Timeline - Landline Telegraphy

Timeline of Electrical Landline Telegraph

1745   Leyden Jar - Discovered simultaneously by Pieter von  Muschenbrook (1662-1761, Professor at Leyden University), Ewald Jűrgen von Kliest (1700-1748, Camen, Germany) and Cunaeus (Pomerania).  Forerunner of the Capacitor (earlier known as the “condenser”); stores electric charge.

1746   Abbé Jean-Antoine Nollet (1700-1770) connected some of his Carthusian monks in series with iron wire, in a circle 5400ft in circumference and discharged a Leyden jar through them. 

1753    “CM” - predicts an electrostatic telegraph using 26 wires and a pith-ball detector.  No one has been able to identify “CM”; possibly Charles Marshall of Renfrew, Scotland.

1767   Joseph Bozolus a Jesuit in Rome proposed laying 2 wires underground and discharging a Leyden jar through them, the charge being detected by sparks between the to wires at the other end.

1773   L Odier (1748-1817) – multi-wire electrostatic telegraph

1774   Georges Le Sage (1724-1803) – electrostatic telegraph using 24 wires

1777   Alessandro Volta (1745-1827) – electrostatic telegraph with spark detector

1787   Lomond’s electric telegraph using discharges from a Leyden jar and pith ball indicators

M Lomond – electrostatic telegraph using one wire, spark detector and code book.

Augustin de Bethancourt y Mollina (1758-1826, Spain) sent messages between Madrid and Aranjuez (42 km) by discharge from Leyden jar using pith-ball detector

1795   Don. Francisco Salvá y Compillo (1751-1828) – electrostatic telegraph, 26 wires and a Leyden jar

1790   Gustave Chappé – synchronous, electrostatic telegraph.

1794  Claude Chappe (1763-1805) - Semaphore telegraph - France. Chappe’s telegraph chain sent messages 150 miles in 2 minutes

1794   *Reusser – electrostatic telegraph using 36 wires and a spark detector.

*Reizen’s Electric Spark Telegraph *possibly Reusser and Reizen are different spellings of the same person

1797   Tiberius Cavallo – Telegraph using one wire, spark detector and a code book.

1798   Dr Salva – Electric Spark Telegraph

1800   Alessandro Volta’s Pile - The first primary cell ‘battery’.  The first source of continuous ‘current’ electricity

Don. Francisco Salvá y Compillo – Multi-wire telegraph using electrolysis as a detector

1802    W Alexander – Multiwire telegraph with electric relay detector

1809   Samuel Thomas Sömmering (1755-1830) Electrochemical Telegraph using insulated underground wires.  28 conductors (wires) between stations.   Electrolysis of water produced bubbles.  Separate electrode for each character.

1810   JR Coxe – Electrolysis detector telegraph (USA)

1811   Sömmering & Schiller sent electric current through insulated wires across River Isar

Johann Salomon Schweigger (1779-1857) – Telegraph using galvanometer detector

1812   Baron Pavel Lvovitch Schilling von Cannstadt (1786-1837) demonstrated an electrochemical telegraph to Tsar Alexander I.

1813   JR Sharpe – electrolysis detector telegraph

1816   Ronalds’s Telegraph - Sir Francis Ronalds (1788-1873) - An electrostatic device despite current electricity being known about.  It relied upon clockwork synchronous rotation of character discs at the sending and receiving stations.  Although a great advance over semaphore, it was rejected by the Admiralty. UK

Dr J. R. Coxe suggested an indicator relied on the electrolysis of water. US

1820   André-Marie Ampère (1775-1386) – telegraph with 25 pairs of wires and magnetic needle detector

Hans Christian Oersted (1777-1851) – Electromagnetism (deflection of compass needle by current trough wire

Schweigger’s Multiplier - the sensitivity of a compass needle to electric current was multiplied by winding a coil around the needle rather than a single pass of a wire.

