Cooke and Wheatstone Telegraph - Inventors


The telegraph arose from a collaboration between William Fothergill Cooke and Charles Wheatstone, best known to schoolchildren from the eponymous Wheatstone bridge. This was not a happy collaboration due to the differing objectives of the two men. Cooke was an inventor and entrepreneur who wished to patent and commercially exploit his inventions. Wheatstone, on the other hand, was an academic with no interest in commercial ventures. He intended to publish his results and allow others to freely make use of them. This difference in outlook eventually led to a bitter dispute between the two men over claims to priority for the invention. Their differences were taken to arbitration with Marc Isambard Brunel acting for Cooke and John Frederic Daniell acting for Wheatstone. Cooke eventually bought out Wheatstone's interest in exchange for royalties.

Cooke had some ideas for building a telegraph prior to his partnership with Wheatstone and had consulted scientist Michael Faraday for expert advice. However, much of the scientific knowledge for the model actually put into practice came from Wheatstone. Cooke's earlier ideas for a mechanical telegraph (involving a clockwork mechanism with an electromagnetic detent) were largely abandoned.

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