Historical Account of the Introduction of the Galvanic and Electro-Magnetic Telegraph

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August, 1859.

of the
Introduction of the Galvanic and
Electro-Magnetic Telegraph.

The art of telegraphing by means of galvanism and electro-magnetism is certainly the most interesting application of scientific acquirements ever made to purposes useful to society at large. By means of it, ere long, the inhabitants of the various parts of the globe will be able to correspond with each other, through oceans and seas, to a far greater extent than is probably within the expectation of most people.

I have taken considerable pains to find out the origin of the first telegraph made to work by a galvanic battery. Through it the Russian Baron Schilling was induced to follow with enthusiasm the art of telegraphing, and he subsequently made at St. Petersburg the first electro-magnetic telegraph, which, in a curious way, caused the introduction of such telegraphs in England.

That Soemmerring in Germany made a telegraph, in which the chemical action of the galvanic current on water produced the signals, is known, but nobody has taken the trouble to discover how he was induced to construct it. Even the time when it was made is nowhere accurately given. Often it is stated wrongly by one, two, three, and, in one case, by nine years. It is surprising that the highly meritorious Steinheil, who lives in the very place where Soemmerring had made the first galvanic telegraph, errs likewise by two years.

From a minute and careful examination of the late Dr. Soemmerring’s papers, I am enabled to show that on the sixth of August this year (1859) it will be half a century since the first galvano-electric telegraph was completed.

Dr. Samuel Thomas von Soemmerring, born in 1755, at Thun, and deceased in 1830 at Frankfort-on-the-Maine, had studied at the University of Göttingen. In the year 1778 he travelled in Holland, England and Scotland. From 1779 till 1784 he was at Cassel, and from 1785 till 1796 at Mayence, Professor of Anatomy. From 1796 to 1805 he practised medicine in Frankfort, and from 1805 till 1820 he was a member of the Academy of Sciences at Munich, where the King of Bavaria had given him the title of Privy Counsellor (Geheimer Rath). His great merits as an anatomist and physiologist are universally known.

Galvanism had interested him, like Humboldt and others, principally in the hope of being able to make its study useful to clear up some of the most mysterious portions of physiology. I find, however, that he had already, in November 1801, paid attention to the chemical action of the galvanic current. In January, 1808, he, together with another member of the Academy of Sciences at Munich, the well known chemist Gehlen, had made communication to that Academy in reference to the brilliant galvanico-chemical discoveries of Humphry Davy, at the laboratory of the Royal Institution in London.

It seems to me quite certain that an event in connexion with the war against France, brought on by Austria fifty years ago, in 1809, gave rise to the first galvano-electric telegraph.

The Austrian troops had on the 9th of April, 1809, begun to cross the river Inn, and so entered Bavaria quite unexpectedly. King Maximilian had hardly been informed of this, when he, on the 11th, with his family, in all haste, retired from Munich to the western frontier of his kingdom, to the town of Dillingen. He took with him Baron (soon afterwards created Count) Maximilian Joseph von Montgelas, who was then at the head of two important branches of administration in Bavaria—the foreign and the home departments.

By means of the line of Chappe’s optico-mechanical telegraphs, established, already for some time, from the French frontiers to Paris, the Emperor Napoleon I. got information of this sudden aggressive movement of the Austrian troops much sooner than it was thought possible in the Austrian army, and he, without the least delay, started from Paris for Bavaria, on his way to the army. He came so totally unexpected to Dillingen, that he found King Maximilian in bed.

There is no doubt, that by the speedy arrival of the Emperor Napoleon I. in the midst of his army, Bavaria owed its delivery from the Austrians. Munich had been already, on the 16th of April, occupied by the Austrian General Jellachich, but he was, in less than a week after, on the 22nd, obliged to withdraw, and King Maximilian could again enter into his capital.

This event, so vitally important for Bavaria and for Munich, must there have directed special attention to the utility of telegraphs. The Minister Montgelas had been witness of the surprise caused by the French Emperor’s unexpected arrival at Dillingen. The Bavarian Academy of Sciences was in one of his departments of administration, and Dr. Soemmerring, as one of its most celebrated members, was from time to time invited to come to dine with him at Bogenhausen, near Munich, where he lived.

This was the case on the 5th of July, 1809, when the Minister expressed to him the wish to get from the Academy of Sciences proposals for telegraphs, having, as I allow myself to suppose, in view no other but optical (mechanical) telegraphs with improvements.

Soemmerring, referring to this dinner, noted in his diary only: “The Minister wishes to get from the Academy proposals for telegraphs.”

He at once resolved to try whether the visible evolution of gases from the decomposition of water by the action of the galvanic current might not be applied to telegraphic purposes, and three days after this dinner, he noted in his journal: “I could not rest till I realised the idea to make a telegraph by the evolution of gases.”

On the 22nd of July, his apparatus was already so far advanced, that it was fit to work. He wrote: “At last the telegraph is finished;” also: “The new little telegraphic machine works well.”

He, however, went on making still further improvements, and it was only on the 6th of August that he considered the telegraph quite completed. He was much pleased with its performance, being able to work through 724 feet of wire. He noted that day: “I tried the entirely finished apparatus, which completely answers my expectation. It works quick through wires having the length of twice 362 Prussian feet, so that the current passes along 724 feet.”

Two days later, he could already telegraph through one thousand, and, on the 18th August, through as much as two thousand feet of wire.

On the 29th of August he exhibited the telegraph in action before a meeting of the Academy of Sciences at Munich.

He now wished to send his telegraph to the National Institute at Paris, and for doing so an apparently favourable opportunity presented itself.

An old acquaintance and scientific correspondent of Soemmerring, the chief surgeon of the French army, Baron Dominique Larrey, came on the 4th of November to Munich, on his return from the French army, which had been acting against the Austrians in the battles of Aspern, Esslingen, and particularly at Deutsch Wagram, near Vienna. He brought with him from the battle-fields some interesting pathological objects for his friend’s collections.

Soemmerring, of course, showed Larrey his telegraph, and the latter at once consented to take it with him to Paris. Next day Larrey even assisted at the packing.[1]

In the court before the former military hospital, now military medical school, Val de Grace, in the Rue St. Jacques, at Paris, where he had been long usefully active, his statue in bronze is placed on a monument, erected in 1850. Larrey is represented pressing Napoleon’s last will against his heart.

After Baron Larrey’s departure from Munich, Soemmerring composed a description of his telegraphic apparatus in French, under the title: “Mémoire sur le Télégraphe,” which, on the 12th of November, he forwarded to Larrey, in Paris. As he flattered himself that the Baron would find an opportunity to exhibit the telegraph before the Emperor Napoleon, he begged, in his letter, to be informed with what attention His Imperial Majesty might honour his invention. He also hoped that some members of the Institute might approve of it. Soemmering did not for a long time receive any account from Baron Larrey. At last the latter wrote that he had presented the telegraph in the beginning of 1810 to the Institute, but no resolution had been come to.

I have been permitted, in Paris, to examine the Journals of the meetings of the Institute, and have found that Baron Larrey was in his letter—as also afterwards in a printed statement—incorrect with regard to the date; he presented the telegraph on the 5th December, 1809.

Under this date the following entry is made: “M. Larrey, au nom du Docteur Soemmerring, professeur à Munic, présente un télégraphe à pile galvanique qui peut servir la nuit.” The Institute appointed Biot, Carnot, Charles, and Monge (who were all four present at the meeting) to examine the apparatus, and to report upon it, but, although I have carefully looked over all the journals for nearly two years following, I have found no report. Biot, the only surviving one of the four members appointed to examine the telegraph, and to whom I have spoken on the subject, cannot recollect the reason why no report was made. Soemmerring received his telegraph back on the 12th of May, 1811, full 18 months after having intrusted it to Larrey.

The reason why Soemmerring’s contrivance received so little attention in France, may have been that the optical telegraph lines, established by the Chappes, were considered to answer sufficiently well.

Larrey inserted in the number for April, 1810, of the “Bulletin de la Société médicale d’émulation,” a notice of the telegraph, in which he speaks with much detail of the analogy which the many wires of the galvano-electric cord seemed to present with the single fibres of a nervous trunk, to which analogy Soemmerring had pointed in the Mémoire, prepared for Larrey, as well as in his original description of the telegraph printed in the “Denkschriften” of the Academy of Munich, for 1809 and 1810. Larrey’s said article appeared again, nearly twenty years later (in November, 1829), in his “Clinique chirurgicale.”

In both these publications of Baron Larrey’s the telegraph is placed in the midst of pathological and surgical subjects, where one would hardly look for an invention made for telegraphic purposes.

On the 9th of December, 1809, Ludwig Karl, then Crown Prince of Bavaria—who in 1825 became King, and abdicated in 1848—honoured Soemmerring with a visit. Unfortunately the new telegraph, which was to replace the original one taken by Larrey to Paris, was not yet quite ready to perform experiments with.

