Marconi, the inventor of radio? Well...
Guglielmo Marconi came to Britain from his
native Italy as a young man, bringing with him his experimental
apparatus for the transmission of electric waves. James Clerk Maxwell
had developed his theory of electromagnetic waves in his Electricity and
Magnetism (1873). This
was of course pure theorizing: Marconi had the honour of being the first
to demonstrate the truth of Maxwell's equations.
Or was he? Several others
were experimenting at or around the same time and at least one other
experimenter, David Hughes, may have succeeded in transmitting
signals perhaps twenty years earlier than Marconi. Sir Oliver Lodge
also demonstrated transmission at least two years prior to Marconi.
It is also true that the
German experimenter Heinrich Hertz generated electromagnetic waves
in 1888. In fact, Marconi based his experiments upon those of Hertz and
first demonstrated the sending of his radio signals in England on
Salisbury plain in 1896, although he had experimented in Italy. At around
the same time, A.S. Popov, a Russian experimenter, also
successfully sent radio signals. All these early experiments used spark
transmission as an interrupted wave and therefore were not capable of
carrying speech or music, simply code.
(pictured below left) was
a Canadian inventor who used his continuous wave
generator for the world's first
audio broadcast ever made, 1906, but this was before amplifying valves
were developed and Fessenden could not develop his system to a level of
fact, Fessenden could be said to be the inventor of radio as we know it,
i.e. a continuous high frequency wave modulated by an audio signal.
Fessenden was a prolific and brilliant inventor and never received
recognition for his development of radio transmission. This is utterly
unfair, but then that's so often the case with inventors who are most
often so engrossed with their work that they fail to realise the essential
value of self-publicity. Part of the inscription on Fessenden's gravestone
reads 'I AM YESTERDAY AND I KNOW
To find out more about
Reginald A. Fessenden, search under his name on the internet.
Marconi, on the other hand, was indisputably
a great experimenter though nothing in the order of magnitude of Fessenden but
he was crucially also a clever showman and self-publicist. Like Fessenden
foresaw the value of code signals for improved safety and communications
from ship to shore and got there first with his cruder system of Morse
code transmission. Radio as we know it only became practical through the
inventions of Sir Ambrose Fleming (diode thermionic valve) and
Lee DeForest (adaptation of the diode into an amplifying triode
valve). These and many others should be given due credit for the invention
and development of true radio - speech and music. Why then does the name 'Marconi'
spring to mind whenever the invention of radio is discussed? Certainly,
Marconi was the first to PUBLICISE his coded transmissions and certainly he was
the first to make crucial steps such as the transmission from England to
America, against the perceived knowledge of the time that such a feat was
impossible due to the curvature of the earth. His grasp of the
significance of communication between ship and shore was instrumental in
leading his company forward but conversely he tried hard to prevent others
from improving or bettering his system. He also patented a device which
when examined contained absolutely nothing new, just the inventions of
Perhaps most importantly
he was possessed of the certainty that he would ultimately succeed, which
of course he did.
foregoing is entirely my personal opinion, gained through many hours of
research. The reader is advised to do something similar and then make
his or her own mind up!