Regents Dismiss Samuel Morse's Accusations Regarding Joseph Henry




Date: May 19, 1858


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A special committee of the Board of Regents issues a report concerning Secretary Joseph Henry's involvement in the invention of the electromagnetic telegraph. Henry had requested the Regents take up the matter after the publication of Samuel Morse's "A Defence Against the Injurious Deductions Drawn from the Deposition of Prof. Joseph Henry" in 1855. The Board adopts the committee's report, resolving that none of Morse's accusations against Henry have proved to be true or diminished his scientific reputation.


  • Henry, Joseph 1797-1878
  • Morse, Samuel Finley Breese 1791-1872
  • Board of Regents


Chronology of Smithsonian History


  • Portrait of Morse is a black-and-white photo print, contained in the Western Union Telegraph Company Records, ca. 1820-1995, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, digital scan number AC0205-01020534.tif.
  • The Smithsonian Annual Report for 1857 contains Henry's response to Morse's accusations, the Regents' report and resolution, an appendix by Henry on his work in electromagnetism, and Henry's 1849 deposition for the Morse v. O'Reilly patent case. All can be found at
  • Goode, George Brown, ed. The Smithsonian Institution, 1846-1896, The History of Its First Half Century. Washington, D.C.: De Vinne Press, 1897, p. 836
  • Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections, volume 18, number 329. "Journals of the Proceedings of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution 1846-76, Reports of Committees, Statistics, Etc." ed. by William J. Rhees. Washington: Published by the Smithsonian Institution, 1879, p. 137-150
  • Smithsonian Annual Report for the Year 1857, pp. 85-117.
  • Rothenberg, Marc, et al, eds. The Papers of Joseph Henry, Vol. 10, January 1858-December 1865: The Smithsonian Years. Washington, D.C.: Science History Publications, 2004, pp. 7-8.

Contact information

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


May 19, 1858


  • Telegraph
  • Inventors
  • Controversies
  • Secretaries
  • Inventions

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