At the time when Soemmerring became a member of the Academy of Sciences at Munich, in 1805, there was attached to the Russian mission in that capital the Baron Pawel Lwowitch Schilling (of Canstadt). About a year after the invention of the telegraph, on the 13th of August 1810, Schilling saw experiments performed with it. He was so forcibly struck with the probability of a very great usefulness of the invention, that from that day galvanism and its applications became one of his favourite studies. He brought many persons, from Russia as well as from other countries, to Soemmerring, that they might see his telegraph. The Russian Minister, Prince Bariatinsky, repeatedly visited Soemmerring, and invited him to his house.

Ten days after Baron Schilling’s first taking notice of the telegraph, on the 23rd of August, 1810, Soemmerring succeeded in inventing a contrivance for sounding an alarum, which answered perfectly well. He made the gas, rising in small bubbles from two of the wire points in the water, collect under a sort of inverted glass spoon at the end of a long lever, which, rising, made a second, bent, lever in the opposite direction, on the same axle, descend and throw off a little perforated leaden ball, stuck lightly on it, which, falling on an escapement, set the clockwork in action.

This alarum arrangement gave Soemmerring much pleasure, which he expresed in his journal with some detail. He wrote: “If the principal part of the telegraph gave me no trouble and demanded no alteration, but was ready in a few days, this secondary object, the alarum, cost me a great deal of reflection and many useless trials with wheelwork, which was driven by the streams of gas in the water to set the clockwork going, till at last I hit upon this very simple arrangement.”

The drawings were made by Christian Koeck.Soemmerring 1810 telegraph detail.jpg

Soemmerring’s alarum has not become generally known, because it is not represented on the two plates which accompany the description of his telegraph in the Memoirs (Denkschriften) of the Munich Academy, published only in 1811. These plates were already engraved before the alarum was invented. The drawings were made by Christian Koeck, who had formerly, at Mayence, been Soemmerring’s draftsman, but who now had just returned from Moscow, where he had been employed by Gotthelf Fischer for the Imperial Society of Naturalists.[2]

On the 7th of September, 1810, Soemmerring called on Baron Schilling to invite him to his lodgings, in order that he might have the pleasure of showing him the action of the telegraph through wire carried round the whole house in which he then lived. It was Leyden’s house, nearly opposite the Max Gate. The wires were first covered with a solution of india-rubber, and then varnished.

On the 25th October, the then newly-married Crown Princess of Bavaria, Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen, aunt to Her Imperial Highness the Grand Duchess Constantine of Russia, honoured Soemmerring with a visit to see his telegraph. She came accompanied by her mother, aunt to His Highness the Duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, who is married to Her Imperial Highness the Grand Duchess Catherina Michailowna of Russia.

On the 6th of April, 1811, a renowned warrior, General Erasmus Deroy, who in the following year, on the 18th of August, was mortally wounded near Polotzk, in Russia, where he died and lies buried, came accompanied not only by two aides-de-camp, but by several foreign Ministers, to see the action of Soemmerring’s telegraph.[3]

On the 7th of May, Baron Schilling introduced to Soemmerring Baron Comeau, a Lieutenant-Colonel in the service of Bavaria, who repeated his visit on the following day, to get a thorough knowledge of the telegraph. I mention Baron Comeau’s visit principally for the reason that he subsequently gave Soemmerring the first account of Schilling’s operations with a subaqueous galvanic conducting cord through the river Neva, at St. Petersburg, in the year 1812.[4]

On the 14th of May, Baron Schilling introduced to Soemmerring Count Jeroslas Potozki, a Russian Colonel of the Engineer Corps, one of the many sons of Count Stanislas Felix Potozki. On the 20th this Colonel saw experiments with the telegraph, and on the 25th he came again to request Soemmerring to let him have an apparatus, in order that he might be able to exhibit it at Vienna and at St. Petersburg. Soemmerring promised to get one ready.

On the 22nd May, the Minister Count Montgelas and his lady visited Soemmerring, to see experiments with his telegraph.

On the 5th of June, Baron Schilling proposed to Soemmerring to try the action of the telegraph whilst the two conducting cords were each interrupted by water contained in a wooden tub. The signals appeared just as well as if no water had been interposed, but they ceased as soon as the water in the two tubs was connected by a wire, the current then returning by this shorter way.

On the following two days, the 6th and the 7th June, Soemmerring made, together with Baron Schilling, first across a canal on the river Isar, and then along the river itself, experiments similar to those made by Galvani’s nephew, Giovanni Aldini, in 1803, near Calais, in the sea, and, near Charenton, on the river Marne, not far from its junction with the Seine.[5]

A representation of the experiment made near Calais is given on plate 8, in Aldini’s book: “Essai théorique et expérimental sur le Galvanisme,” published in 1804.

At these experiments Count Potozki, and also the well known Bavarian engineers, Baader and Wiebeking, were present. Baader had seen the telegraph in Soemmerring’s house on the 26th of May.

On the 9th of June, Soemmerring delivered to Count Potozki, the telegraph intended to be shown at Vienna and at St. Petersburg.

On the 5th of July, Count Potozki communicated to Soemmerring from Baaden, near Vienna, that he, on the 1st of that month, had had the honour to exhibit his telegraph in action before his Majesty the Emperor Francis I., the Empress, and the Archdukes Charles and John, who had all been highly pleased. (“Ils en furent enchantés.”) The Emperor expressed his desire to have a telegraphic line established between the capital Vienna and his country palace Laxenburg (a distance of about nine miles).

On the 28th July, the aeronaut Robertson saw experiments with Soemmerring’s telegraph. At his request he obtained an apparatus which he took with him to Paris.[6]

On the 22nd August, Prince Leopold of Saxe Coburg, now King of the Belgians, honoured Soemmerring with a visit to see the telegraph in action. He was accompanied by the Saxon Minister, Count Einsiedel.

In September, Soemmerring simplified his telegraph considerably; he reduced the number of wires in his conducting cord from 35 to 27.

On the 9th October, Baron Comeau had introduced the then Bavarian Minister at Paris, Anton de Cetto, to Soemmerring, that he might see the telegraph. He was accompanied by his son, now Bavarian Minister in London, Baron August de Cetto, who well recollects this visit.

On the 15th November, Soemmerring sent a newly made telegraph to his son Wilhelm, at Geneva, where he was at that time studying, and who is now a medical practitioner at Francfort.

The editors of the “Bibliothèque Britannique,” August and Charles Pictet and M. Maurice, inserted a description of it in their journal, in which there are many errors, although Soemmerring had sent an account, drawn up by himself, along with the instrument. They printed that the telegraph was invented a few months before that time (the beginning of January 1812), whereas the first telegraph had been made more than two years earlier.

Soemmerring had sent, along with Koeck’s engraved plates of the telegraph apparatus, a drawing, made expressly for that purpose, by the same artist, of the alarum, but in the plate, done at Geneva, it is not correctly given. I am in possession of a faithful representation of this early alarum.

On the 28th and 29th November, Soemmerring had visits from Baron Alexander von Humboldt.

On the 1st of February, 1812, Prince Karl Theodor, the second son of King Maximilian I, honoured Soemmerring with a visit to see the telegraph.

On the 4th of February Soemmerring announced that he was able to telegraph through 4,000 feet of wire, and on the 15th March he telegraphed even through 10,000 feet.

In the spring of 1812, Baron Schilling was endavouring to contrive a conducting cord, sufficiently insulated that it might convey the galvanic current, not only through wet earth, but also through long distances of water.

The war then impending between France and Russia made Baron Schilling desirous of finding a means by which such a conducting cord should serve for telegraphic correspondence between fortified place and the field, and likewise for exploding powder-mines across rivers.

On the 8th of April Soemmerring wrote in his diary: “Schilling arrives, almost out of breath, with his idea about blowing up mines. Take care! Take care!”

On the following day Schilling came not less than four times to Soemmerring.

On the 18th May, Soemmerring wrote: “Schilling is quite childish about his electro-conducting cord.”

On the 20th of July Schilling departed for St. Petersburg, as the Russian mission in Munich, on account of the then political circumstances, was dissolved. Soemmerring expressed in his diary the deep regret he felt at losing his interesting society.

In Russia Baron Schilling continued his endeavours to obtain the means necessary for being able to blow up powder-mines without approaching them for the purpose, and even across rivers of considerable breadth, by the galvanic current. Not only had he already a subaqueous conductor, but he invented an ingenious, though simple, way of igniting the powder by means of pieces of charcoal, shaped in such a manner that they did not fail to produce the effect. In the autumn of 1812 he actually exploded powder-mines across the river Neva, near St Petersburg.

In 1813 Baron Schilling joined the army as “Staabsrittmeister” in a regiment of huzzars (the Saoumsky regiment) and in 1814 he was active in the engagements near Bar-sur-Aube on the 27th February, near Arcis-sur-Aube on the 20th and 21st, near Fere-Champenoise on the 25th, and in that close to Paris on the 30th March. On the following day he entered Paris with the Russian and allied troops, headed by the Emperor Alexander I.

Baron Schilling has told me that during his stay at Paris he, with his subaqueous conductor, several times, to the astonishment of the lookers-on, ignited gunpowder across the river Seine.

