Physics/History GCSE: The invention of the telegraph by Cooke and Wheatstone

Michael Mosley, Cassie Newland and Mark Miodownik describe the scientific achievements of Hans Christian Oerste, William Cook and Charles Wheatstone.

Prior to their inventions all communication was by line of sight (smoke signals, flags etc.).

In 1821 Hans Christian Oerste observed that a battery connected to wire moved a compass needle. This was the beginning of the birth of electromagnetism.

From this came the invention of the electric telegraph by Cook and Wheatstone.

In 1845 the telegraph shot to fame when John Tawell was caught after he murdered his mistress Sarah Hart. Police sent a telegraph and arrested him.

This clip is from The Genius of Invention.

Teacher Notes

This clip would be ideally suited to showing students the significant achievements of Oerste, Cook and Wheatstone.

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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