How the first cable was laid across the Atlantic





We try and maintain a laserlike focus on the future at Wired, but sometimes it's worth taking a look back at the innovations of the past. On August 16, 1858, the first message was sent across the Atlantic by telegraph cable, reading "Glory to God in the highest; on earth, peace and good will toward men". The transmission marked the culmination of 19 years of dreams, plans and hard work, bridging the economic and political systems of both the UK and the USA.

The idea of a transatlantic communications cable was first floated in 1839, following the introduction of the working telegraph by Wiliam Cooke and Charles Wheatstone. Samuel Morse, the inventor of Morse code, threw his weight behind it in 1840, and by 1850, a link had been laid between Britain and France. The same year, construction began on a telegraph line up the far north-east coast of North America -- from Nova Scotia to the very tip of Newfoundland.

The team behind the east-coast cable was led by Frederick Newton Gisborne, a telegraph engineer from Lancashire, who lived in Nova Scotia. However, the line didn't prove too lucrative, and in 1853 the company collapsed. His fortunes changed, however, when he was introduced to Cyrus West Field, a businessman and financier from New York City....

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