Telegraph Patent Controversy

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Smithsonian Secretary Joseph Henry reports to the Board of Regents to refute charges made by Samuel F. B. Morse in an article in "Shaffner's Telegraph Companion" in 1855. He outlines the early researches in electromagnetism, including his own research in electromagnetic induction. Dr. Leonard Gale, who advised Morse on his first model of an electromagnetic telegraph, was able to correct imperfections in the model because of his knowledge of Henry's principles. The Board of Regents resolves that Morse has not proved any of his accusations against Henry nor disproved any of his own admissions regarding the importance of Henry's discoveries in electromagnetism to his own invention.


  • Gale, Leonard D (Leonard Dunnell) 1800-1883
  • Henry, Joseph 1797-1878
  • Morse, Samuel Finley Breese 1791-1872
  • Board of Regents
  • Shaffner's Telegraph Companion (Serial)


Chronology of Smithsonian History


  • Annual Report of the Smithsonian Institution for the year 1857, p. 85-106
  • Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections, vol. 21, no. 356, Article III. "A Memorial of Joseph Henry", including Obsequies, Memorial Exercises at the Capitol and Memorial Proceedings of Societies. Washington: Smithsonian Institution, 1881. Pp. 532., p. 150-151, 382-389

Contact information

Institutional History Division, Smithsonian Institution Archives, 600 Maryland Avenue, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20024-2520,


March 16, 1857


  • Telegraph
  • Inventors
  • Controversies
  • Secretaries
  • Inventions

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