over the invention and early commercialization of the telegraph. First, how could Morse, a man with little scientific training or mechanical skill, invent the telegraph? Second, how should we apportion credit for the telegraph among Morse, Henry, and Vail?The author's conclusion is clear: Morse was the one who succeeded in reducing the invention of telegraphy in the United States to practice, but he relied on the substantialcontributions to the then-new science of electricity by Henry and the mechanical ingenuity of Vail. Without the help of either one, the Morse telegraph would not have been successful as a commercial system. As another interesting note, the author points out that the Morse code was developed by Morse himself, despite frequent comments that Vail was the one who developed the code.
Date of Publication: February 2010