Encyclopedia of Early Modern History Online

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Semaphore line
(962 words)

The semaphore was a mechanical contrivance in the late 18th and 19th centuries that served to transmit messages within visual range (Optical telegraphy). It usually consisted of a mast with movable (transverse) arms, controlled by levers and cables, whose positions represented a character set. Aided by the use of telescopes, the positioning of the semaphores as a chain of relay stations – preferably on heights – made it possible to cover substantial distances in almost no time

The techniques of signaling practiced since antiquity (smoke, light, fire) were limited to rud…

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Beyrer, Klaus, “Semaphore line”, in: Encyclopedia of Early Modern History Online, Editors of the English edition: Graeme Dunphy, Andrew Gow. Original German Edition: Enzyklopädie der Neuzeit. Im Auftrag des Kulturwissenschaftlichen Instituts (Essen) und in Verbindung mit den Fachherausgebern herausgegeben von Friedrich Jaeger. Copyright © J.B. Metzlersche Verlagsbuchhandlung und Carl Ernst Poeschel Verlag GmbH 2005–2012. Consulted online on 10 June 2023 <http://dx.doi.org/10.1163/2352-0272_emho_SIM_017298>
First published online: 2015
First print edition: 20210601

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