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 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.