Guglielmo Marconi

Guglielmo Marconi (25 April 1874 - 20 July 1937)

At first, Marconi could only signal over limited distances. However, in the summer of 1895, he moved his experimentation outdoors. After increasing the length of the transmitter and receiver antennas, and arranging them vertically, and position the antenna so that it was allowed to touch the ground, the transmission range increased significantly.

Finding limited interest in his work in his native Italy, in early 1896, at the age of 21, Marconi traveled to London, England, accompanied by his mother to seek someone who could support his findings. (Marconi spoke fluent English in addition to Italian.) While there, he gained the interest and support of William Preece, the Chief Electrical Engineer of the British Post Office.

A series of demonstrations for the British government followed””by March, 1897, Marconi had transmitted Morse code signals over a distance of about 6 kilometres (4 miles) across the Salisbury Plain. On 13 May 1897, Marconi sent the first ever wireless communication over water. It transversed the Bristol Channel from Lavernock Point (South Wales) to Flat Holm Island, a distance of 14 kilometres (8.7 miles). The message read "Are you ready".

Impressed by these and other demonstrations, Preece introduced Marconi's ongoing work to the general public at two important London lectures: "Telegraphy without Wires", at the Toynbee Hall on 11 December 1896; and "Signalling through Space without Wires", given to the Royal Institute on 4 June 1897.

Numerous additional demonstrations followed, and Marconi began to receive international attention. (...) The English channel was crossed on 27 March 1899, from Wimereux, France to South Foreland Lighthouse, England, and in the fall of 1899, the first demonstrations in the United States took place, with the reporting of the America's Cup international yacht races at New York.

Transatlantic communication

Around the turn of the century, Marconi began investigating the means to signal completely across the Atlantic, in order to compete with the transatlantic telegraph cables. Marconi soon made the announcement that on 12 December 1901, using a 122-metre (400-foot) kite-supported antenna for reception, the message was received at Signal Hill in St John's, Newfoundland (now part of Canada) signals transmitted by the company's new high-power station at Poldhu, Cornwall. The distance between the two points was about 3,500 kilometres (2,100 miles).

In February, 1902, the SS Philadelphia sailed west from Great Britain with Marconi aboard, carefully recording signals sent daily from the Poldhu station. The test results produced coherer-tape reception up to 2,496 kilometres (1,551 miles), and audio reception up to 3,378 kilometres (2,099 miles).

On 17 December 1902, a transmission from the Marconi station in Glace Bay, Nova Scotia, Canada, became the first radio message to cross the Atlantic in an eastward direction.

On 18 January 1903, a Marconi station built near Wellfleet, Massachusetts in 1901 sent a message of greetings from Theodore Roosevelt, the President of the United States, to King Edward VII of the United Kingdom, marking the first transatlantic radio transmission originating in the United States. However, consistent transatlantic signalling turned out to be very difficult to establish.

Marconi hereabout began to build high-powered stations on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, in order to communicate with ships at sea in competition with other inventors. In 1904, a commercial service was established to transmit nightly news summaries to subscribing ocean-going ships, which could incorporate them into their on-board newspapers. A regular transatlantic radiotelegraph service was finally announced in 1907, but even after this the company struggled for many years to provide reliable communication.

In 1920, employing a vacuum-tube transmitter, the Chelmsford Marconi factory was the location for the first entertainment radio broadcasts transmitted in the United Kingdom””one of these featured Dame Nellie Melba. In 1922, regular entertainment broadcasts commenced from the Marconi Research Centre at Writtle near Chelmsford. When the British Broadcasting Company was formed in 1922, the Marconi company was a prominent participant.

Marconi joined the Italian Fascist party in 1923. In 1930, Italian dictator Benito Mussolini appointed him to be the President of the Accademia d'Italia, which also made Marconi a member of the Fascist Grand Council. Marconi was a participant in rallies that fostered fascist beliefs and composed fascist propaganda. Marconi also made speeches as an apologist for the actions of the fascist regime in Italy.

In 1935, Italian forces occupied the African nation of Ethiopia, resulting in near universal condemnation of Italy. Marconi made numerous radio speeches supporting the unprovoked attack, being notorious enough for the BBC to ban him from talking about the subject.

Marconi died at Rome in 1937, at age 63. Italy held a state funeral commemorating Marconi's life. As a tribute, all radio stations throughout the world observed two minutes of silence.

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