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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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Telegraphic Visions

Telegraphic Visions

(p.41) 5 Telegraphic Visions
Power Struggles

Michael Brian Schiffer

The MIT Press

This chapter introduces us to the development of early electrical telegraphs. In 1780, a Frenchman named Claude Chappe invented a rudimentary telegraph. Don Fransisco Salva, a Barcelona physician, created an “electrostatic telegraph” under the patronage of the Spanish King, but this telegraph was not economically viable. Peter Barlow, a mathematician, discovered that electromagnetic current traveling in a copper wire diminished in strength over a long distance thus ruling out the viability of the telegraph. However, in the late 1820s, Joseph Henry and Phillip Ten Eyck were successful in conducting an experiment wherein they demonstrated the feasibility of an electromagnetic telegraph. Henry was offered a respected position at Princeton University despite not being a college graduate. Silliman had written a glowing testimonial for Henry as a man of science to the Princeton Board. Based on Silliman’s support Henry accepted the esteemed position in 1832.

Keywords:   telegraphs, Claude Chappe, Don Fransisco Salva, Peter Barlow, Joseph Henry, Phillip Ten Eyck, electromagnetic telegraph

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