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against the injurious deductions drawn from the deposition of Professor Joseph Henry, (in the several telegraph suits,) with a critical review of said deposition, and an examination of Professor Henry's alleged discoveries bearing upon the electro-magnetic telegraph.
The first thing which strikes the reader of this article is, that its title is a misnomer. It is simply an assault upon Professor Henry; an attempt to disparage his character; to deprive him of his honors as a scientific discoverer ; to impeach his credibility as a witness and his integrity as a man. It is a disingenuous piece of sophistical argument, such as an unscrupulous advocate might employ to pervert the truth, misrepresent the facts, and misinterpret the language in which the facts belonging to the other side of the case are stated.
Mr. Morse charges that the deposition of Professor Henry "contains imputations against his (Morse's) personal character,” which it does not, and assumes it as a duty “to expose the utter nonreliability of Professor Henry's testimony;" that testimony being supported by the most competent authorities, and by the history of scientific discovery. He asserts that he “is not indebted to him (Professor Henry) for any discovery in science bearing on the telegraph,” he having himself acknowledged such indebtedness in the most unequivocal manner, and the fact being independently substantiated by the testimony of SEARS C. WALKER, and the statement of Mr. Morse's own associate, Dr. GALE. Mr. Morse further maintains, that all discoveries bearing upon the telegraph were made, not by Professor Henry, but by others, and prior to any experiments of Professor Henry in the science of electro-magnetism ; contradicting in this proposition the facts in the history of scientific discovery perfectly established and recognized throughout the scientific world.
The essence of the charges against Prof. Henry is, that he gave false testimony in his deposition in the telegraph cases, and that he has claimed the credit of discoveries in the sciences bearing upon the electro-magnetic telegraph which were made by previous investigators ; in other words, that he has falsely claimed what does not belong to him, but does belong to others.
Professor Henry, as a private man, might safely have allowed such charges to pass in silence. But standing in the important position which he occupies, as the chief executive officer of the Smithsonian Institution; and regarding the charges as undoubtedly containing an impeachment of his moral character, as well as of his scientific reputation; and justly sensitive, not only for his own honor, but for the honor of the Institution, he has a right to ask this Board to consider
the subject, and to make their conclusions a matter of record, which may be appealed to hereafter should any question arise with regard to his conduct in the premises.
Your committee do not conceive it to be necessary to follow Mr. Morse through all the details of his elaborate attack. Fortunately, a plain statement of a few leading facts will be sufficient to place the essential points of the case in a clear light.
The deposition already referred to was reluctantly given, and under the compulsion of legal process, by Prof. Henry, before the Hon. Geo. S. Hillard, United States commissioner, on the 7th of September, 1849.
The following is the statement of the Hon. S. P. Chase, (now governor of Ohio,) one of the counsel in the telegraph cases, in a letter to Professor Henry, dated Columbus, Ohio, November 26, 1856 :
In the year 1849, I was professionally employed in the defence of certain gentlemen engaged in the business of telegraphing between Louisville and New Orleans, against whom a bill of complaint had been filed in the Circuit Court of the United States for the district of Kentucky. The object of the bill was to restrain the defendants, my clients, from the use in telegraphing of a certain instrument called the Columbian Telegraph, on the ground that it was an infringement upon the rights of the complainants under the patents granted to Professor Morse. It therefore became my duty, in the preparation of their defence, to ascertain the precise nature and extent of their rights. With this view I called upon you, in August or September of that year, for your deposition. It was taken before George S. Hillard, esq., a United States comniissioner for the district of Massachusetts, in Boston. I remember very well that you were unwilling to be involved in the controversy, even as a witness, and that you only submitted to be examined in compliance with the requirements of law. Not one of your statements was volunteered. They were all called out by questions propounded either verbally or in writing. I was not sufficiently familiar at the time with the precise merits of the case to know what would or would not be important, and therefore insisted on a full statement, not merely of the general history of electro-magnetism as applied to telegraphing, but of all your own discoveries in that science having relation to the same art, and of all that had passed between yourself and Professor Morse connected with these discoveries or with the telegraph. You could not have refused to respond to the questions propounded, without subjecting yourself to judicial animadversion and constraint. Nothing in what you testified, or your manner of testifying, suggested to me the idea that you were animated by any desire to arrogate undue merit to yourself, or to detract from the just claims of Professor Morse.
