Guglielmo Marconi

Often referred to as the father of long distance radio transmission, the Italian physicist and inventor, of the radio, wireless telegraphy and wireless signal system. Nobel Prize laureate Guglielmo Marconi, sadly passed away 20th July 1937. Born 25 April in 1874. He is often credited as the inventor of radio, and indeed he shared the 1909 Nobel Prize in Physics with Karl Ferdinand Braun “in recognition of their contributions to the development of wireless telegraphy”. Much of Marconi’s work in radio transmission was built upon previous experimentation and the development of ideas by others such as Hertz, Maxwell, Faraday, Popov, Lodge, Fessenden, Stone, Bose, and Tesla.

As an entrepreneur, businessman, and founder of the The Wireless Telegraph & Signal Company in 1897, Marconi succeeded in making a commercial success of radio by innovating and building on the work of previous experimenters and physicists. In 1924, he was ennobled as Marchese Marconi.TitanicMarconi’s development of the Radio Telegraph System has also helped save many lives too. One such device was aboard the RMS Titanic, and The two radio operators aboard the Titanic—Jack Phillips and Harold Bride— who were employed by the Marconi International Marine Communication Company, were able to send distress sgnals Following the collision with the ice berg.As a result survivors were rescued by the RMS Carpathia of the Cunard Line. Also employed by the Marconi Company was David Sarnoff, the only person to receive the names of survivors immediately after the disaster via wireless technology. Wireless communications were reportedly maintained for 72 hours between the Carpathia and Sarnoff, but Sarnoff’s involvement has been questioned by some modern historians. When the Carpathia docked in New York, Marconi went aboard with a reporter from The New York Times to talk with Bride, the surviving operator. On 18 June 1912, Marconi gave evidence to the Court of Inquiry into the loss of the Titanic regarding the marine telegraphy’s functions and the procedures for emergencies at sea. Britain’s postmaster-general summed up, referring to the Titanic disaster, “Those who have been saved, have been saved through one man, Mr. Marconi…and his marvelous invention.”

During his lifetime Marconi received many honours and awards for his invention. In 1909, Marconi shared the Nobel Prize in Physics with Karl Braun for his contributions to radio communications. In 1918, he was awarded the Franklin Institute’s Franklin Medal. In 1924, he was made a marquess by King Victor Emmanuel III., thus becoming Marchese Marconi. The Radio Hall of Fame (Museum of Broadcast Communications, Chicago) inducted Marconi soon after the inception of its awards. He was inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame in 2009. The Dutch radio academy bestows the Marconi Awards annually for outstanding radio programmes, presenters and stations; the National Association of Broadcasters (US) bestows the annual NAB Marconi Radio Awards also for outstanding radio programs and stations. Marconi was also inducted into the National Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 1977 and A commemorative British two pound coin was released in 2001 celebrating the 100th anniversary of Marconi’s first wireless communication as well as A commemorative silver 5 EURO coin whch was issued by Italy in 2009 honouring the centennial of Marconi’s Nobel Prize. A funerary monument to the effigy of Marconi can also be seen in the Basilica of Santa Croce, Florence but his remains are in Sasso, near Bologna.

Marconi’s early experiments in wireless telegraphy were also the subject of two IEEE Milestones; one in Switzerland in 2003 and in Italy in 2011. The premier collection of Marconi artifacts was held by The General Electric Company, p.l.c. (GEC) of the United Kingdom which later renamed to Marconi plc and Marconi Corporation plc. In December 2004 the extensive Marconi Collection, held at the former Marconi Research Centre at Great Baddow, Chelmsford, Essex UK was gifted to the Nation by the Company via the University of Oxford. This consisted of the BAFTA award-winning MarconiCalling website, some 250+ physical artifacts and the massive ephemera collection of papers, books, patents and many other items. The artifacts are now held by The Museum of the History of Science and the ephemera Archives by the nearby Bodleian Library. The latest release, following three years work at the Bodleian, is the Online Catalogue to the Marconi Archives, released in November 2008.

Ira Gershwin’s lyrics to “They All Laughed” include the line, “They told Marconi wireless was a phony.” The band Tesla references him in “Edison’s Medicine” lyrics: They’ll sell you on Marconi, familiar, but a phony.” The band Jefferson Starship references him in their song We Built This City. The lyrics say: “Marconi plays the mamba, listen to the radio”. The 1955 play Inherit the Wind by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee includes a reference to Marconi in scene 1. The 1979 play ‘The Man From Mukinupin’ by Dorothy Hewett makes several references to Marconi by the character The Flasher, who imagines he is communicating with Marconi through a box of matches. “Marconi the great one, speak to me!”, “Marconi, Marconi, must I kill?” and “Marconi says I must not frighten the ladies…” The Bermuda rig, developed in the 17th century by Bermudians, became ubiquitous on sailboats around the world in the 20th century. The tall masts and triangular fore-and-aft sails reminded some people of Marconi’s wireless towers, hence the rig became known also as the Marconi rig. A sculpture devoted to Marconi also resides in Washington, D.C.

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