The Telegraph

The first ever telegraphic message—“What hath God wrought!”—was sent by Samuel Morse from Washington, D.C. and received on this instrument by Alfred Vail in Baltimore, Maryland on May 24, 1844.

Ezra Cornell had worked with Samuel Morse and Hiram Sibley in the practical development of the electric telegraph and the creation of the Western Union Telegraph Company. Sibley, who served as Western Union’s first president, was also one of the original trustees and early benefactors of Cornell University. He provided funding to erect Sibley Hall and to support the growth and development of the Sibley College of Mechanical Engineering and Mechanic Arts.

Sibley purchased the original telegraph receiver from Alfred Vail’s son in 1898 and presented it to Cornell University. As a symbol of the source of Ezra Cornell’s prosperity, the wealth that made the founding of the University possible, a telegraph receiver was included in Hermon Atkins McNeil’s 1918 statue of Ezra Cornell on the Cornell Arts Quad.

In 2009, Cornell professor Hod Lipson and members of his Creative Machines Lab team, including undergraduate students, used Solid Freeform Fabrication (SFF), a family of manufacturing processes that create three-dimensional objects by depositing layers of material, to produce a working replica of Samuel Morse’s original telegraph receiver. It marked the first time that this SFF process had been used to fabricate a complete, active electromechanical system.

The invention of the telegraph introduced electronic communication to the world and is celebrated as a landmark in human history. Today’s 3-D printers are part of an emerging digital technology that could also profoundly change the world. On September 23, 2014, a 3-D printer arrived at the International Space Station. It will be used for experimental purposes with an eye toward one day printing parts for the station on demand.

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