In one of Soemmerring’s later letters to Baron Schilling, he, alluding to his subaqueous conductor, says that the means found out by him (Schilling) to ignite, by the galvanic current, gunpowder at a distance (das Fernzünden) were more difficult to discover than his, Soemmerring’s, signalising at a distance (das Fernzeichengeben).

After Baron Schilling’s departure from Munich, in 1812, Soemmerring occupied himself less with the telegraph. His attention was directed to the dry voltaic pile, called after the Abbé Zamboni, who had made the first at Verona, where it was placed in the cabinet of the Vice-Roy of Italy, Eugène Beauharnais, afterwards Duke of Leuchtenberg.

From this pile, the action of which was considered, so to speak, perpetual, at that time great things were expected. Dr. Assalini, the surgeon of His Highness, who, like Larrey, had been with Napoleon I. in Egypt, and in 1812, with Prince Eugène, in Russia (where he got his feet frozen), was in June and July 1814 a good deal with Soemmerring at Munich. He printed there a description of “the perpetual (immerwährender) electromotor.” On the 14th of June he exhibited to the Academy of Sciences a pair of piles, belonging to His Highness the Vice-Roy.

On the 2nd October, Soemmerring showed the telegraph to two well-known scientific gentlemen, Professor Pfaff and Dr. Jäger.

On the 8th of May, 1815, he had the honour of a visit from the late Empress of Russia, Elizabeth Alexejewna. Her Imperial Majesty was accompanied by the King and Queen of Bavaria. Among other galvanic apparatus, Soemmerring showed Their Majesties a second-striking pendulum clock, set in motion by Zamboni’s dry piles, which had just then been made by Aloys Ramis, the mechanic in the employ of the Academy of Sciences.

On the 17th of July Baron Schilling came, quite unexpected, again to Munich. He was now anxious to acquire every information about a useful art that had been developed at Munich, namely, the art of lithography, in order to introduce it in Russia. Four days after his arrival, Schilling introduced Soemmerring to Count Fedor Petrowitch Von der Pahlen, then lately appointed Minister from Russia. Soemmerring accompanied his Excellency that day to the Academy, that he might see the cabinet of natural philosophy and other collections. Count Pahlen showed himself as friendly to Soemmerring as Prince Bariatinsky had done formerly. Not only did he come himself to study the telegraph, but he brought, for that purpose, many other persons to Soemmerring.

On the 29th December there came to pay his respects to Soemmerring, while Baron Schilling was just with him, the well known natural philosopher, Johann Salomon Christian Schweigger, then professor of natural philosophy and chemistry at the physico-technical Institute (Realinstitut), at Nürnberg, who was on his way to Paris and London, in which latter capital I had afterwards the pleasure of making his acquaintance.

Soemmerring showed Schweigger the next morning the telegraph, of which he had in the year 1811, immediately after the appearance of its description in the “Denkschriften” of the Munich Academy, inserted an account in the “Journal für Chemie und Physik,” which he had, since the commencement of the year mentioned (1811), edited. In the remarks, there added by Schweigger, he had found fault with Soemmerring, for not having indicated any means of calling at the distant station the attention of the clerk to the instrument, when a message was to be sent, and he proposed, for that purpose, to fire voltaic gas pistols.

We have seen that Soemmerring had succeeded in making an alarum soon after his description of the telegraph had been printed in the “Denkschriften,” although not yet published. Schweigger was now pleased to see this alarum, and lost no time in getting it announced in his above named Journal.

It may not be out of place here to remark, that the worthy Abbé Moigno, in his “Traité de Télégraphie électrique” of 1852, is in error, when he (page 64) says that Schweigger had given the account of Soemmerring’s telegraph, and made his remarks about the want of an alarum in the year 1838, in the “Polytechnisches Central Blatt,” which, in the Abbé’s opinion, Schweigger edited. This journal was edited by Julius Ambrosius Hülsse, teacher of mathematics, natural philosophy, and technology, at the commercial school at Leipzig. It contains an article on the electro-magnetic telegraph by Hülsse, which however does not treat on the subject the Abbé refers to. Schweigger had inserted the description of Soemmerring’s telegraph, and made his remarks in the above cited “Journal für Chemie und Physik,” not less than 27 years earlier, in 1811. In 1838 Schweigger was no longer editor of any journal.

Baron Schilling, having made at Soemmerring’s the acquaintance of Schweigger, of course could not foresee that one day an invention of this gentleman, the multiplier, would enable him to make at St. Petersburg the first electro-magnetic telegraph.

Schweigger dined with Soemmerring and Schilling together at the so-called Museum, a sort of club, where many of the scientific persons of Munich used to meet, and where, in 1810, Baron Schilling had first become more intimately acquainted with Soemmerring.

On the 2nd of January, 1816, several experiments were made with Zamboni’s pile. The most interesting were those relating to the action of the sparks from it on the air. Schweigger, who had himself in Nürnberg paid attention to Zamboni’s pile, wrote afterwards to Soemmerring from Paris (10th May, 1816) that there the dry pile was regarded more as a plaything, but that Gay-Lussac had heard with interest the account he had given him about Soemmerring’s experiments regarding the effect of the sparks from it on the atmospheric air.

Baron Schilling was now a good deal with Aloys Senefelder, the inventor of lithography, and also with Professor Mitterer, who directed an establishment for that art in Munich.[7]

In February, 1816, Dr. Thomas Thomson printed, in the Annals of Philosophy, that Dr. Redman Coxe, Professor of Chemistiy at Philadelphia, in the United States, had informed him that he contemplated galvanism as a probable means of establishing telegraphic communications, and nominally by the evolution of gases from water. Coxe promised to follow up the idea, but he added that it would demand time. The Abbé Moigno, at Paris, states in both editions of his Traité de Télégraphie électrique (1849 and 1852) erroneously the year 1810 instead of 1816 for the announcement of Coxe’s idea. Other authors have likewise given, this false date.

Dr. Thomson did not know that Coxe came six years and a half too late with his idea. Soemmerring, at Munich, had, in 1809, executed, what Coxe in Philadelphia, in 1816, hoped in time to do, although it appeared to him, as he expressed it, a fanciful speculation.

On the 2nd of July, 1816, Baron Schilling introduced the British Envoy and Minister Plenipotentiary at Munich, the Hon. Frederic James Lamb—youngest brother to Lady Palmerston—to Soemmerring, in order that he might acquire a knowledge of his telegraph. Ten days later, on the 12th, he accompanied him again there to see the telegraph in operation. On this occasion were present: Baron Schilling’s sister, the Countess Banfy, and her husband, Count Banfy. They resided at Vienna, but were then on a visit to Munich.

The Hon. F. J. Lamb was subsequently more than ten years British Ambassador at Vienna, where he married the daughter of the Prussian Minister there, Count Maltzahn. In 1841, he had been created Baron Beauvale, and, in 1848, he succeeded his elder brother, the second Viscount Melbourne, who had been so many years Prime Minister of England, and after whom the capital of the colony Victoria in Australia, yielding so much gold, is named. He died on the 29th January, 1853. Soon after that time, Messrs. Butcher and McGowan had come from Canada to Melbourne with the intention of establishing telegraph lines in Australia. The first line was opened on the 3rd of March, 1854, from Melbourne to Williamstown; other lines in Victoria soon followed, and since last November (1858), the capitals of New South Wales and of South Australia (Sydney and Adelaide) are telegraphically united with that of Victoria (Melbourne). Ere long these lines will be joined to others in Tasmania, by means of a submarine cable to be laid across Bass’s Strait.

So we know now, that the Honourable Francis James Lamb, third Viscount Melbourne, brother to Lady Palmerston, was the first Englishman that ever saw a telegraph put in action by a galvanic battery, and that it was the Russian Baron Schilling who invited him to take notice of it.

A Mr. John Robert Sharp, residing at Doe Hill, in Derbyshire, having read in the number for February 1816 of the “Repertory of Arts” a short account of Soemmerring’s invention (taken from the “Denkschriften” of the Academy of Sciences at Munich, which were published in 1811) announced in the number for June of that same journal, that in 1813 he had made before the Lords of the Admiralty an experiment showing that the voltaic current might serve for telegraphic purposes. Mr. Sharpe did not know that Soemmerring had already made his telegraph in the year 1809, and, perhaps supposing it might have been made only in the year 1813, he adds, that he did not mean to raise doubts as to the originality of Soemmerring’s invention.

On the 24th March, 1818, Baron Schilling wrote to Soemmerring to announce to him that His Majesty the Emperor Alexander I. had made him a Knight of the Order of St. Anne of the second class. In the following year (3rd November, 1819), the Imperial Academy of Sciences at St. Petersburg elected Soemmerring an honorary member.

Soon after the Congress of Aix la Chapelle, on the 7th December, 1818, Count Capo d’Istria, and on the 22nd of the same month, Prince Alexander Sergejewitch Menchikoff came with Count Pahlen to Soemmerring, to see experiments with the telegraph.

These visits gave Soemmerring much pleasure. He wrote to Schilling about Count Capo d’Istria: “Never has any body, except yourself, at the first glance comprehended every thing so clearly, and conceived how easily the telegraph might be applied on a large scale.”

