On This Date in History: In 1810, a young man graduated from Yale and immediately went to England to study art. He created a giant painting and a small sculpture and called them both “the Dying Hercules.” These were his most significant works and I suppose that he figured that was the best he could do and so he came home to America. He decided to paint portraits for a living. He had some works that were considered outstanding including one of Lafayette and other historical figures that were recognized for the extreme detail. Among his portraits of famous people was one of Eli Whitney. The young man gained a pretty big reputation but also was known as a man with a small income. That makes me think that if he was such a big painter, then maybe he would figure out that he needed to charge more for his paintings. I guess perhaps his reputation was good at the price he charged. Had he charged more, then maybe he wouldn’t have been so popular. Well, its a good thing for him, and for the rest of the world, that he had other pursuits to relieve his creative mind.
The word “telegraph” derives from the Greek word, “to write far.” Pretty good description. Before there was electricity, there was a communication system that fit that description. It was in the form of tall poles that put up different arms and other signals. It could be seen at a distance. It was used during the Battle of Waterloo to let the folks know back in London what was going on with the struggle against Napoleon. I suppose that has its use but for long distances, you probably would need a series of big poles with a guy hanging around each one and waiting for a signal to be seen from one direction so he could then relay it to someone in the other direction. I suppose it was better than nothing and probably faster than relying on a guy on a horse, like Paul Revere…though Paul was pretty fast and he could travel at night, which obviously was a limitation for this early form of “telegraph.”
So, along comes electricity. Now, a bunch of inventors had figured out the basic principals involved but it was left to the somewhat successful American painter, Samuel Finley Breese Morse, to understand the practical application of those principals and the first to take pragmatic steps to invent a way to take exploit those principals. While at Yale, Morse had taken a keen interest in electricity but was lured by his love for art. He studied under Benjamin West and Washington Allston, who were considered two of the better painters of the day. He got married in 1818 but, while he was working on his painting of the Marquis de Lafayette, he got news his wife died. He left the painting unfinished and became an artistic recluse in his grief. But an odd thing happened, in his grief, he rediscovered his interest in electricity. He attended some lectures of academics but eventually returned to art.
In 1829, he went back to Europe to study art. Had he not done that, he may never had received the inspiration of the telegraph. You see…in 1832 he was on board a ship returning to America when he came upon some scientists who were discussing the properties of electricity. One man queried whether electricity lost its velocity over a long distance. When another remarked that in Ben Franklin’s experiments, he had noted that a captured electrical current traveled over several miles of wire without any time differential as the reaction at the end of the wire seemed to be coincidental with the intialization of the current. That statement triggered the small spark of inspiration in Sam Morse’s head.
That left Morse with a tough choice. If he wanted to immerse himself in electricity, then he had to give up painting but, with no painting, he had no income. He was already rather poor, often skipping meals for extended periods or depending on the help from friends. In 1835, he was granted a teaching position in the Art Department of the State University of New York. That gave him access to the facilities and faculty at the University and afforded him the opportunity to expand his electrical research. With the help of a colleague, he made numerous successful experiments and developed a code of communication, known today as the Morse Code. In 1842, Morse went to Washington to build a telegraph line. In early 1843, he convinced Congress to grant him $30,000 to build a line from Washington to Baltimore. An finally, on this date in 1843, Samuel F.B. Morse demonstrated his telegraph to the world. His friend, Miss Ellsworth, came up with the first words to be transmitted. It was “What Hath God Wrought?” Indeed…what? It was the beginning of the information age that eventually progressed from communications by telegraph to radio to television and now the internet. All because a painter became heartbroken by his wife’s death and because he had run off to Europe as part of his grief.
I suppose, this might be an example of “don’t give up.” Difficult situations today might make you say “why me?” or make you angry. But, it could be that circumstance that proves necessary for your later success and happiness.
Weather Bottom Line: Pretty much status quo in the weather department with several question marks. First, we remain warm and humid. Rain chances will be in the picture for the entire week. Afternoon showers and t’storms will be scattered about with the determining factor of the frequency and area coverage dependent on afternoon heating and little upper disturbances wandering through. Those are so numerous and so random there is great difficulty to determine exactly when or where they will show up. But, they will be around and so that will maintain the expectation of scattered stuff. I would not think that any of them will be particularly tough, but given the amount of moisture in the air, if you find yourself under one, there will be the potential for heavy rain in spots.
A front is supposed to get close midweek, though it’s tough to determine if it comes through or if it washes out or goes on the retreat. It really won’t change much. There is somewhat of a consensus from the models concerning what was left of the quasi tropical low that came ashore in Mississippi. It is moving past us to the Soutwest today and is responsible for the elevation in humidity. It will move into the Southern Plains and join up with a front sliding down. I would keep an eye on Thursday night or Friday. Most public forecasts have Friday dry but I”ve got some model data that says otherwise and its not unusual for fronts to move slower than the foofs on TV think as we head into the summer. Either way, depending on the timing I might suspect some action that may be worthwhile. We’ll see how it shakes out. Have a good Memorial Day.