S. P. CHASE. Previous to this deposition, Mr. Morse, as appears from his own letters and statements, entertained for Prof. Henry the warmest feelings of personal regard, and the highest esteem for his character as a
scientific man. In a letter, dated April 24, 1839, he thanks Prof. Henry for a copy of his " valuable contributions,” and says, “I perceive many things in the contributions) of great interest to me in my telegraphic enterprise.” Again, in the same letter, speaking of an intended visit to the Professor at Princeton, he says: “I should come as a learner, and could bring no contributions' to your stock of experiments of any value.” And still further : “ I think that you have pursued an original course of experiments, and discovered facts more immediately bearing upon my invention than any that have been published abroad.”
It appears, from Mr. Morse's own statement, that he had at least two interviews with Prof. Henry-one in May, 1839, when he passed the afternoon and night with him, at Princeton; and another in February, 1844—both of them for the purpose of conferring with him on subjects relating to the telegraph, and evidently with the conviction, on Mr. Morse's part, that Prof. Henry's investigations were of great importance to the success of the telegraph.
As late as 1846, after Mr. Morse had learned that some dissatisfaction existed in Prof. Henry's mind in regard to the manner in which his researches in electricity had been passed over by Mr. Vail, an assistant of Mr. Morse, and the author of a history of the American magnetic telegraph, Mr. Morse, in an interview with Prof. Henry, at Washington, said, according to his own account, “Well, Prof. Henry, I will take the earliest opportunity that is afforded me in anything I may publish to have justice done to your labors; for I do not think that justice has been done you, either in Europe or this country.”
Again, in 1848, when Prof. Walker, of the Coast Survey, made his report on the theory of Morse's electro-magnetic telegraph, in which the expression occurred, “the helix of a soft iron magnet, prepared after the manner first pointed out by Prof. Henry,” Mr. Morse, to whom the report was submitted, said: “I have now the long wished for opportunity to do justice publicly to Henry's discovery bearing on the telegraph.” And in a note prepared by him, and intended to be printed with Prof. Walker's report, he says: “The allusion you make to the helix of a soft iron magnet, prepared after the manner first pointed out by Prof. Henry, gives me an opportunity, of which I gladly avail myself, to say that I think that jastice has not yet been done to Prof. Henry, either in Europe or in this country, for the discovery of a scientific fact, which, in its bearing on telegraphs, whether of the magnetic needle or electro-magnet order, is of the greatest importance.”
He then proceeds to give a historical synopsis, showing that, although suggestions had been made and plans devised by Soemmering, in 1811, and by Ampère, in 1820, yet that the experiments of Barlow, in 1824, had led that investigator to pronounce “the idea of an electric telegraph to be chimerical”—an opinion that was, for the time, acquiesced in by scientific men. He shows that, in the interval between 1924 and 1829, no further suggestions were made on the subject of electric telegraphs. But he proceeds—“In 1830, Prof. Henry, assisted by Dr. Ten Eyck, while engaged in experinients on the application of the principle of the galvanic multiplier to the development of great magnetic power in soft iron, made the important discovery that a battery of intensity overcame that resistance in a long wire which Barlow had announced as an insuperable bar to the construction of electric telegraphs. Thus was opened the way for fresh efforts in devising a practicable electric telegraph; and Baron Schilling, in 1832, and Professors Gauss and Weber, in 1833, had ample opportunity to learn of Henry's discovery, and avail themselves of it, before they constructed their needle telegraphs.” And, while claiming for himself that he was “the first to propose the use of the electro-magnet for telegraphic purposes, and the first to construct a telegraph on the basis of the electro-magnet,” yet he adds, “to Professor Henry is unquestionably due the honor of the discovery of a principle which proves the practicability of exciting magnetism through a long coil, or at a distance, either to deflect a needle or to magnetize soft iron.”'
