Educated at a private school, he later made a study of the laws of sound and their application to music, then a study of light.
Initially, Wheatstone was in the manufacture of musical instruments. Devoting himself mainly to the principles of their construction, he invented the concertina in 1829. In 1834 he was appointed professor of experimental philosophy at King's College. During his career, Wheatstone contributed many impressive papers to the Journal of the Royal Institution and Philosophical Magazine.
Specializing in electrical science, he, with Sir William Fothergill Cooke, patented an early five- needle telegraph in 1837. He later developed the alphabet dial telegraph (1840), the type-printing telegraph (1841), the improved magnetic-alphabetic dial telegraph (between 1858 and 1860) and the automatic telegraph (between 1858 and 1867). He also invented the chronoscope, a device for electrically recording the velocity of projectiles, and a telegraph thermometer for ascertaining temperatures at high altitudes. His last work was to contrive a new recording instrument for submarine cables that was fifty-eight times more sensitive than any recorder previously employed. Most notable among his achievements is a device known as the Wheatstone bridge (1843), that accurately measures electrical resistance. It became widely used in laboratories the world over. It was
Wheatstone who first suggested a “unit" measurement of electricity.
Sir Charles' contribution to the field of photography was his invention of the stereoscope, along with his studies of binocular vision. Although the stereoscope (a device for observing pictures three-dimensionally) no longer enjoys the immense popularity that it once did, it is still in use in viewing X-rays and aerial photographs.
Elected a fellow of the Royal Society in 1836, a Chevalier of the Legion of Honor in 1855 and a Foreign Member of the Institute of France in 1873. was also an active member of the London Phrenological Society.