Milestone-Proposal talk:Salva's Electric Telegraph, 1804

Advocates and reviewers will post their comments below. In addition, any IEEE member can sign in with their ETHW login (different from IEEE Single Sign On) and comment on the milestone proposal's accuracy or completeness as a form of public review.

Starting the approval process -- John Vardalas (talk) 19:38, 11 July 2018 (UTC)

I have been tasked with overseeing the examination of this Milestone proposal, and hopefully its final approval. As a starting point, I have asked three recommended experts, external to the History Committee, to assess this submission. When I have their results back I will post them on these discussion pages. Further discussions will then depend on the substance of the expert opinions.

John Vardalas, Ph.D. Member, IEEE History Committee

Comments from one external expert -- John Vardalas (talk) 00:09, 26 July 2018 (UTC)

Dr. David Hochfelder, Associate Professor, State University of New York, Albany, is an historian of technology who has written on the history of the telegraph. I asked him to review the submission. He finds the proposed Milestone to be "clearly significant" technological achievement, and that documentation provided to be in order, and supporting the claim.

Re: Comments from one external expert -- Apyuste (talk) 08:50, 6 September 2018 (UTC)

I really appreciate the support to the Milestone coming from Dr. Hochfelder. Salva's Electric Telegraph was indeed the very first practical application of Volta's battery, devised just four years after its invention.

Second Expert Evaluation of Salva Milestone Submission -- John Vardalas (talk) 04:28, 29 July 2018 (UTC)

At my request, Prof. Elias Fuste evaluated this proposal. His reply is below.

"I completely agree with the merits described in the Milestone proposal submitted by the Spain Section of IEEE, about the Dr. Francisco Salvá I Campillo. In my opinion, the greatest contribution of Dr. Francisco Salvà i Campillo to telecommunications, was to prove in a reliable way at the dawn of the nineteenth century, that electricity, that unknown and invisible new fluid, could be used to transmit signals remotely. Dr. Salvá i Campillo demonstrated it by building a telegraph that used Volta batteries to generate the electricity, batteries that he himself built. A pioneering work in electrical and telecommunications engineering. To add something that I also think is significant: Dr. Salvà i Campillo could be also considered as the constructor of the first telecommunications cable, since in his experiments with the electric telegraph, he grouped all the pairs of wires in a single bundle or string isolating each conductor by wrapping it in oil-greased paper. The German Museum of Science and Technology in Munich reflected this fact in a panel 20 years ago.

I believe that Dr. Salva i Campillo is a pioneer of electrical telecommunications and deserves to be registered with the IEEE Milestone distinction." Prod. Antoni Elias Fusté, Universität Politecnica de Catalunya Barcelona Tech.

Re: Second Expert Evaluation of Salva Milestone Submission -- Apyuste (talk) 08:53, 6 September 2018 (UTC)

The words from Prof. Elias Fuste are highly estimated as he once was one of the history scholars who broadly devoted his time to regain Salva's memory. I appreciate very much his support.

Location of Milestone plaque -- John Vardalas (talk) 17:05, 13 August 2018 (UTC)

The current building was inaugurated in 1894. Was there an earlier building on this site when Salva reported his results? The Royal Academy's website is not clear on this point.

Re: Location of Milestone plaque -- Apyuste (talk) 09:04, 6 September 2018 (UTC)

The Barcelona Royal Academy of Sciences was originally established in 1764. Since 1786, its seat was based on at the 115 of La Rambla Street, in Barcelona, being at that site from then to our present time. The original building started a whole refurbishment in 1883, so it was re-inaugurated in 1894. Consequently, Francisco Salva addressed his report to the Academy in 1804, in the former building, at the same seat where currently it is based on.

Nature of Salvá's 1804 report to the Academy -- John Vardalas (talk) 18:37, 20 August 2018 (UTC)

As I understand it, this proposed Milestone is for the 1804 "report "of Salvá's new telegraph which was not accompanied by any proof of principle. The practical demonstration, which vindicated his ideas, came later. It would thus be helpful to understand the word "reported" used in the citation. How did the Academy function in 1804? Did Academy members gather at regular meetings where papers were presented by the authors and then followed by discussions? Did authors have to be members to read a paper to the Academy? Was Salvá a member in 1804? Or did someone else present the paper on Salvá's behalf?

