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A fresco in the U.S. Capitol building depicts three great American inventors, Benjamin Franklin, Robert Fulton, and Samuel F. B. Morse with Minerva, the goddess of the arts. The stories of Fulton and Morse bear an uncanny resemblance to one another. Fulton conceived and built the first efficient and profitable steamboat, heralding a new age of transportation, while Morse developed the first efficient telegraph and established a new age of communication.
There is more. Fulton wanted to become a great painter and went to London to study under American Benjamin West, a painter to the court of George III, founder of the Royal Academy, and known in London as the "American Raphael." Morse did exactly the same thing. He, too, went to London to become a great painter, and with Benjamin West's help became a student at the Royal Academy. Although Morse achieved great acclaim as a painter, both men subsequently gave up painting and pursued their other passion, inventions, leaving an indelible mark on global history.
Samuel F. B. Morse was born in 1791 in Charlestown, Mass, the oldest son of Jedidiah, a pastor who wrote a series of geography textbooks that were second in popularity only to Noah Webster's spelling books and bible.