In 1819 there was a prospect of Soemmerring’s telegraph being brought to London.

Already, on the 3rd of June, 1817, Count Arco, brother to the Countess Montgelas, had introduced to Soemmerring Lionel Hervey,[8] then lately appointed British Secretary of Legation at Munich, in order that he might have an opportunity of seeing the telegraph.

In 1819, on the 10th of May, when Soemmerring was about to go for a time to Frankfort, Count Arco informed him that Hervey wished to pay him another visit.

They both came two days after, and Soemmerring explained to Hervey the telegraph in all its details. On the 17th Hervey came again alone, and expressed his wish to get such a telegraph for England.

Soemmerring sent him the complete apparatus on the 25th May, and added an instruction, in English, about the way of using it. He expressed the hope “that Sir Humphry Davy would receive the telegraph favourably, perhaps improve it, and further its application to use in Great Britain.”

After Soemmerring’s return from Frankfort—where I had the pleasure of paying him my respects—he learned on the 20th May, 1820, that Hervey had not sent the telegraph to England. He got it back with the strange remark, that Hervey had not forwarded it, fearing difficulties at the custom house!

I have been endeavouring to find out from the papers of Soemmerring, whether he and Baron Schilling might have had a knowledge of the Italian Giandomenico Romagnosi’s highly important discovery, made a long time ago (in the month of May 1802), that the magnetic needle deviates from its normal direction when under the influence of the galvanic current, and of which he had published an account in a newspaper, at Trent, on the 3rd of August, 1802. It began thus: “II signore Consigliere Giandomenico Romagnosi si affretta a comunicare ai Fisici dell’ Europa uno sperimento relativo al fluido galvanico applicato al magnetismo.”

I found that Baron Schilling, immediately after his return to Munich, in 1815, communicated to Soemmerring the little book: “Manuel du Galvanisme,” by Joseph Izarn, Professor of natural philosophy at the Lycée Bonaparte, which had been printed in Paris in 1805, and in which, on page 120, in § ix., mention is made of Romagnosi’s discovery. I have also seen a note from Soemmerring, mentioning that he had read this treatise with attention. I came, however, to the conclusion that neither to Soemmerring, nor to Baron Schilling, had any idea of a practical application of Romagnosi’s observation presented itself, particularly as no rapid motion of the needle had been pointed out.

In the autumn of 1820, Soemmerring had decided to leave Munich for good, and to reside the rest of his life in his favourite place, Frankfort; he went there on the 13th October.

Letters show that the cordial friendship between him and Baron Schilling continued unchanged to the time of his decease, which took place on the 2nd of March, 1830.

When one studies the life and the labours of Soemmerring, it is impossible not to feel the highest esteem for him, as a man and as a philosopher. Not vanity, not eagerness of gain, but pure love of science and the wish to be useful were the motives of his incessant activity. Nor was Soemmerring too sanguine in his expectation with regard to the application of his invention. He expressed, however, the hope that it might serve to telegraph from Munich to Augsburg, nay from one end of the kingdom to the other without intermediate stations.

I had expected that, on the occasion of the centenary Jubilee, which the Royal Academy of Sciences at Munich celebrated in the month of March this year, it would have been pointed out, with some detail, that Soemmerring had invented the first galvanic telegraph, instead of which I found that, in an oration made to recall to memory the labours of defunct members of the Academy, it was said merely: “Soemmerring was one of the first who contrived a galvanic telegraph.” (Sömmerring war einer der Ersten die einen galvanischen Telegraphen erdachten.) These words are very few, and they even are not correct, for Soemmerring’s telegraph was not “one of the first,” but the very first galvanic telegraph.

It is well known that in 1820 a new era for the art of telegraphing was dawning. Hans Christian Oersted, at Copenhagen, had directed the attention of the scientific world much more effectually than Romagnosi, in Italy, had done, to the fact that the magnetic needle deflects, when a galvanic current comes near it.

Arago, of the Academy of Sciences in Paris, received the information about Oersted’s doings at the same time, and from the same source as myself.

It was in August, 1820, at Geneva, when I was making preparations for my second ascent of Mont Blanc, in order to follow out observations on the effects of the rare air at great heights on muscular motion, when Professor August Pictet, with whom I was then in daily intercourse, received Oersted’s circular announcement in Latin: “Experimenta circa effectum conflictus electrici in acum magneticam,” dated Copenhagen, July 21st. Just then Arago had come to Geneva, being on his way to Paris, where he intended to observe the solar eclipse on the 7th September.

At Pictet’s request, Professor de la Rive repeated Oersted’s experiment several times, as well with a powerful battery of 380 pairs of plates six inches square, as with a small one, made by Selligue, of twelve copper cups with a zinc plate in each. It happened that on the 19th of August, when De la Rive was experimenting with the said large battery, to show Arago and some scientific persons of Geneva the brilliant incandescence of charcoal-points when placed in the voltaic circuit, in the open air, and also in a vacuum, I was, much against my wish, detained on Mont Blanc, at the Grands Mulets, the whole day, as well as the preceding and following night, in clouds discharging flashes of lightning.

I cannot forego stating my belief that Oersted knew of Romagnosi’s discovery, announced in 1802, which was eighteen years before the publication of his own observations. It was mentioned in Giovanni Aldini’s (the nephew of Galvani’s) book: “Essai théorique et expérimental sur le Galvanisme,” printed at Paris in 1804, and dedicated to Bonaparte, to whom, in Italy, he had had the honour to explain experiments relating to his uncle’s great discovery,[9] He says, at page 191: “M. Romanesi, physicien de Trente, a reconnu que le galvanisme faisait décliner l’aiguille aimantée.”

Oersted was in Paris in 1802 and 1803, and it appears from the book of Aldini that Oersted, at the time he finished it, was still in communication with him, for he says at the end (page 376), he had not been able to add the information received from Oersted, Doctor of the University at Copenhagen, about the galvanic labours of scientific men in that country, nor that relating to new apparatus invented by himself. In 1813 Oersted had been again in Paris.

Who would suppose that Oersted did not know everything contained in Aldini’s book, in which even the index points to Romagnosi’s discovery in the following words: “Romanesi a fait des tentatives sur l’aiguille aimantée, page 191”?

For Izarn’s “Manuel” of 1805, above quoted, the mention of Romagnosi’s discovery is evidently taken from Aldini’s book of 1804. The words there are: “D’après les observations de Romagnési, physicien de Trente, l’aiguille déjà aimantée et que l’on soumet au courant galvanique, éprouve une déclinaison.” Now, this is literally what, since 1820, the world has been accustomed to call Oersted’s discovery.

As Oersted must have known Romagnosi’s experiment, it would have been an additional credit to him, if, in 1819 and 1820, on making known his own observations, he had just said a word about Romagnosi as pioneer in the field on which he became loaded with laurels.

Romagnosi ... a likeness of him, engraved from a painting by Ernesta Bisi.

In Alessandro de Giorgi’s collection of the works of Romagnosi, printed at Milan, there is prefixed to the first volume a likeness of him, engraved from a painting by Ernesta Bisi. I wish somebody would copy it by photographic means, and then multiply this portrait by the same process, for distribution among the lovers of electrical science. I can, for a similar purpose, furnish the portrait of Baron Schilling.

Arago had hardly got to Paris, when, on the 4th September, he communicated to the Academy of Sciences what he had seen at Geneva. He was requested to repeat Oersted’s experiment, which he did at the sitting of the Academy on the 11th. Two weeks after that Arago communicated to the Academy his observation that the galvanic conductors attracted needles that were not magnetised.

It deserves here to be remembered that, from Aldini’s book, it was known that the chemist Giuseppi Mojon, at Genoa, had, before 1804, observed in unmagnetised needles, exposed to the galvanic current, a sort of polarity. Izarn repeats this also in his “Manuel du Galvanisme,” which book was one of those that, by order, were to be placed in the library of every Lycée in France.

Ampère, who, as is well known, bestowed most particular attention on the subject brought, in 1820, before the scientific world through Oersted, mentioned that it might perhaps be possible to make use of the deviation of the needle for telegraphic purposes, but neither he nor any one else then constructed such an instrument.

It was reserved for Baron Schilling, at St. Petersburg, to make the first electro-magnetic telegraph. Having become, as we know, through Soemmerring, at Munich, passionately fond of the art of telegraphing by means of galvanism, he now used for it the deflection of the needle, which he placed within the multiplier of Schweigger horizontally on a light vertical axle hanging on a silken thread, and bearing a circular disc of paper, coloured differently on each side. To make the needle move steadily and prevent oscillations, Schilling had fixed to the lower extremity of its axle a strip of thin platina plate and immersed it in a cup of mercury. By degrees he simplified the apparatus. For a time he used five needles, and, at last, he was able to signalise even with one single needle and multiplier, producing by a combination of movements in the two directions all the signs for letters and numbers. Having known Soemmerring's alarum, Schilling invented one for his telegraph also. His success in bringing his instrument to a state of high perfection would have been much more rapid, had his time not been so much occupied with various duties, and particularly with the founding and directing of a large lithographic establishment for the government.