Re: Nature of Salvá's 1804 report to the Academy -- Apyuste (talk) 15:11, 6 September 2018 (UTC)

In according to the Barcelona Royal Academy of Sciences Rules at that time, the institution was divided in nine departments, each one headed by a Director: 1) Algebra and Geometry; 2) Statics, Hydrostatics, and Meteorology; 3) Electricity, Magnetism, and other forces; 4) Optics and Acoustics; 5) (I don't have this one); 6) Natural History; 7) Botanic; 8) Chemistry; and 9) Agriculture. Since 1786, Salva was a Member of the Academy assigned to the Electricity, Magnetism, and other forces Department.

Along a year, every department had two different kind of meetings respectively called: "particular" and "general". Every 15 days, a particular meeting should take place with all the Academy members assigned to the department, in order to discuss a given "particular issue". On the other hand, the "general" meeting could be "public" or "private". The "general private meeting" should took place every Wednesday, except on summer season and on holidays. While the "general public meeting" should take place al least once a year, where distinguished non-academy members could be invited to participate. Salva, himself, addressed his 1804 report on the use of electricity as applied to telegraphy, on Wednesday February 22, in a "general private meeting" to other Academy members assigned to the Electricity, Magnetism, and other forces Department.

Furthermore, In according to the Barcelona Royal Academy of Sciences at that time, it was highly recommended for all the Academy members to support their reports on practical evidences, by carrying out some experiences. In case of Salva, he read a very detailed 11 pages length report about how such a telegraph based on Volta's battery should be made up, he showed some experiences about the Volta's battery and the electrolytic decomposition of water but, in fact, it is not documented whether or not he presented any real prototype.

Being so, the word "reported" in the citation means the "address and further written report" on the technics and methods required to make an electric telegraph feasible, as soon as the year 1804.

Anyway, the description given by Salva is detailed enough for any other person to make such a prototype be real as, four years later, happened when Samuel Thomas von Sömmering demonstrated his electro-chemical telegraph to the Munich Academy of Sciences. As Prof. Delgado-Penin explains in his post down at this section, Sömmering's telegraph is exactly based on Salva's ideas.

Third Expert Evaluation of Salva Milestone Submission -- John Vardalas (talk) 18:44, 20 August 2018 (UTC)

This assessment comes from Prof. Jose A.Delgado-Penin, He is currently Emeritus Prof at the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya(UPC.BarcelonaTECH) . Department of Signal Theory and Communications (TSC).

"I want to communicate my agree[ment] with the merits considered in the Milestone proposal submitted by the IEEE Spain Section about the Dr. Francisco Salvá I Campillo. I believe that Dr. Salvá I Campillo must have an international recognition related with Telecommunication (Telegraphy) engineering because he has been a precursor of the Early Wired telegraphy in Europe and may be in the world. [Reference: Semaphore to Satellite, pp.18-24.Published by the International Telecommunication Union, Geneva 1965,]. In short, I want to comment about a little controversial related with the “first inventor”. The "Space multiplexed" electrochemical telegraph of S. T. von Sömmering used the same design concept as the one proposed by Dr. Salvá I Campillo in 1795 in Spain. [Reference: Semaphore to Satellite, pp.18-24.] . The Electrochemical Telegraph of S. T. von Sömmering presented to the Munich Academy of Science in 1808 proposed a more large number of “multiplexed wires” of Dr. Salvá and, the “receivers” for each letter of alphabet were not Leyden´s bottles. In the technical literature there is the following comment :"...Sömmering learned the technique from Francisco Salva, who had developed a similar instrument in 1804 in Barcelona. Sömmering used stronger batteries and was thus able to transmit over a distance of 3.5 kilometers. Salva´s telegraph used an electric cable for each letter. Every cable was connected to an electrode which was immersed in a glass tube filled with acid. The second electrodes were connected to the return cables. When Salva sent an electric current along a particular cable, it led to electrolysis at the other end: This released gas bubbles in the tube which showed which letter was meant. ..." I think that the principle was the same proposed and tried by Dr. Salvá. [Reference: “Memoria sobre la Electricidad aplicada al Telegrafo”,pp.17-28, Memorias de la Real Academia de Ciencias Naturales y Artes de Barcelona, Diciembre 16,1795]"