1824   E Smith – electrostatic telegraph with 24 wires and spark detectors

1825   Physiological Telegraph suggested in Mechanic’s Magazine “a series of coded, graduated electric shocks”.

1826   S Porter – telegraph with multiple wire in a glass tube and a magnetised needle detector

Georg Simon Ohm (1789-1854) demonstrated relationship between current voltage and resistance – Ohm’s Law.

Johann Christian Poggendorff (1796-1857) added mirror to galvanometer movement


Harrison Gray Dyer – Electrostatic telegraph; 26 wires, spark and litmus paper indicator.

1828   St Amand Tde – Electrovoltaic telegraph with electroscope detector

1830   A Booth – Electromagnetic telegraph with relay detector

Joseph Henry (1797-1837) invents the electromagnet and simple electric bell

1831   Michael Faraday (1791-1867) – Describes electromagnetic Induction

Joseph Henry (1797-1878) – Electromagnetic telegraph with bell detector

1832   Baron Schilling of Cronstadt developed a telegraph using 5 magnetic needles.  He died in 1837 before he could make anything of it but not before he had shown it to William Fothergill Cooke.

1833   Professors Carl Frederich Gauss (1777-1855)  & Wilhelm Eduard Weber (1804-1891) constructed a super-sensitive mirror galvanometer and demonstrated the first practically useful telegraph in Göttinggen, Germany

1835    Samuel Finley Breese Morse (1791-1872) – Embosser - Morse’s first telegraph consisted of a series of type-blocks placed in line in a carriage which traversed under a switch.  Current was thus switched in code groups corresponding to characters. A solenoid embossed a moving paper tape at the receiving station.  Morse was a Professor of Art and his first writing telegraph was made for a redundant picture frame! (US)

1836   Morse devised simple relay

Karl August von Steinheil (1801-1870) – Magnetised needle telegraph with coding (Germany)

John Frederic Daniell (1790-1845) Prof of Chemistry, King’s College, London - Daniell Cell

Humphrey Davy (1778-1829) Penzance, Truro & Bristol – Davy’s telegraph

The era of practical electrical telegraphy began in the USA and England simultaneously in 1837

1837   Morse & Vail introduce Morse code.  Morse patents his first telegraph. 

William Fothergill Cooke (1806-1879) & Charles Wheatstone (1002-1875) – 5-needle telegraph:  5 galvanometers, 5 wire + earth-return, 2 of the galvos energised at any one moment to point to one of the 20 letters of the matrix (no C,J,Q,U,X,Z’).  First used between Euston and Camden railway stations (England)

Cooke’s Chronometric telegraph (England)

William Alexander - Alexander’s telegraph –  30 wires, key and galvo coil for each character. (UK)

Highton Single needle telegraph

Edward Davy, a surgeon    8 keys coded for 24 characters; magnetic+light display (UK)

Du Jardin – Electrovoltaic telegraph, single wire with electroscope detector

Cooke & Wheatstone – 2-needle telegraph.  Great saving in cable as only 2 wires and earth-return.  Messages sent by simple code. (UK)

Cooke & Wheatstone – Single needle telegraph.  Single wire plus earth-return.  Messages sent by simple code. (UK)

M Ponton – Magnetised needle telegraph; 8 wires, display cards and code

L Magrini – Magnetised needle telegraph; 3 needles used as pointers.

Stratingh – Electromagnetic telegraph; relay detector with 2 bells.

Vail’s Printing Telegraph (USA)

1838   Edward Davy – Electrochemical telegraph; electrolysis detector.  Also patented relay in the UK.

Steinheil discovers earth return (Germany)

1838-1840   Wheatstone produced 3 pointer-type telegraphs, 2 of which were weight driven (UK)

1841   Cooke & Wheatstone arbitration case (UK)

1842   Morse transmits signals across river through opposing pairs of metal plates

Slough murder case establishes the electric telegraph.  Details of a murder suspect who had alighted a train from Slough to London were sent by Wheatstone Telegraph to the Police at Scotland Yard, London and he was followed by them from Paddington Station and eventually convicted and hanged.  This alerted society to the importance of telegraphy.

