Cooke and Wheatstone five-needle telegraph, 1837.

Image number: 10307306

Cooke and Wheatstone five-needle telegraph, 1837.

The five-needle telegraph, patented by Charles Wheatstone (1802-1875) and William Fothergill Cooke (1806-1879) in 1837, was the first successful electric telecommunication device. This system used a diamond grid of 20 letters (the six missing letters had to be omitted from messages) with five needles arranged across the middle. The deflection of any two needles to the left or right would point to specific letters. The telegraph first saw service on the newly-developing railways, and by 1838 it was being used to send public telegrams, as well as Great Western Railway messages, between London and West Drayton - a village 21km (13 miles) to the west of London. Front view.

Image number:
Science Museum/Science & Society Picture Library
Date taken:
12 January 2004 21:24
Image rights:
Science Museum

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