Re: Third Expert Evaluation of Salva Milestone Submission -- Apyuste (talk) 09:24, 6 September 2018 (UTC)

This summary statement cited by Prof. Delgado-Penin is quite clarifying about the priority of Salva's telegraph in time. As, he mentions, such a remarkable book on the history of communications as the ITU's "Semaphore to Satellite" (1965), recognises the pioneering work of Salva on the foundations of the electric telegraphy. I really thank Prof. Delgado-Penin for his support.

Salvás practical experiements -- John Vardalas (talk) 18:50, 20 August 2018 (UTC)

The citation ends with "Salva also carried out some practical experiments to demonstrate the feasibility of his proposal”. Do we know how long after the 1804 report to the Academy did Salva successfully demonstrate this feasibility? Were these experiments reported to the Academy? Where did these experiments take place?

Re: Salvás practical experiements -- Apyuste (talk) 16:46, 6 September 2018 (UTC)

As it is referred above, it is not possible to assert whether Salva showed, in front of his fellows in the Academy or, later, in any particular experience, a real prototype based on the theoretical model of his electric telegraph. But he did mention some practical experiments on the generation of electricity by using a Volta's pile, and on the detection of electricity by means of the electrolysis of water, which could lead to demonstrate the feasibility of his proposal.

Although Salva never dealt with his electric telegraph again after his 1804 report, it would be Samuel Thomas von Sömmering the person who later would demonstrate a practical electric telegraph based on Salva's components and methods.

In order to gain a more detailed knowledge about Salva's electric telegraph and on the questions coming from Mr. Vardalas, I highly recommend the reading of the paper: Pérez-Yuste, A., "Francisco Salvá's Electric Telegraph", Proceedings of the IEEE, vol. 98, n. 11, pp. 1974 - 1977, Nov. 2010.

Fine tuning the citation -- John Vardalas (talk) 21:03, 10 September 2018 (UTC)

Based on the contents of this proposal, the external reviews, and the discussions, I am confident that this submission meets the high standards set by existing Milestones. Before giving my formal recommendation to move this submission forward to the History Committee, I would ask the nominator to consider possible improvements to the citation.

I feel that the citation could provide a little more info and clarity to the layperson reading the citation. Below is a suggested draft. It is a few words over the limit. I provide it only as a guide to spark discussion.

"On February 22, 1804, Francisco Salva y Campillo reported to the Barcelona Royal Academy of Sciences, in Spain, a new kind of telegraph. Rather than using static electricity with its limited possibilities, Salva was first to grasp the potential of the recently invented Voltaic pile for telegraphic communications. Salva’s report to the Academy described the use of this new source of electrical energy to convey information via the electrolytic decomposition of water."


My intent was to allude to the fact that people were already studying the use of electrostatic principles for telegraphy. But its potential for long distance communications was very limited. Salva was first to see, or at least first to publish, that the pile of was a radical game changer telegraphic communications. While the battery and the wire made transmission possible, the information itself was represented in the electrolytic decomposition of water

Re: Fine tuning the citation -- Apyuste (talk) 06:39, 12 September 2018 (UTC)

Fine. I catch the point. By following that sense, let me take the suggested citation and propose a new citation like next one:

"On February 22, 1804, Francisco Salvá y Campillo reported to the Barcelona Royal Academy of Sciences, in Spain, a new kind of electric telegraph. Salvá was first to grasp the potential of both the recently invented Voltaic pile to generate an electric current and the discovery of water electrolysis in the detection process. Salvá’s report described the elements required and how to use them for conveying intelligence at a distance".

Re: Re: Fine tuning the citation -- Administrator4 (talk) 14:56, 13 September 2018 (UTC)

I recommend changing to IEEE's date format "22 February 1804" as well as to change "...of water electrolysis in the detection process" to something like "...of water electrolysis as a detector". I would also recommend changing the phrase about Salva being the first to grasp (since we don't know whether others grasped it or not, but we do know that Salva published). I would suggest "Salva understood the potential of the recently invented Voltaic pile to generate electric current, as well as the use of water electrolysis as a detector.

