Samuel F. B. Morse

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Samuel Finley Breese Morse (April 27, 1791 – April 2, 1872) was an American contributor to the invention of a single-wire telegraph system based on European telegraphs, co-inventor of the Morse code, and an accomplished painter.


Birth and education

Samuel F.B. Morse was born in Charlestown, Massachusetts, the first child of a geographer and Pastor Jedidiah Morse (1761–1826) and Elizabeth Ann Finley Breese (1766–1828).[1] Jedidiah was a great preacher of the Calvinist faith and supporter of the American Federalist party. He not only saw it as a great preserver of Puritan traditions (strict observance of Sabbath, among other things), but believed in its idea of an alliance with Britain in regards to a strong central government. Jedidiah strongly believed in education within a Federalist framework alongside the instillation of Calvinist virtues, morals and prayers for his son. After attending Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, Samuel Morse went on to Yale College to receive instruction in the subjects of religious philosophy, mathematics and science of horses. While at Yale, he attended lectures on electricity from Benjamin Silliman and Jeremiah Day. He supported himself financially by painting. In 1810, he graduated from Yale with Phi Beta Kappa honors.[2]


Morse's Calvinist beliefs are evident in his painting the Landing of the Pilgrims, through the depiction of simple clothing as well as the austere facial features. This image captured the psychology of the Federalists; Calvinists from England brought to the United States ideas of religion and government thus forever linking the two countries. More importantly, this particular work attracted the attention of the famous artist, Washington Allston. Allston wanted Morse to accompany him to England to meet the artist Benjamin West. An agreement for a three-year stay was made with Jedidiah, and young Morse set sail with Allston aboard the Lydia on July 15, 1811 (1).

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