The Daily Plant : Thursday, March 2, 2006
Parks Remembers Fathers Of Modern Wireless Technology
Before clicking "send" on your next email, consider an age when the exchange of messages and ideas took weeks, rather than seconds. Now, consider the impact the invention of the wireless telegraph machine had upon the modern era.
When Western Union sent its final telegram on January 27, 2006, it ended a century and a half-long development of communication that set the foundation for today’s wireless world. In 1835, Samuel F.B. Morse created the first telegraph machine, which employed Morse Code (a series of dots and dashes he conceived to be sent over telegraphic wire). His work spurred modern technology and drove older methods of communication such as the Pony Express into the past.
In 1871, sculptor Byron Pickett depicted Morse in a statue at the Mall in Central Park, making Morse the first living person to have a statue dedicated in his honor in a Manhattan park. He maintains that distinction to this day. The statue was eventually moved in the 1980s to it current location, just south of the 72nd Street Transverse, near Inventor’s Gate.
Pickett’s statue portrays Morse with his telegraph machine—including a strip of bronze tickertape returned to the piece during its 1994 refurbishment by the Central Park Conservancy. The inscription reads "Morse," confirming his far-reaching fame and importance.
Morse is not the only forefather of wireless technology honored within New York City’s parks. The Wireless Operator’s Monument in Battery Park, currently undergoing a refurbishment, features Guglielmo Marchese Marchoni, who sent Morse Code wirelessly using electromagnetic technology in 1895. Marchoni went on to win a Nobel Prize in physics in 1909 for his wireless developments, including the modern-day radio. In addition to his inclusion in the Battery Park monument, a park in South Jamaica, Queens is named for him.
Like Marconi, Antonio Meucci, a 19th-century inventor and Staten Island resident, shares the distinction of having a park named for him. Less renowned than his fellow inventors, Meucci is credited with the development of the first working model of the telephone in 1857 after spending several years experimenting with sound transmission via electrically charged wire. However, distracted by business and health problems, Meucci was unable to secure a patent for his work, and Alexander Graham Bell patented a very similar version of Meucci’s telephone in 1876. In 1989, a marker donated by the Italian Historical Society was placed at Meucci Triangle in Brooklyn to give credit to his work.
Still, it was Samuel Morse’s initial vision that provided the inspiration for generations of inventors to come. From his spot in Central Park, Morse sits within a city fueled by the technology he spearheaded. Pickett’s work shows the inventor’s hand outstretched, leading the way into the future.
-written by Cristina DeLuca
(special thanks to Jonathan Kuhn and the Art and Antiquities division)
QUOTATION FOR THE DAY
"I am malicious because I am miserable. ... If any being felt emotions of benevolence towards me, I should return them a hundred and a hundred fold (words of Frankenstein monster)."
Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley