Chappe Invents the Mechanical Semaphore

Two French brothers, Claude and Ignace Chappe invented the mechanical semaphore in 1791. They constructed chains of hilltop towers, spaced 3 to 6 miles (5 to 10 kilometres) apart, outfitted with pairs of movable arms mounted on a crossbeam. Moving the arms and tilting the crossbeam clockwise or counterclockwise produced a mechanical version of flag waving provided a sufficient number of positions to represent the numerals and letters of the alphabet. Skilled signalers were able to transmit 50 characters in one hour from Toulon to Paris. Sending the same message by horseback would have taken three to four days.

Date:
      1791
Name(s):
      Claude and Ignace Chappe
Occupation:
      inventors
Location:
      France

Additional Information:

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