Baron Schilling's telegraph was an object of great curiosity at St. Petersburg; it was frequently exhibited by him to individuals and to parties. Already the Emperor Alexander I. had been pleased to notice it in its earlier stage, and, when it was reduced to great simplicity, His Majesty the Emperor Nicholas honoured Baron Schilling, in the beginning of April, 1830, with a visit at his lodgings in Afrossimow's house, in the Konooshennaja, to see experiments performed with it through a great length of conducting wires.

His Majesty had long before repeatedly witnessed in the summer camp, near St. Petersburg, the exploding of mines by means of Schilling's carbon igniters through conducting ropes at great distances. Once Baron Schilling had the honour to present to the Emperor, in his tent, a wire. He begged His Majesty to touch with it another wire, whilst looking through the door of the tent in the direction of a very far distant mine. A cloud of smoke with earth rose from this exploding mine at the moment the Emperor, with his hands, made the contact. This caused great surprise, and provoked expressions of satisfaction and applause.

In May of the last-mentioned year, 1830, Baron Schilling undertook a journey to China. He had a strong propensity for studying the language, and everything relating to China. His most ardent desire was to be able to visit Pekin, but he was obliged to confine his travels to the borders of the Empire. He collected a great many precious Chinese, Thibetan, Mongolian, and other writings, which are now preserved in the Imperial Academy of Sciences at St. Petersburg. He had a small electro-magnetic telegraphical apparatus with him, and the astonishment which the experiments, performed with it, excited, assisted him not a little to obtain many of the most interesting works, which he would not have got by simply paying for them.

After his return from the borders of China to St. Petersburg in March, 1832, Baron Schilling occupied himself again with the telegraph, and in May, 1835, he undertook a journey to the West of Europe, taking his simplified instrument with him.

In the month of September he attended the meeting of the German Naturalists at Bonn, on the Rhine, where, on the 23rd, he exhibited his telegraph before the Section of Natural Philosophy and Chemistry, over which Georg Wilhelm Muncke, Professor of natural philosophy at the University of Heidelberg, presided.[10] Muncke was much pleased with Schilling’s instrument, and he determined at once to get one for exhibition at his lectures.

I have lately, at Heidelberg, in the Western Main Street (Westliche Hauptstrasse), opposite the former convent of Dominicans, in the upper story of the house under No. 52, called: Zum Riesen, where, at present, the Cabinet of natural philosophy is located, found in a store-room, belonging to it, the apparatus which Professor Muncke got made in imitation of the one exhibited by Baron Schilling at Bonn.

A description of it, by Professor Muncke, is inserted in his article: Telepraph in “Gehler’s Physikalisches Wörterbuch,” Tome IX, p. 111-115. This description is illustrated, although not well, in the Atlas, by engraved representations, in Figs. 9, 10 and 11, on the second of the plates belonging to Tome IX.[11]

We know now, that Baron Schilling brought his electro-magnetic telegraph from St. Petersburg to Bonn, and that a similar one was made for Heidelberg. It remains to trace out how Schilling’s contrivance found its way from Heidelberg to London.

It will surprise many to learn that the individual who became the cause of this being done was, when a new-born child, mentioned by Lord Byron.

In a letter which Lord Byron wrote on the 20th of February, 1818, from Venice to the publisher of his productions, Mr. John Murray, in Albemarle-street, London, he says at the end, “Mr. Hoppner, whom I saw this morning, has been made the father of a very fine boy. Mother and child are doing very well indeed.”[12]

The father of this child, Richard Belgrave Hoppner, was one of three sons of John Hoppner, the celebrated portrait painter, who, even at the time of his birth, in 1759, had received special attention from King George III., and who died as one of the Royal Academicians on the 25th of January, 1810.[13]

R. B. Hoppner—whose name is known to us in Russia, because, in 1813, he translated from the German into English, our Admiral Krusenstern’s “Voyage round the world in the years 1803-6”—was married in September, 1814, at Brussels, to Mademoiselle Marie Isabelle May, daughter to Beat Louis May, living in the Canton of Berne, in Switzerland. In November of the same year he was appointed Consul-General at Venice and the Austrian territories in the Adriatic.

Lord Byron, when at Venice, in 1817, became a great friend of his, as may be seen from his letters, out of which not less than eighteen are printed by Thomas Moore in his “Letters and Journals of Lord Byron.” In several of them he alludes to Hopper’s, then “little, son.”

On examining at Heidelberg the books in which the names of the students at the University are entered, I found that this John William (the name Rizzo is not mentioned) Hoppner became a student there in 1834. He applied himself particularly to those branches that would enable him to become a civil engineer; indeed, he was subsequently for a time employed by Mr. Robert Stephenson, on the making of the railroad from Florence to Leghorn. With his subsequent history we have here nothing to do.

During the winter of 1835–6, he was lodged at Heidelberg in Engelman's house.

I now have to speak of the gentleman who, through John William Rizzo Hoppner, was induced to transfer Baron Schilling's mode of telegraphing to England.

William Fothergill Cooke, who, as a young man, had been six years in India in military service, had, in 1831, come to England on leave to visit his parents, and had, soon after that, left the service altogether. His father, Dr. William Cooke (who died on the 21st March, 1857), had for some time lived at Durham, and was subsequently appointed Reader in Medicine at the then lately organised University there. He began his lectures in 1833.

W. F. Cooke, wishing to make for his father anatomical models in wax to be used at his lectures, went to Paris, where he attended, during the winter of 1833–4, lectures on anatomy. In the spring of 1834 he returned to Durham, and made there such models as his father most wanted. In the summer of 1635 he accompanied his parents on a tour to Switzerland. Ascending the Rhine, Heidelberg was visited. Here Professor Tiedemann, the director of the then existing Anatomical Institute, offered to assist young Mr. Cooke in procuring the necessary means for making preparations in wax for his father, if he would come back to Heidelberg.

Accordingly, W, F. Cooke returned in the month of November from Berne, in Switzerland, to Heidelberg, where he took lodgings in the Pldckstrasse, in the house No. 97, at that time belonging to the brewer Wilhelm Speyrer, but now to the brewer George Müller. It bears the strange inscription: " Bierbrauerei zum neuen Essig-haus." There had been before vinegar works in that house.

As Mr. Cooke was not permitted to make here, in the cleanly kept apartments, anatomical dissections, he hired a room in the same street, nearly opposite, in the house of the gardener Schwartz, No. 58, now belonging to his grandson, the turner Ferdinand Koch. Here he was, during the winter, so active, that at the end of it he was able to send off four cases full of models in wax to his father at Durham.

In the present Anatomical Museum at Heildelberg, finished in 1848,1 have, under Nos. 382, 383, and 628, found three wax models, made by Mr. Cooke during the winter mentioned. The one under No. 628 is marked: W. F. C., Dunelm.

In the beginning of March 1836, Mr. Cooke heard accidentally from John William Bizzo Hoppner, with whom he had formed an intimate acquaintance, because his relations lived in the Canton Berne, where Mr. Cooke had been with his own parents, that the professor of natural philosophy had an apparatus with which he could signalize from one room to another. This was Baron Schilling's telegraph, but Mr. Hoppner did not know it.

The professor was no other than the already mentioned Geheime Hofrath Muncke. He had in the upper story of the former Convent of Dominicans, where he gave his lectures, and where he also lived, suspended wires for telegraphing out of the Cabinet into the Auditory.

I have examined these localities; the rooms are now quite empty. When I was there the floors were used to dry hops, spread out on them. From the year 1860 to 1852, the house had served as a military barrack.

As Mr. Cooke was curious to see the telegraphing out of one room into another, Mr. Hoppner took him on the 6th of March, 1836, to Professor Muncke's lecture room.

When Mr. Cooke saw the telegraphing, and was told that the instrument could work through great distances, the idea struck him that such a thing might be useful in England, particularly in tunnels along the railroads, which were at that time spreading more and more, and he determined to give up at once his anatomical occupation at Heidelberg, get such an apparatus as the Professor used made, and go to England, to endeavour to get such telegraphs there brought into use.

Mr. Cooke, who had never occupied himself with the study either of natural philosophy in general, or of electricity in particular, did not at all get further acquainted with Professor Möncke; he did not even acquire his name properly; he calls him Möncke. He had no idea that the apparatus he had seen had been contrived by Baron Schilling in Russia. He did subsequently suppose that Professor Möncke might have had the idea from Gauss, whom he calls Gaüss.

Let us see how Mr. Cooke himself, some years afterwards, in 1841, described what I have here, from my own investigation, detailed.

He wrote: "Having returned from India on leave of absence, on account of the state of my health, and afterwards resigned my commission, I was studying anatomy and modelling my dissections, at Heidelberg, when, in March 1836, I happened to witness one of the common applications of electricity to telegraphic experiments, which had been repeated without practical result for half a century. Perceiving that the agent employed might be made available to purposes of higher utility than the illustration of a lecture, I at once abandoned my anatomical pursuits, and applied my whole energies to the invention of a practical Electric Telegraph."

