Henry and the Telegraph

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Before Joseph Henry became the first Secretary of the Smithsonian in 1846, he was known for his ground breaking discoveries in electromagnetism and telegraphy. This homage to Henry begins with a detailed history of developments related to the telegraph prior to Henry's experiments in the 1820s and 1830s. It also includes a descriptive chronology of telegraph experimentation that took place before and during Henry's time. The author begins to discuss Henry's work on page 280, beginning with the electromagnets Henry created in the late 1820s and continuing with Henry's development of the other components essential to Morse's telegraph. A chronology describing Henry's work, beginning with his appointment at Princeton in 1832, appears on pages 290-305. Samuel Morse's work and the encouragement he received from Henry is described, along with Morse's pursuit of patents for various components of his telegraph. A series of lengthy "notes" on aspects of Henry's career appears on pages 327-360.


  • Henry, Joseph 1797-1878
  • Vail, Alfred
  • Morse, Samuel Finley Breese 1791-1872


Smithsonian Institution History Bibliography


  • Available at http://biodiversitylibrary.org/page/8793052.
  • Footnoted. Supplementary notes include discussion of the origins of the galvanometer, Henry's spool magnet in Europe, Henry's early telegraphic experiments, and the "overstatement of Morse's invention."

Contained within

Smithsonian Institution Annual Report for 1878 (Book)

Contact information

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




  • Electric apparatus and appliances
  • Telegraph
  • Electricity
  • Secretaries
  • Electromagnets
  • Magnetic Telegraph
  • Electromagnetism
  • Electromagnetic telegraph
  • Electro-magnetic telegraph

Physical description

pp. 262-360

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