Experimented to find the most effective way of passing visual semaphore messages over long distances. Ultimately a network of 556 stations, covering more than 3000 miles was built to carry both military and commercial messages.

News of victory at Fleurus reached Paris in record time using Claude Chappe‘s telegraph. For the first time, messages were travelling long distance at the speed of light – a communications revolution.

The first official Paris-Lille line of the telegraph system came into service on 16 July 1794. Matt Webb tells more and links to other sources on the Chappe Telegraph at interconnected.org.

I love the idea that this invention, taken together with Coutelle’s balloon, has the main ingredients in prototype to make Google Maps.

Chappe also led me to the work of leftist Belgian media theorist Armand Mattelart, whose thought-provking book Networking the World, 1794-2000 follows some common threads through the history of communications.

And as Claude Chappe signalled a French-led communications revolution, James Watt was sealing his significant contribution to Britain’s Industrial Revolution.

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