Morse of a different color
Wednesday, July 17, 2013
While the basic purpose of the firefly's flicker was known as early as 1532, the specifics of their communication weren't understood until well into the 19th century, when zoologist Alfred Vail had the idea of isolating two fireflies and writing down their flashes on paper. When he finally broke the code in 1829, he showed it to his friend Samuel Morse who, in a fit of Franklin-esque chicanery, stole it and took credit for its invention.
Morse, it turns out, had recently designed the first telegraph, and had been searching for a language for communicating messages with his new machine. This new "Morse code" fit the bill perfectly.
And as so often happens in history, Morse became a millionaire off of his stolen ideas, while Vail, the original inventor, died in debtors' prison.