Who could, on reading this, have discovered that Mr. Cooke had seen experiments performed with a copy from the electro-magnetic telegraph made by Baron Schilling at St. Petersburg, and brought by him, six months before that time, to Bonn, the working of which is here mentioned by Mr. Cooke as "one of the common experiments repeated for half a century;" consequently, even before either electro-magnetism or a voltaic battery had been known?

When, in consequence of unpleasant disputes between Professor Wheatstone and Mr. Cooke, Sir Isambard Brunel and Professor Daniel were, in 1840, appointed arbitrators, they, without taking the trouble to find out what telegraph Mr. Cooke had seen, said, in their award (1841), that, "in March 1886, Mr. Cooke, while engaged at Heidelberg in scientific pursuits, witnessed, for the first time, one of those well known experiments on electricity, considered as a possible means of communicating intelli gence, which have been tried and exhibited from time to time, during many years, by various philosophers."

On another occasion, Mr. Cooke intended to give the name of the person whom he saw signalizing with a telegraph, but where this telegraph came from he did not know. He wrote: "In the month of March, 1886,1 was engaged at Heidelberg in the study of anatomy, in connexion with the interesting and by no means unprofitable profession of anatomical modelling, a self-taught pursuit to which I had been devoting myself with incessant and unabated ardour, working frequently fourteen or fifteen hours a day, for about eighteen months previous. About the 6th of March, 1836, a circumstance occurred which gave an entirely new bent to my thoughts. Having Witnessed an electro-telegraphic experiment, exhibited about that day by Professor Möncke of Heidelberg, who had, I believe, taken his ideas from Gaüss, I was so much struck with the wonderful power of electricity, and so strongly impressed with its applicability to the practical transmission of telegraphic intelligence, that from that very day I entirely abandoned my former pursuits, and devoted myself thenceforth with equal ardour, as all who know me, can testify, to the practical realization of the Electric Telegraph, an object which has occupied my undivided energies ever since. Professor Möncke's experiment was at that time the only one upon the subject that I had seen or heard of."

Mr. Cooke states, that within three weeks after he had seen Professor Möncke's telegraph, he had got made, partly at Heidelberg (where Mr. Hoppner assisted him), and partly at Frankfort, a similar one, but with three needles, with which he could produce twenty-six signals.

He came to London on the 22nd of v April, 1836. There he applied himself, as he says, almost night and day, to the making of his so-called mechanical instrument, worked by the attraction of an electro-magnet, which in January, 1837, he submitted to several of the leading gentlemen connected with the Liverpool and Manchester railway, proposing its adoption in the long tunnel close to Liverpool, which descends from Edgehill to the station in Lime-street, but this proposal was not followed out.

Having twice consulted Dr. Faraday, Cooke, by the advice of Dr. Roget, visited, on the 27th February, 1887, Professor Charles Wheatstone at his residence, in Conduit-street, and was soon after taken by him to his rooms in Song's College.

The result of Cooke's acquaintance with Wheatstone was, that, in May, 1887, they resolved to unite their efforts in endeavouring to introduce the use of telegraphs on a large scale in England.

Professor Wheatstone was at that time not yet sure whether the electro-magnet would work sufficiently well at considerable distances, and Mr. Cooke, who had left on the continent the instrument made at Heidelberg, constructed another like it with four deflecting needles. The opinion was, that the principle on which "Möncke's" instrument worked would be the best to adopt for practical use. Neither Professor Wheatstone, nor Mr. Cooke, knew that in so doing they were adopting Baron Schilling's plan.

That the instrument which Mr. Cooke had seen and copied at Heidelberg, was Baron Schilling's, is easy to prove. In Mr. Cooke's pamphlet, printed in 1856, and entitled: "The Electric Telegraph: Was it invented by Professor Wheatstone?" he gives on the first plate, in the first figure (Drawing I, Part A), a representation of the Heidelberg instrument, which he calls: Professor Möncke's. On plate II., belonging tb Tome IX. of Gehler's before-mentioned Dictionary of Natural Philosophy, Professor Muncke, as I have already mentioned, has represented Baron Schilling's telegraph in Figs. 9,10 and 11. On comparing the figures in both these publications, it will be seen that they represent the same instrument, and this in-contestably proves that Mr. Cooke's Heidelberg (Möncke's) telegraph was no other than Baron Schilling's.

On the 12th June a caveat for a patent was lodged, and it was determined to institute experiments with the projected telegraphic apparatus on a line of some extent.

Accordingly, on the 25th July, a trial was made at the terminus of the London and Birmingham Railway, then constructing, along wires one mile and a quarter in length, from Euston-square to Camden Town. This was the first instance of out of door telegraphing in England with a galtanic apparatus. It took place thirteen days before the decease of Baron Schilling, who died at St. Petersburg, on the 7th of August, without getting informed of the introduction of his telegraph into England.

In order to be able to try whether the instruments would work through considerable distances, Mr. Cooke had been permitted, at the Euston-square terminus, in a large building (the carriage house) to suspend many miles of wire, along which the current was made to pass, besides the wires in the open air, to Camden Town.

On the 19th of November, 1837, Messieurs Cooke and Wheatstone concluded a partnership contract, and on the 12th December they gave in the specification of their apparatus. It was not called a new invention, but an improvement. Indeed, it was in the essential part founded on the same principle as Baron Schilling's, namely the deflection of needles by multipliers. Professor Wheatstone had, as was to have been expected from such a philosopher, greatly improved the application; the needles were placed in a vertical instead of the horizontal position, and their motion was limited by stops.[14] At first he made an instrument with five such upright astatic needles, but this did not come into use, whereas telegraphs with two needles, and also with one needle, were adopted along the various lines.

Such needle instruments are, up to the present day, employed in Great Britain. At the principal telegraph station, in London, there are now not less than thirty double, and four single needle instruments in use.

About a week before the above-mentioned first and perfectly successful trial of telegraphing by Cooke and Wheat-stone in England, Steinheil, at Munich, had completed the junction of his house in the Lerchenstrasse with the building of the Academy of Sciences, and with the Royal Observatory at Bogenhausen, by means of 36,000 feet of wire for conducting the current from a magneto-electric machine both ways, the wires being suspended in the air. He occasionally signalised between these places, having contrived to make a deflecting needle either strike a bell or mark black dots on a stripe of paper. It was here that Steinheil first applied his so highly valued discovery that the earth may serve for conducting the return current, so that one half of the suspended wires became useless.

Already, in 1833, the Cabinet of natural philosophy,, of the University at Göttingen, had been, by means of wires in the air, united by Professor Wilhelm Weber, with the Astronomical Observatory, distant 3,000 feet, to which, in 1834, was added the Magnetic Observatory, situated near it.

Although this had been done for other than telegraphic purposes, it was found that the large magnetometric needles at the Observatories and in the Cabinet, could be easy set in motion by a feeble galvanic current, and this was used for some signalising. Subsequently, Steinheil had, at his factory at Munich, made for Göttingen, a magneto-electric machine with which the signalising was performed more speedily.

I cannot leave unnoticed that Gauss, the celebrated astronomer at Göttingen (deceased 1855), when relating what had been done there with regard to signalising, never mentioned Baron Schilling's telegraph, and that he, in 1837, even expressed in print his surprise, that nobody had, since Oersted's discovery, thought of utilising it. It is hardly possible that Gauss should not have had a knowledge of Schilling's labours. Professor Weber had been, in 1835, at Bonn, present at the meeting of the Section of natural philosophy and chemistry, when Baron Schilling exhibited his telegraph.

During the journey which Baron Schilling undertook in 1835, he had made, together with Baron Jacquiri and Professor Andreas von Ettingshausen, at Vienna, a series of experiments, with a view to find out the comparative merits of placing the conducting wires over the roofs of houses in the air, and of laying them in the earth. The latter trials were made in the botanical garden of the University, near the Rennweg. The result was like that obtained subsequently by Steinheil, at Munich, namely, that the earth conducted the current from one wire to the other laid at some distance parallel, which was then still supposed necessary for the return of the current. Steinheil had been led to make a trial of laying the wires in the earth, because at Göttingen the wires in the air had been several times injured by strong winds. Baron Schilling, Baron Jacquin and Professor Ettingshausen, at Vienna, concluded that the suspending of the wires in the air was the better method.[15] After all that had been accomplished before the month of September, 1837, in Europe by Baron Schilling, by Weber and Gauss, by Steinheil, and by Cooke and Wheatstone, it is offensive to observe that in America the painter Morse, who made, cm the 4th September, 1837, a poor experiment which he considered "successful," is held out as having made an electro-magnetic telegraph before anybody in Europe.

Samuel Finley Breese Morse,[16] born 1791, the eldest of three sons of the late Rev. Jedediah Morse, known for his geographical publications, having a taste for painting, and wishing to study this art, had for that purpose, from 1811 to 1815, been in England (at London and Bristol). At the close of 1829 he came again to Europe, and went by London and Paris to Rome and Naples, thence back to Paris, where he remained about a year to copy paintings in the Louvre. In the autumn of 1832 he returned from Havre to America.

