Morse Code’s Tragic Roots

Did you know…Morse Code has its roots in a tragic story of heartache?

I learned this story while we were visiting Cobh, The Queenstown Story at Cobh Heritage Centre.  Cobh is located in Cork County, a southern port in Ireland. Mom’s parents both emigrated from the port of Cobh – our grandmother Mary in 1928 and our grandfather John in 1929. The center is a wonderful exhibit, focusing mostly on emigrants from Ireland but also on two notable mariner events: the sinking of the Titanic in 1912 the sinking of the Lusitania in 1915.

Visitors are given the name of a historical avatar when they enter the exhibit, a person who emigrated from Ireland or was a passenger onboard the Titanic or Lusitania. While walking through the exhibit you can read about your historic avatar and learn of his or her fate; a bit of interactive learning that the kids in particular really enjoyed.

Over 3 million emigrants departed Ireland from Cobh, which was known as Queenstown from 1847 until 1920. Cobh was also the final port of call for the Titanic before it famously sunk a few days later in April 1912. It was also off the shores of Cobh that the British passenger ship RMS Lusitania sank after being hit with a German U-Boat torpedo. So there are many interesting stories and individuals who bring the backdrop of history alive.

But one story in particular took me by surprise; it was a small story ancillary to the Titanic exhibit: that of Samuel Morse.

I snapped a picture of the storyboard and am sharing it below. I was struck by how such an important invention- so logical, clinical, rote, and transformational to world history – was rooted in one man’s heartache.