Milestone-Proposal:Salva's Electric Telegraph, 1804

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Docket #:2018-03

This Proposal has been approved, and is now a Milestone

To the proposer’s knowledge, is this achievement subject to litigation? No

Is the achievement you are proposing more than 25 years old? Yes

Is the achievement you are proposing within IEEE’s designated fields as defined by IEEE Bylaw I-104.11, namely: Engineering, Computer Sciences and Information Technology, Physical Sciences, Biological and Medical Sciences, Mathematics, Technical Communications, Education, Management, and Law and Policy. Yes

Did the achievement provide a meaningful benefit for humanity? Yes

Was it of at least regional importance? Yes

Has an IEEE Organizational Unit agreed to pay for the milestone plaque(s)? Yes

Has an IEEE Organizational Unit agreed to arrange the dedication ceremony? Yes

Has the IEEE Section in which the milestone is located agreed to take responsibility for the plaque after it is dedicated? Yes

Has the owner of the site agreed to have it designated as an IEEE Milestone? Yes

Year or range of years in which the achievement occurred:


Title of the proposed milestone:

Salva's Electric Telegraph, 1804

Plaque citation summarizing the achievement and its significance:

On February 22, 1804, Francisco Salva y Campillo reported to the Barcelona Royal Academy of Sciences, in Spain, a brand new kind of electric telegraph based on the recently invented Volta’s pile to generate an electric current and on the electrolytic decomposition of water to detect the current flow. Salva also carried out some practical experiments to demonstrate the feasibility of his proposal.

In what IEEE section(s) does it reside?

IEEE Spain Section

IEEE Organizational Unit(s) which have agreed to sponsor the Milestone:

IEEE Organizational Unit(s) paying for milestone plaque(s):

Unit: IEEE Spain Section
Senior Officer Name: Jesus Fraile-Ardanuy

IEEE Organizational Unit(s) arranging the dedication ceremony:

Unit: IEEE Spain Section
Senior Officer Name: Jesus Fraile-Ardanuy

IEEE section(s) monitoring the plaque(s):

IEEE Section: IEEE Spain Section
IEEE Section Chair name: Jesus Fraile-Ardanuy

Milestone proposer(s):

Proposer name: Antonio Perez Yuste
Proposer email: Proposer's email masked to public

Proposer name: Begoña Villanueva
Proposer email: Proposer's email masked to public

Please note: your email address and contact information will be masked on the website for privacy reasons. Only IEEE History Center Staff will be able to view the email address.

Street address(es) and GPS coordinates of the intended milestone plaque site(s):

Real Academia de Ciencias y Artes de Barcelona, La Rambla, 115, 08002 Barcelona (Spain) GPS coordinates: 41.384171° N, 2.170700° E

Describe briefly the intended site(s) of the milestone plaque(s). The intended site(s) must have a direct connection with the achievement (e.g. where developed, invented, tested, demonstrated, installed, or operated, etc.). A museum where a device or example of the technology is displayed, or the university where the inventor studied, are not, in themselves, sufficient connection for a milestone plaque.

Please give the address(es) of the plaque site(s) (GPS coordinates if you have them). Also please give the details of the mounting, i.e. on the outside of the building, in the ground floor entrance hall, on a plinth on the grounds, etc. If visitors to the plaque site will need to go through security, or make an appointment, please give the contact information visitors will need. The intended site of the milestone plaque is the current headquarters of the Royal Academy of Sciences and Arts of Barcelona, sited on the center of the City of Barcelona in a gorgeous building originally designed by the Spanish Modernist Architect José Doménech y Estapá. Salvá introduced his electric telegraph for the first time to the members of this pretigious scientific organisation, in a public address given on February 22, 1804.

Are the original buildings extant?

Yes, the original building remains in full operation currently.

Details of the plaque mounting:

The plaque will be mounted in the main hall of the Royal Academy premises.

How is the site protected/secured, and in what ways is it accessible to the public?

The intended plaque site is an indoor space, under the Royal Academy protection, where visitors can freely wander and watch the plaque while enjoying the modernist architecture of the building. Not any arrangement is required in advance. Just, to check the opening hours of the Royal Academy is required. The contact information is:

    Tel: +34 93 317 0536

Who is the present owner of the site(s)?

The present owner of the site is the Royal Academy of Sciences and Arts of Barcelona

What is the historical significance of the work (its technological, scientific, or social importance)?

Salvá was one of the pioneers in the study of the application of human-made (artificially generated) electricity. After a deep review of Benjamin Franklin's works, he run by himself some of the experiments that were being carried out at that time by Galvani and Volta. As a result of that, he very soon devised the application of human-made electricity to the transmission of information at distance, as a reliable substitute for the optical telegraph systems then in use. He wrote a report titled "Electricity Applied to Telegraphy", addressed to the Royal Academy of Sciences and Arts of Barcelona, as early as December 16, 1795.

In the following years, Salvá conducted some experiments on galvanism that he reported again to the Royal Academy of Sciences and Arts of Barcelona on February 19, 1800, under the title of "On the Galvanism", and on May 14 of the same year, with the given title of "On the Application of the Galvanism to the Telegraphy". Just as a curiosity, in this last report he proposed the use of frog legs as current detectors to make the receivers.

Meanwhile that was happening, some remarkable scientific advances were being done in Europe. On the one hand, in Italy, Alessandro Volta had developed the electric pile as a way to artificially produce a steady electric current; on the other hand, in England, William Nicholson and Anthony Carlisle had discovered the electrolysis process leading to the decomposition of water. Based on those two facts, Salvá conceived a new method for conveying intelligence at a distance, which finally led to a his 1804 electric telegraph. The equipment and operation for this new system was presented to the Royal Academy of Sciences and Arts of Barcelona on February 24 that year.

What obstacles (technical, political, geographic) needed to be overcome?

Salvá supported

What features set this work apart from similar achievements?

Supporting texts and citations to establish the dates, location, and importance of the achievement: Minimum of five (5), but as many as needed to support the milestone, such as patents, contemporary newspaper articles, journal articles, or chapters in scholarly books. 'Scholarly' is defined as peer-reviewed, with references, and published. You must supply the texts or excerpts themselves, not just the references. At least one of the references must be from a scholarly book or journal article. All supporting materials must be in English, or accompanied by an English translation.

Supporting materials (supported formats: GIF, JPEG, PNG, PDF, DOC): All supporting materials must be in English, or if not in English, accompanied by an English translation. You must supply the texts or excerpts themselves, not just the references. For documents that are copyright-encumbered, or which you do not have rights to post, email the documents themselves to Please see the Milestone Program Guidelines for more information.

Please email a jpeg or PDF a letter in English, or with English translation, from the site owner(s) giving permission to place IEEE milestone plaque on the property, and a letter (or forwarded email) from the appropriate Section Chair supporting the Milestone application to with the subject line "Attention: Milestone Administrator." Note that there are multiple texts of the letter depending on whether an IEEE organizational unit other than the section will be paying for the plaque(s).