On board the packet ship, the Sully, there was, among other passengers, Dr. Charles T. Jackson, of Boston, who had attended in Paris, besides other lectures, those of Pouillet, at the Sorbonne. I call to mind here that Pouillet the year before, in 1831, had had made his large electromagnet, which supported the weight of more than one thousand kilogrammes.

During the voyage, which lasted from the 8th of October to the 15th of November, Dr. Jackson repeatedly directed the conversation to the subject of electricity and electro-magnetism, which gave occasion to speak about the possibility of electro-magnetic signalising or telegraphing. Dr. Jackson had with him on board a small electro-magnet, which he had bought in Paris, at Pixii fils, and also a small galvanic battery. He pointed out some means as likely to serve for the purpose mentioned, by sketches, some of which I have seen in Dr. Jackson's pocket-book.

Arrived at New York, Morse endeavoured to gain his livelihood, as had been the case formerly, by painting portraits.

He being now always called Professor, most persons believe that he is a professor of natural philosophy, or some other branch of natural science, but this is not the case. In 1835 he got the title of " Professor of the Literature of the Arts of Design." It was supposed that he might, in the so-called University of the city of New York, where he was then lodged, lecture on that subject, but he has never, as I know from himself, given one single lecture thereon to pupils.

As his occupation in painting portraits, ever since his return from Europe in 1832, hardly produced him the means of supporting himself, he, towards the end of 1835, after Baron Schilling's exhibition of his telegraph at Bonn, undertook to try to arrange something for signalising by means of electro-magnetic action, of the possibility of which Dr. Jackson had informed him, but his trials remained without success, because he did not know what was wanted to make a powerful magnet. Two years later, in 1837, when news of the above described doings in Europe reached America (his brother Sidney was editor of a newspaper), he, with the aid of a scientific gentleman, who knew what Professor Henry, then at Princeton, had done with regard to electro-magnets, produced something which, however, was not at all fit for practical use.

Professor Henry and Professor Bache, from America, had been, in 1837, in London, and had visited Professor Wheatstone in King's College on the 11th of April, which was six weeks after Mr. Cooke had been with him. During the summer Professor Wheatstone had signified to some Americans his wish to make an application for a patent at the Patent Office in Washington.

Morse's idea, then, was not to produce on paper letters or signs representing them, but to have only ten signs for the nine digits and the zero. With these he proposed to express numbers on strips of paper. In an alphabetical vocabulary the words were all numbered. He had an eleventh sign which served to indicate that the next following signs were really to represent numbers, not words. For each of the signs mentioned, he had a metal type with a certain number of A shaped projections. These types he introduced, one after the other, into a port-rule by which they were moved forward. The teeth of the types were to lift a lever, by means of which the electric current was allowed to flow through the coils of an electro-magnet, causing it to attract an armature fixed to a moveable vertical lever having at its lower end a pencil, which marked on a strip of paper, passing slowly over a roller, zig-zags somewhat like the teeth of a saw.

To find out afterwards what the groups of zig-zags meant, one had to convert the digits they represented into numbers, and then look into the vocabulary for that number to learn what word was meant by it.

It was Dr. Leonard D. Gale, Professor of chemistry, living in the same building as Morse, who had instructed him how to make the coils for an electro-magnet; he also procured him the necessary wire, and lent him a proper galvanic battery. Morse made him afterwards his partner, and he, from 1846, held, until lately, a situation in the Patent Office.

When, at the end of August, 1887, amongst other news from Europe, there came in a German newspaper, the "Neue Würzburger Zeitung,"an account of the 80th June, about Steinheil's doings at Munich, which was translated into a New York paper on the 1st of September, there was, through Morse's influence, on the following day, an article printed, saying that the editors of newspapers in America, who copy such articles from European papers, do not seem to be aware, that the electric telegraph which now, as the wonder of the age, seems to have excited in Europe the attention of the scientific public, was an American discovery, and that Professor Morse had conceived it five years ago (1882) on his return from France to America. It was added: " that Morse had on board the ship made no secret of the general idea, but communicated it freely to his fellow passengers of all nations, who were on the ship."

Was not this to make the Americans suppose that Baron Schilling, Weber, Gauss, Steinheil, Cooke and Wheat-stone might have learnt from Samuel Morse the art of telegraphing by electro-magnetism? As it was also mentioned that Morse had his telegraph then near his lodgings, there came on the same day several curious persons to see " the wonder of the age." One of them was Dr. Daubeny, from Oxford, in England. Another was a young gentleman, Alfred Vail, who afterwards became very useful to Morse, for he, with his brother George, made at the Speedwell iron works near Morristown, in New Jersey, belonging to them, a much better instrument than that invented by Morse. Alfred Vail became, like Dr. Gale, Morse's partner.

On the day mentioned, the 2nd September, Morse's machine would not mark anything correctly. Great efforts were employed to make it do better, and two days later, on the 4th of September, Morse at last succeeded in getting by it the numbers representing five words and the date, marked. For this were wanted not less than sixty-two zig-zags, and fifteen straight lines on the slip of paper; the figure drawn on it, looking somewhat like a saw-blade, with teeth here and there broken out. They represented the following numbers: 215, 36, 2, 58, 112, 04, 01837. Searching in the vocabulary for the meaning of these numbers, it was found that they were to express:

"Successful experiment with telegraph September 4, 1837."

The triumph was immediately sent for publication to the editor of the last mentioned newspaper, and also to Professor Silliman at Newhaven, the editor of the"

American Journal of Science and Arts," and with it was sent a representation of the wonderful production. It is to be seen on page 168 of the 23rd volume of the said Silliman's Journal; also in the London Mechanics Magazine of the 10th of February, 1838.

Morse wrote at that time: " I assert to be the first proposer and inventor of electro-magnetic telegraphy, namely, on the 19th October, 1832, on board the packet Sully, on my voyage from France to the United States. . . . All telegraphs in Europe are, without one exception, invented later than mine."

So spoke the painter Morse in America, after having with the machine, which Dr. Gale had assisted him to construct, on the 4th September, 1837, obtained the described poor result. He claimed priority to everything done in Europe in the department of telegraphy. His, for practical purposes, worthless result he had obtained four weeks after the death of our Baron Schilling, who, as we know now, had twenty seven years before that time (1810), at Dr. Soemmerring's, at Munich, got acquainted with the first galvanic telegraph in the world, who, above a dozen, years previous had made at St. Petersburg the first electromagnetic telegraph, which he had himself two years before exhibited to the meeting of the Naturalists at Bonn, where it had so pleased that it was taken immediately to Heidelberg, and half-a-year afterwards from thence to England. Here a telegraph on the principle first used by Baron Schilling, had, forty-one days before the 4th September, been at work over a mile and a quarter of line in the open air, and through many miles of wire suspended in a building at the terminus of the railroad, near Euston-square, in London, and Schilling had not long before his decease, at a rope manufactory at St. Petersburg, ordered a submarine cable to be made to unite Cronstadt with the capital through the Gulf of Finland for telegraphic correspondence.

It is to be regretted that Morse, when, in 1838, he with, and at the expense of, a commercially interested member of Congress, Francis 0. J. Smith, came to Europe, wishing to get his apparatus patented in England and in France, was in Paris told that Baron Schilling had invented his electro-magnetic telegraph some time after his return from the frontiers of China, in December, 1832, and in 1833. This erroneous statement became for Morse a welcome encouragement to confirm to himself the ill-founded priority of October, 1832, and, unfortunately, in most of the works printed since that time, Baron Schilling is stated to have invented his telegraph in 1833.

We have seen what sort of a telegraph Morse, with the aid of Dr. Gale, had (in 1837) invented. It was a thing quite useless for practical purposes. Alfred Vail, with hie brother, very soon after, made for Morse, as I have already mentioned, a better one, and, in the course of a good many years, that practically very useful instrument was brought about, which at present goes by the name of Morse's.

The first telegraph line in England was constructed by Mr. Cooke, from London (Paddington) along the Great Western railroad to West Drayton, in 1838–39. In 1840, he established the telegraph along the Blackwall railway, and, in 1841, a short line from the Queen-street station at Glasgow, through the tunnel to the engine-house at Cowlairs, on the railway to Edinburgh. In 1842–3, the line from West Drayton was continued to Slough. In 1848, two short lines in Ireland and in England were made, but 1844, one of considerable length, all the way from London to Portsmouth, was done for Government. Some tunnels were also furnished with telegraphs.

On the 3rd of June, 1844, His Majesty the Emperor Nicholas—being on his way to Her Majesty the Queen at Windsor—saw, at the Paddington station, the working of the telegraph on the line between London and Slough.

The telegraph on this line served, on the 1st of January, 1846, to apprehend the murderer Tawell, who had come from London to Slough purposely to poison Sarah Hart, and had immediately after returned by the railway train to the capital. This circumstance brought the telegraph at once, all over Great Britain, into great repute and demand.

In the autumn of that year, the Electric Telegraph Company in London was begun to be established.