Alexander Bain (1810-1877) - Chemical telegraph consisted of a metallic contact resting on a moving paper tape which had been saturated in a chemical such that the paper was discoloured when an electric current was passed.  UK

1843   Smith’s telegraph – R Smith, lecturer in chemistry, Scotland.  Impregnated paper strip under stylus.

1844   L Breguet (1804-1883) – Electromagnetic ABC telegraph

Morse transmits from Baltimore to Washington (40 miles). “What hath God wrought”

1845   Formation of The Electric Telegraph Company by Cooke & Wheatstone

Morse opened public telegraph service

1846   Royal Earl House – printing telegraph

Alexander Bain – Magnetised single needle telegraph, recording             

Closed circuit Morse Telegraph (America)

Open circuit Morse Telegraph (Europe)

John Nott – Electric Dial Telegraph UK

W Siemens – ABC telegraph with ratchet mechanism

1847   E Störer – ABC telegraph with ratchet mechanism (Germany)

1848   Dyar’s telegraph

André Marie Ampère (1775-1836) – Astatic galvanometer (France)

W Henley – telegraph with 2 needles used as pointers

1852   Farmer proposes multiplex working

1853   First duplex Morse system in Europe

1854   French Electric Telegraph – an electric version of the Chappé Semaphore

David Edward Hughes’ Printing Telegraph                            

Double Plate Sounder

Stelje’s Printing Telegraph System

Morse Inker invented by Thomas John of Vienna

1855   Charles Tilston Bright  (1832-1888) ‘Bright’s Bells’  Acoustic Telegraph.  Bright was later knighted for his work on the Trans-Atlantic telegraph.  He became President of the Institution of Electrical Engineers (now known as the Institution of Engineering & Technology)

1858   Wheatstone Automatic Telegraph - A hand operated punch-machine encoded the message on paper tape.  Tape then passed though a ‘transmitter’ at high speed.  At the receiving station the message was printed as Morse code on another paper tape.

William Thomson – differential relay patent (UK)

George B Hicks patents automatic repeater (US)

James J Clark – repeater system (US)

Farmer and Woodman – repeater system (US)

1859   Hooper introduced rubber insulation for wire (but gutta percha had great advantages for submarine cables)

1860   Wheatstone developed his most famous ABC Telegraph which was self-powered.  Over 10,000 units were produced; 1500 were still in use in 1920

Atlantic Cable Failure Enquiry

Plante (France) develops lead/acid secondary battery system

1861   Western Union establish NY to San Francisco telegraph service

The Telegraphic Journal founded

1864   GF Milliken – repeater system (US)

1868   Joseph B Stearns – bridge duplex telegraph (USA)

Already 16,000 miles of telegraph wire in UK

Georges Lechlanché - Leclanché Cell (France)

Wheatstone knighted on completion of Automatic Telegraph – the earliest ‘automatic’ telegraphy system.  Messages in Morse code are punched onto paper tape (‘slip’).  The tape was then passed through a weight driven transmitter at the highest speed the line permitted.  The Wheatstone receiver recorded the message as dots and dashes on paper tape. 

1872   Stearns originates artificial cable balancing line

Bernhard Meyer (1830-1884) – first multiplexer allowing 4 simultaneous telegraphy signals

1874   Baudot demonstrates time division multiplex.

1875   Alexander Graham Bell (1847-1922) invented the telephone (USA but born in Scotland)

1879   Phillips Code introduced to reduce cost of cable transmission

1884   Bernhard Meyer – first to use perforated paper tape to re-transmit Morse

1888   J H Bunnell invents “side-swiper” key to reduce telegrapher’s ‘glass arm’ (repetitive strain injury)

1901   Creed – receiving perforator (“reperforator”)

Murray – type-printing multiplex system

1904   Sir John Ambrose Fleming (1849-1945)  invents thermionic valve (tube)

1905   First Vibroplex ‘Bug’ key

1907   Lee De Forest patents Audion (triode) valve/tube (US)

1916   TELEX – the first teleprinter that could be used on telephone lines


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