A Christian Inventor

Most people know that Samuel Finley Breese Morse (1791-1872) was the man who invented the Morse alphabet (in 1836) used by the telegraph system.

But his contemporaries called him the American Leonardo daVinci, because he was a gifted author, painter, inventor and professor.

However, most important is that Morse was a Christian who gave God the glory for all that he ever did with the talents which he had received. It is known that his father was a minister of religion who showed his son the right way to go.

When Samuel Morse was a boy, he was usually called “Finley,” which was his second name.

He went to a traditional Christian school in the place where he lived. He was a bit difficult for his teachers because he was never out of mischief, but he was brilliant in the English language, Bible study and drawing portraits. Later he went to Yale University.

There he became famous because of what he did with the walls of his room. He carefully cleaned and prepared them, after which he started to make the most beautiful paintings on them. Several of the paintings were of stories from the Bible, as well as others like “wrestling students climbing the rock of knowledge.” Everybody in the building came to see them.

The result was that he received orders to make portrait-paintings for many important people in the city. With the money he got he financed his studies.

After he got a degree he went to England, where he developed further his skill in making paintings using old techniques.

In his spare time he assisted a group of young Christians, who went to towns and villages spreading the Gospel.

Back in the USA he became famous as a portrait painter in Washington D C. and had a big studio there. President Monroe and members of the government sat for him.

Later he moved to Concord, New Hampshire, where he met a Christian girl named Lucretia Pickering Walker. They married and started a Christian family.

When Morse paid a visit to Paris, he saw there for the first time a semaphore, which sent signals from one mountaintop to another. He found that fascinating, and he considered that it could be done more quickly with electricity.

But, back in the USA, he was appointed a Professor in sculpture and the art of painting, at the University of the City of New York. There, in the laboratory, he started with his experiments.

One young man, Alfred Vail, who had just finished his studies, became interested and offered to assist him (also financially). Morse and Vail had the same religious background.

In 1838 they went to the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia and did there a number of tests which went very well. In 1840 Morse was granted a patent in the USA; two years later also in France.

In March 1843 the American Congress asked him to make a telegraph system in the city of Washington D. C., with cables in the soil under the streets. That was not (yet) possible, because reliable isolation material did not exist. Morse decided therefore to lead wire over poles, and to use the necks of bottles he had broken off for isolation.

On May 24, 1844, Morse and Vail sent for the first time a message to each other from Washington to Baltimore. Morse had chosen from his Bible, Numbers 23, clearly stating that God had made it, that He was the origin of the idea. The whole matter was a triumph for Morse nevertheless

But, within a few days 62 people came forward, saying that they had invented the same already much earlier, and so Morse had to defend his patent again and again in the Courts.

To journalists Morse said, “I stick to what is said in the 37th Psalm about not to become angry at those who do injustice against you.”

In the meantime he wrote several books about orthodox (old-fashioned) Protestant faith, and also quite a few pamphlets, which were used for evangelism inside and outside the USA. Morse was involved in the building of a number of churches and two Christian high schools.

His talents and work were widely recognized by high distinctions (medals, honorary titles, and gifts) from France, Austria, Denmark, Italy, Portugal, Germany, Spain and Turkey. When a journalist asked him about this, he answered “There are more important things waiting for those who belong to Jesus Christ. The treasures of God never fade away.” ♦