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Power StrugglesScientific Authority and the Creation of Practical Electricity Before Edison$
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Michael Brian Schiffer

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780262195829

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: August 2013

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262195829.001.0001

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If at First You Don’t Succeed …

If at First You Don’t Succeed …

(p.221) 17 If at First You Don’t Succeed …
Power Struggles

Michael Brian Schiffer

The MIT Press

This chapter describes intercontinental communication by means of telegraph, which was essentially Samuel Morse’s dream of America getting connected to Asia through underwater cables that could transmit telegraphic signals. The Atlantic telegraph was the brainchild of a businessman named Cyrus Field who consulted Morse about the feasibility of transmitting a signal through a long-distance underwater cable. Morse and Joseph Henry were of the opinion that this was possible, but a very powerful battery would be required to transmit this signal. Based on their affirmation, the first Newfoundland line was laid to Nova Scotia, whereas Field laid cables from America to London using a steam ship. To overcome the retardation of the signals in the underwater cables, William Thompson advocated the signals being sent in short, symmetrical pulses.

Keywords:   intercontinental communication, Samuel Morse, underwater cables, Atlantic telegraph, Cyrus Field, telegraphic signals, Joseph Henry, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, William Thompson

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