What Mr. Morse here describes as “a principle,” the discovery of which is unquestionably due to Professor Henry, is the law which first made it possible to work the telegraphic machine invented by Mr. Morse, and for the knowledge of which Mr. Morse was indebted to Professor Henry, as is positively asserted by his associate, Dr. GALE. This gentleman, in a letter, dated Washington, April 7, 1856, makes the following conclusive statement:
WASHINGTON, D. C., April 7, 1856. Sir: In reply to your note of the 3d instant, respecting the Morse telegraph, asking me to state definitely the condition of the invention when I first saw the apparatus in the winter of 1836, I answer: This apparatus was Morse's original instrument, usually known as the type apparatus, in which the types, set up in a composing stick, were run through a circuit breaker, and in which the battery was the cylinder battery, with a single pair of plates. This arrangement also had another peculiarity, namely, it was the electro-magnet used by Moll, and shown in drawings of the older works on that subject, having only a few turps of wire in the coil which surrounded the poles or arms of the magnet. The sparseness of the wires in the magnet coils and the use
of the single cup battery were to me, on the first look at the instrument, obvious marks of defect, and I accordingly suggested to the Professor, without giving my reasons for so doing, that a battery of many pairs should be substituted for that of a single pair, and that the coil on each arm of the magnet should be increased to many hundred turns each ; which experiment, if I remember aright, was made on the same day with a battery and wire on hand, furnished I believe by myself, and it was found that while the original arrangement would only send the electric current through a few feet of wire, say 15 to 40, the modified arrangement would send it through as many hundred. Although I gave no reasons at the time to Professor Morse for the suggestions I had proposed in modifying the arrangement of the machine, I did so afterwards, and referred in my explanations to the paper of Professor Henry, in the 19th volume of the American Journal of Science, page 400 and onward. It was to these suggestions of mine that Professor Morse alludes in his testimony before the circuit court for the eastern district of Pennsylvania, in the trial of B. B. French and others vs. Rogers and others. See printed copy of Complainant's Evidence, page 168, beginning with the words "Early in 1836 I procured 40 feet of wire,' &c., and page 169, where Professor Morse alludes to myself and compensation for services rendered to him, &c.
At the time I gave the suggestions above named, Professor Morse was not familiar with the then existing state of the science of electromagnetism. Had he been so, or had he read and appreciated the paper of Henry, the suggestions made by me would naturally have occurred to his mind as they did to my own. But the principal part of Morse's great invention lay in the mechanical adaptation of a power to produce motion, and to increase or relax at will. It was only necessary for him to know that such a power existed for him to adapt mechanism to direct aud control it.
My suggestions were made to Professor Morse from inferences drawn by reading Professor Henry's paper above alluded to. Professor Morse professed great surprise at the contents of the paper when I showed it to him, but especially at the remarks on Dr. Barlow's results respecting telegraphing, which were new to him, and he stated at the time that he was not aware that any one had even conceived the idea of using the magnet for such purposes. With sentiments of esteem, I remain yours truly,
L. D. GALE. Prof. Jos. HENRY,
Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution. It further appears, that principally for the information thus communicated Mr. Morse assigned to Dr. Gale an interest in the telegraph, which he afterwards purchased back for $15,000, as appears from the following letter of Dr. Gale:
PATENT OFFICE, August 5, 1857. DEAR SIR: In reply to yours of this date, respecting the interest I once possessed in Morse's telegraph patent, secured to me by the said Morse, as alluded to by him in his statement to the Commissioner of