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 he 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 AMERICAN GEOGRAPHY, as well as a compiler of a UNIVERSAL GAZETTEER His 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 admirers.
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 telegraph.'