Mr. Cooke and Professor Wheatstone well deserve thanks for having given the example in applying the electric telegraph to practical use for society at large. I allow myself here to state my feelings of regret, that Baron Schilling did not live to get informed of this application; he died just before it began to take place.

In America, the first telegraph line, from Washington to Baltimore, was completed in 1844. On the 24th of March in that year, the first short sentence of four words was telegraphed along it. This sentence, in consequence of an invitation from Morse, was dictated by the daughter of his friend, the chief at the Patent Office, Mr. Ellsworth.[17] I found this first American original telegram preserved in the Museum of the Historical Society at Hartford, in Connecticut, and have not failed to take an exact copy of it.

I do not intend at present to say more about the spreading of the telegraph in both hemispheres. My object here has been to give a true and accurate account of the first begining of the art of telegraphing by means of galvanism and electro-magnetism.

I have shown that in the month of August this year (1859) it will be half a century since the first galvanic telegraph was made, and I have further demonstrated that it was the Russian Baron Schilling's electro-magnetic telegraph which, without its being known to be his, was brought to London, and caused, since 1838, the establishment of the first practically useful telegraph lines, not only in Great Britain, but in the world.

The small sprout, nursed on the Neva, which had been exhibited on the Rhine, and thence brought to the Thames, grew up here to a mighty tree, the fruit-laden branches of which, along with those from trees grown up since, extend more and more over the lands and seas of the Eastern hemisphere, whilst kindred trees, planted in the Western hemisphere, have covered that part of the world with their branches, some of which will, ere long, be interwoven with those on our side of the globe.


  1. As Baron Larrey was the person who took the first galvano-electric telegraph ever made away from the place of its invention, I think it not improper to say here a few words in remembrance of this man, who has, during more than half a century, made himself useful in military hospitals and on fields of battle. To him the army owes the improved “ambulances volantes.” He had begun his career, in 1788, by a voyage to Newfoundland, where the New World has recently been telegraphically, though not yet permanently, united with the Old, and ended in 1842 with a voyage to Algiers in Africa. The last of his numberless surgical operations he performed at Bona, to which place the cable from Europe through the Mediterranean Sea has lately been laid. He had accompanied Napoleon I. to Egypt, and made also, besides other campaigns, in 1812, the one to Moscow. During the battle at Wagram, near Vienna, which closed the Austrian campaign, Napoleon I. had, on the 6th July, 1809, (the day on which Soemmerring began to make his telegraph) created a Baron, and subsequently at St. Helena, in his will, he left him one hundred thousand francs, adding, “C’est l’homme le plus vertueux que j’aie connu.” In August and September, 1826, Baron Larrey had made a tour in England, Scotland and Ireland with his son Hippolyte, now Surgeon-in-ordinary to the Emperor Napoleon III., whom he lately accompanied to Italy. He died in 1842. In the court before the former military hospital, now military medical school, Val de Grace, in the Rue St. Jacques, at Paris, where he had been long usefully active, his statue in bronze is placed on a monument, erected in 1850. Larrey is represented pressing Napoleon’s last will against his heart. Of the four bas-reliefs on the pedestal, one refers to the campaign in Egypt, one to that in Spain, the third to the battle of Austerlitz, and the fourth to the dreadful passage of the French army over the Berezina, on the retreat from Moscow in 1812.
  2. It has been, by some author, erroneously stated that in Soemmerring’s telegraph the gilt points of the conducting wires, from which the gas bubbles rose, terminated each in a separate glass tube containing water. Others have repeated this error, and it he even been said that each point terminated under a separate inverted glass cup with water. The fact is, that these gold points, representing the letters of the alphabet and the numerals, were all placed side by side in a row at the lower part or bottom of an oblong glass trough, containing water to a considerable height.
  3. Two days after the General’s death, Napoleon I., whose head-quarters were at a distance, had created him, by a rescript, Count of the Empire, and bestowed on him a donation of 3,000 francs.
  4. Comeau had made, in 1812, as Colonel, the campaign of Russia, where he was wounded one day before General Deroy.
  5. A representation of the experiment made near Calais is given on plate 8, in Aldini’s book: “Essai théorique et expérimental sur le Galvanisme,” published in 1804.
  6. This was the same Robertson with whose assistance the Imperiel Academy of Sciences at St. Petersburg had, in the month of July, 1804, instituted a balloon ascent for scientific purposes, which was previous to Biot’s and Gay-Lussac’s ascent (on the 24th August), and Gay-Lussac’s (on the 16th September) in the same year. In the last (eighth) edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica (1853), it is erroneously stated, that the two latter ascents had been the first ever undertaken solely for objects of science.
  7. In May, 1816, Soemmerring accompanied Baron Schilling to Solenhofen, near Eichstadt, where the best lithographic stones are quarried. He got here organic fossils for his collections. Already in 1810 he had described the interesting animal which he, from the likeness of its head with that of a bird, called Ornithocephalus, and which he considered to be a mammal, a bat, from which opinion, however, Cuvier differed, taking it to be a reptile, and calling it Pterodactylus. Later Soemmerring described a similar animal, which be named Ornithocephalus brevirostris, the former being longirostris; also two others, Crocodilus priscus, and Lacerta gigantea. The first described Ornithocephalus remained as one of the most remarkable objects in the Museum at Munich, where Agassiz, when studying medicine at that place, was, in 1828, first led to the study of fossils, in which department he subsequently succeeded in accomplishing so much. A cast in plaster of Paris of the Ornithocephalus longirostris, which Soemmerring had shown me in 1819 in Frankfort, where he then lived for a time, I have now seen again in the British Museum in London, besides other fossils that were in Soemmerring’s possession.
  8. Lionel Charles Hervey was the grandson of one of the sons of John Hervey, who, in 1714, was created Earl of Bristol. His elder brother, Felton, had, in 1801, adopted the name of Bathurst, in addition to that of Hervey. In Dod’s “Baronetage” it is erroneously stated, that Bathurst had adopted the name of Hervey. He was Aide-de-Camp to the Duke of Wellington at Waterloo, and is one of those who signed the important Convention at Paris, on the 3rd of July, 1815. Lionel Hervey was, from 1820 till 1823, Secretary ot Legation, officiating also, for a time, as Minister, at Madrid; he died in 1843.
  9. Aldini wrote in his dedication to Bonaparte, who was then First Consul: “Il sera mémorable à jamais dans les fastes de l’Histoire du Galvanisme le jour où, descendu à peine en Italie, vous me permites d’en développer devant vous les principales expériences au milieu des vastes occupations militaires et politiques dont vous étiez environné. Le souvenir de cette époque honorable m’enhardit à vous dédier cet ouvrage.”
  10. Professor Muncke, who has written several works, was the most active of the authors who contributed, from 1825 till 1845, articles to a new edition of Gehler's Dictionary of Natural Philosophy (Physikalisches Wörterbuch), first published in the years 1787–95. Ever since 1826, he had been an honorary member of the Imperial Academy of Sciences at St. Petersburg. He died on the 17th October, 1847.
  11. Professor Muncke has printed that it had given him great pleasure to make, at the meeting of the Naturalists at Bonn, the acquaintance of Baron Schilling, possessing, as he said, “an incredible amount of information on a variety of subjects.”
  12. On the birth of this child, which was christened: John William Rizzo, Byron wrote four lines in verse, which have been metrically translated in ten other languages. The original lines and the translations, with the exception of the Armenian, are to be seen in Murray’s “Poetical Works of Lord Byron,” p. 571.
  13. Another son of his, Henry Perkyns Hoppner, had accompanied Lord Amherst in 1816 to China, and is known as a navigator in the Arctic Seas, with Parry and Ross. He died on the 23rd December, 1833. The third son, Lascelles, drew, as a first artistic production, the frontispiece to the father’s translation of “Oriental Tales,” printed in 1815.
  14. It was, in 1838, erroneously stated to the Academy of Sciences in Paris that Baron Schilling had "vertical" needles in his telegraph, and the Abbe Moigno, quoting this communication, even says that there were " five vertical" needles.—Schilling had not one vertical needle.
  15. I must here remark that in works on the Electric Telegraph, printed in Great Britain and in America, is copied over and over again an article erroneously extracted from a memoir in German, by Julius Httlsse, in his journal " Poly technisches Central Blatt (2nd and 7th June, 1833)." This article says: '»It appears that Messieurs Taquin and Ettieyhausen (likewise written Entyihau-8en) established a line of telegraph across the streets in Vienna." These corrupted names stand for Baron Jacquin and Professor Ettingshausen, who made at Vienna the above mentioned experiments along with Baron Schilling.
  16. Breese is the family name of his mother, whose grandfather was the Rev. Samuel Finley.
  17. This Mr. Ellsworth had in May, 1840, allowed himself to return to Morse his original specification, sent in in April, 1838, before his departure for England. The pretext was that he might make some explanatory references and add a duplicate drawing. Morse sent in a new specification on the 16th May, 1840.—It has been supposed that he introduced into this new document a very important improvement with which he had got acquainted in London, and through which it became possible to telegraph to great distances; I mean: the Relays, the linking of fresh circuits to those already exhausted on a long line.