This would be my recommended citation:

"On 22 February 1804, Francisco Salvá y Campillo reported to the Barcelona Royal Academy of Sciences, in Spain, a new kind of electric telegraph. Salvá understood the potential of both the recently-invented Voltaic pile to generate electric current, as well as using the discovery of water electrolysis as a detector. Salvá’s report described the elements required to convey information across distance." (62 words)

Re: Re: Re: Fine tuning the citation -- Apyuste (talk) 10:20, 14 September 2018 (UTC)

I appreciate very much the comments to the citation. In relation to the amendment above mentioned, I agree about the date format and about the mention to be the "first one to grasp". Although, on the other hand, I think it is more clear and close to the real fact the original wording in the second half of the citation. At that time, and years later too, was quite common the expression "conveying intelligence" as a synonymous of "sharing knowledge" or "transmitting information". Anyway, as this citation will be shown to present people, I agree to change "intelligence" for "information". So, we might keep a citation like next one:

"On 22 February 1804, Francisco Salvá y Campillo reported to the Barcelona Royal Academy of Sciences, in Spain, a new kind of electric telegraph. Salvá devised the potential of the recently-invented voltaic pile to generate an electric current jointly with the discovery of water electrolysis in the detection process. Salvá’s report described the elements required and how they should be arranged to convey information at a distance." (67 words)

Citation -- JaninA (talk) 11:47, 1 October 2018 (UTC)

Was the Salva's invention a "new type of electric telegraph" or the first electric telegraph?

Re: Citation -- John Vardalas (talk) 16:26, 11 October 2018 (UTC)

Earlier electric telegraphs tried to use electrostatic principles.

Re: Citation -- Apyuste (talk) 20:40, 13 October 2018 (UTC)

In fact, at the turn of the XVIII century, at least two other electric telegraphs based on the use of static electricity had already been proposed: one from the Genevan physicist Georges-Louis Le Sage and a second one from the same Salvá. However, in according to the Electrical Engineering conventions, only those contrivances operated by means of a DC or an AC current can be really considered as electrical apparatuses, so Salvá’s 1804 electric telegraph would be, as far as I know, the first “electric” telegraph ever. Anyway, in order to not rise up the polemic about “the first one”, we skipped this issue and just directly pointed out the originality of his proposal.

-- Juan Carlos (talk) 09:14, 3 October 2018 (UTC)

In the proposed citation: "Salvá devised the potential of . . . " I wonder if "devised" is the most appropriated word to describe the genesis of the idea to take advantage of two new discoveries: chemical batteries and the electrolysis of water.

Re: -- Jbart64 (talk) 22:42, 11 October 2018 (UTC)

I support the milestone. One sentence needs a little tweaking. This sentence is awkward: "Salvá devised the potential of the recently-invented voltaic pile to generate an electric current jointly with the discovery of water electrolysis in the detection process." Consider this wording: "Salvá utilized a voltaic pile to generate an electric current which he combined with water electrolysis to design a new detection process." Dave Bart

Re: Re: -- John Vardalas (talk) 19:42, 13 October 2018 (UTC)

I agree with Juan Carlos and Dave that the words "devised the potential" makes the sentence awkward. I thank them for pointing out this weakness. Here is another suggestion for the proposer's consideration.

"In combining the generation of an electric current, from the recently-invented voltaic pile, with the discovery of water electrolysis, Salvá proposed a new method for the transmission of telegraphic signals."

I haven't done the word count. If my suggestion puts us over the word limit then I suggest

"In combining the generation of an electric current, from the recently-invented voltaic pile, with the discovery of water electrolysis, Salvá proposed a new method of telegraphy."

Re: Re: Re: -- Apyuste (talk) 20:50, 13 October 2018 (UTC)

In relation to the comments about the expression: “Salvá devised the potential of….”, and thinking about how could it be easily made up, we suggest to use a former recommendation coming from Robert Colburn, so we propose to change this expression for: “Salvá understood the potential of….”.