Chiefs of Signal
Brigadier General Albert J. Myer
1860-1863 & 1866-1880
The Signal Corps founder and first Chief Signal Officer, Albert James Myer, was born in Newburgh, New York, on 20 September 1828. While a medical student at the University of Buffalo, Myer worked part time in the Buffalo office of the New York Telegraph Company, becoming familiar with Alexander Bain's electrochemical telegraph system. In 1851, Myer used his experience with the telegraph to design a sign language for deaf mutes, the subject of his doctoral dissertation. In January 1854, Myer passed the Army medical board examination and was appointed as an assistant surgeon in the Medical Corps.
Based on his early interest in a communications system for the deaf, Myer developed a system of visual communications transmitted by a flag or a torch. The War Department adopted Myer's system in 1859. With the outbreak of the Civil War, Myer was appointed the first Signal Officer in the United States Army with the rank of major. Myer's Signal Department was staffed by detailed personnel until 3 March 1863, when Congress authorized a regular U.S. Signal Corps for the duration of the war with a colonel as its head.
After the war, Myer and the Signal Corps constructed thousands of miles of telegraph lines and in 1870, created within the Signal Corps the country's first national weather service. Myer received many honors in the 1870s, and became widely known in meteorological circles. On 17 June 1880, Myer received a regular commission as a brigadier general, dated from 16 June, when legislation that raised the Chief Signal Officer in rank.
Myer founded, organized, and directed the Signal Corps in its formative years. He died as Chief Signal Officer in Buffalo, New York, on 24 August 1880.