Born in Hebron, Connecticut, he built his first steamboat in 1792 and was granted several patents related to steam engines and their use on ships. In 1797, he built a steamship with a paddlewheel on each side but did not patent the arrangement. Robert Fulton, the inventor of the first commercially successful steamboat, used a method similar to Morey's.
On April 1, 1826, Morey was granted a patent for the internal combustion engine, which would later permit the invention of the automobile in the 1890s. He was granted his last patent at the age of 71 in 1833.