One of the best things about being a homeschool mom is that you continue to learn right along with your children! As I began to research this topic, I figured I’d pretty much need to share Samuel Morse’s birth and death dates and the date of his most famous invention, plus a chart of the Morse Code symbols. I had no idea the depth of study that one could enjoy when exploring the biography of a famous inventor!
Books on Morse and His Code
Of course, one of the best ways to begin a study of most anything is with a great book. Our favorite pick for this unit study is Samuel Morse and the Telegraph by Seidman. It’s from the Graphic Library series, which means that it’s a graphic novel (think comic book). But don’t let that worry you. The inclusion of drawings doesn’t limit the information packed into this volume. If you only grab one book for this unit, let it be this one.
Here are some other suggestions (a few are out of print, so check your library):
- Quick, Annie, Give Me a Catchy Line!: A Story of Samuel B. Morse by Robert Quackenbush
- Samuel F. B. Morse: Artist with a Message by John Hudson Tiner
- Samuel F. B. Morse: Inventor and Code Creator by Judy Alter
- The Invention of the Telegraph and Telephone in American History by Anita Louise McCormick
- Samuel Morse and the Story of the Telegraph by Susan Zannos
- Samuel Morse by M. C. Hall
More on Codes and Signals:
- Alpha, Bravo, Charlie: The Complete Book of Nautical Codes by Sara Gillingham
- Codes, Ciphers and Secret Writing by Martin Gardner
- Spy Science: 40 Secret-Sleuthing, Code-Cracking, Spy-Catching Activities for Kids by Jim Wiese
Morse, A Renaissance Man
Because Samuel Morse left his name on the code used to send telegraph messages, you probably think of him primarily as an inventor. But you’d be missing out if you didn’t learn more about the varied and diverse talents of this man! The term Renaissance Man refers to one who is gifted in many different talents. One of the most famous examples is Leonardo DaVinci.
Before becoming known as an inventor, Morse was a painter. See examples of his early art and of his best-known work, Gallery of the Louvre, a depiction of the location where he most loved to paint. (In the picture of “Gallery of the Louvre” be sure to hover your mouse over the image to learn more about each of the paintings Morse depicted in detail!)
The Importance of Failure
Another wonderful theme to draw out from your study of Samuel Morse is the importance of personal struggle and even failure in the progress of science and invention. This article shares about a study that looked at the importance of exposing students to the biographies of scientists and inventors …
Many high school students view scientific ability as a fixed trait that is not responsive to effort. As the researchers wrote: “When students struggle in science classes, they may misperceive their struggle as an indication that they are not good at science and will never succeed.” When students learn about how even famous scientists struggled, they began to see that learning and growing from setbacks is part of a successful professional journey.
As you read more about his life and work, look for answers to some of these questions:
- How did personal tragedy influence his work?
- List some failures and setbacks that Morse experienced. Tell how he solved or overcame each problem.
- In what ways did Morse have to cooperate with or convince others of the importance of his work in order to achieve success?
While this post focuses more on the life and work of Samuel Morse himself, I’ve written a companion piece (guest post on the iHomeschool Network) blog full of resources and ideas for exploring and learning Morse Code and the operation of the telegraph. Read Celebrate Morse Code Day.
Also, you can download a free pack of printables below to coordinate with your study! Now you can …
- Explore short sounds and sustained sounds
- Take a code challenge and see how well you know Morse code
- Explore patterns in the Morse code for numerals
- Make a Morse code tree
- Depict Morse code in art
- And lots more!
Printable is temporarily unavailable from this page, but email me at lynna (at) lynnasutherland (dot) com and I’ll send you a copy!