Physics/History GCSE: The invention of Morse code and the first transatlantic cable

Michael Mosley, Cassie Newland and Mark Miodownik describe the scientific achievements of Samuel Morse.

He developed Morse code as a rival to Cook and Wheatstone’s telegraph. It was simple and cheap and became popular quickly.

In the 1850s Morse’s single wire cable system was working all over Europe.

In 1858 Queen Victoria sent the first transatlantic message to President James Buchanan. The system failed a month later. The reasons for this are discussed.

By 1900 these problems had been overcome and 150 000 miles of cable had been laid underneath oceans all over the world.

This clip is from the series The Genius of Invention.

Teacher Notes

This clip would be ideally suited to showing students the significant achievements of Morse.

It could set the scene for a project on this or other famous historical scientists.

Students could stain their written work with tea bags to make it look as if it were written many years ago.

Curriculum Notes

This clip will be relevant for teaching Physics and History. This topic appears in OCR, Edexcel, AQA, WJEC KS4/GCSE in England and Wales, CCEA GCSE in Northern Ireland and SQA National 4/5 in Scotland.

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