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Guglielmo Marconi

Page history last edited by Kate M. Fisher 14 years, 3 months ago

Guglielmo Marconi: Italian inventor & Nobel Peace Prize recipient


     Marchese Guglielmo Marconi: April 1874- July 1937


"Every day sees humanity more victorious in the struggle with space and time."

    ~Guglielmo Marconi


     Guglielmo Marconi, born as Guglielmo Marconi, to Giuseppe Marconi and Annie Jameson, was born in the city of Bologna, Italy on April 25, 1874. [1] From a young age, Marconi had a great interest in physical and electrical science and dedicated his time to studying the brilliant works of Heinrich Hertz, James Clerk Maxwell, Augusto Righi, and Sir Oliver Lodge. [1] Sir Oliver Lodge was the first to coin the term mediumship. Due to his creative and abstract mind, he did not fair well with traditional studies in school. His keen interests in science, specifically physics, and his success in this particular area of study, motivated Marconi to dedicate his life to studying science. In 1888, Heinrich Hertz, proved that one could produce and detect electromagnetic radiation, or "radio waves" for short. [3] After Hertz's untimely death in 1894, Marconi dedicated his time to studying Hertz's earlier works. Marconi had big dreams and high goals. He set out to create a system employing the use of radio waves. His goal was to create a practical and efficient system, known as wireless telegraphy. Wireless telegraphy is defined as the transmisssion of telegraph messages without connecting wires as used by the electric telegraph. [2] Marconi was not the first to experiment with this type of system. Numerous other inventors and physicists had been toiling to create a system such as his for over fifty years, none of these gentlemen had any success with it. Marconi did not develop a completely new system, rather he improved on bits and pieces of Hertz telegraphy system, making it more adaptable for practical usage. [4]

The System: Wireless Telegraphy

     Marconi's system was broken down into the following components: [3]

          1. a simple oscillator- a spark producing radio transmitter very similiar to what Hertz had used

          2. a wire area placed above ground- Marconi most likey never realized that the earth acted as a "waveguide resonator"

            making it easier to transmit signals over long distances

          3. a coherer receiver- refined from it's original design added to increased sensitivity and refinement

          4. a telegraph key- used to operate the transmitter and to send short and long pulses,

           corresponded dots and dashes of Morse Code       


          5. a telegraph register- activated by the coherer receiver; this recorded the received Morse

          Code dots and dashes onto a roll of paper tape


Marconi's Wireless Apparatus

Wireless Telegraphy

     In the beginning, Marconi's system could only signal over short distances. After lengthening the transmitter and receiver antennas and arranging them in a vertical position, and after repositioning the antenna so that it was level across the ground, Marconi was able to increase his signal range significantly. [4] With time, Marconi was able to transmit signals across hills and valleys, a range of about one and a half miles. [4]Marconi recognized the importance of his invention, so traveled to London, England to seek support from a higher authority regarding his work. William Preece, the Chief Electrical Engineer of the British Post Office was interested in Marconi's work and offered Marconi financial support. Marconi dedicated all of his time and efforts to improving his system even more. By spring of 1897, Marconi had transmitted Morse Code signals over three and a half miles, and by May 1897 Marconi had sent the first ever wireless communication over open sea. [6] This first message which traveled from the Bristol Channel, a major inlet in the island of Great Britain, to Lavernock Point in South Wales, across to Flat Holm Island, read, "Are you ready." [5] With this, Marconi begun to receive international attention and support. Marconi's system traveled from Italy to Ireland, across the English Channel and even into the America's to cover the America's Cup yacht races. [5] Marconi extended his research even further, attempting to send a signal across the Atlantic. He established a transmitting station at Marconi House in London to act as a link between Cornwall, England and Clifden in County Galaway, Ireland. [3] In the year 1900, the Marconi International Marine Communication Company Ltd. was formed to take over the martime business. [5] In December 1901, Marconi's dream came true, when he transmitted a message across two-thousand two-hundred miles. [3] At the announcement of this newfound communications system, skepticism by critics regarding it's feasability and usage was highly debated, specifically by one man, Nikola Tesla, an Austrain inventor living in the United States, who claimed that Marconi was using seventeen of his patents to create this new communications system. [4]

     Due to negative critiques by a few, Marconi fought even harder to prove his purpose in the wireless telegraphy field. His first major aim in perfecting communication without wires was to break the isolation of those at sea. In 1899, the first life-saving possibilities of wireless telegraphy were realized when a wireless message was received from the East Goodwin lightship. [4] This vessel, which contained Marconi's wireless apparatus, had been hit by the steamship, R.F. Matthews, during dense fog. Due to the fact that Marconi's wireless apparatus was on board, a S.O.S. call was able to be sent alerting others that assistance was needed. A couple of years later, in 1909, over 1,500 individuals were rescued from sea when the S.S. Republic collided with The Florida, an Italian steamer, off the US East Coast. [4] Due to Marconi's apparatus in use on the Republic, all passengers other than those killed by the initial impact were rescued. Another famous case involved the Titanic. When the Titanic was struck by an iceberg on April 14, 1912 hundreds of individuals lost their lives. [3] Those who survived  owed their lives to the distress calls from the Marconi wireless equipment that was on board.

Marconi vs. Tesla

     The U.S. Supreme Court in 1943, six years after Marconi's death, ruled that patent No. 7777, which Marconi took out in in 1900 for his creation of "tuned or syntonic telegraphy,"a system for tuned coupled circuits which allowed for simultaneous transmissions on different frequencies, would be upheld in his name, but all later improvements in the radio field would not be credited in his name. [6] Patent No. 7777 allowed adjacent stations the capability to operate without interfering with one another and allowed for greater conduction ranges. Tesla's patent No. 645,576 for a wireless transceiver was upheld and all further improvements he made in the area of telegraphy were credited under his name. [5]

     Nikola Tesla was not the only inventor who viewed a lot of Marconi's discoveries as unprecedented. Most of Marconi's work, in all reality, built upon the discoveries of other scientists and inventors. His "two-circuit" equipment was similiar to other past inventions, specifically Oliver Lodge's system developed in 1894. The Fascist regime in Italy named Marconi as the first to fully revolutionize the radio. [4] This was very controversial as many believed that Marconi's contribution was not sufficient enough to deserve patent protection. Many individuals believed that his works were too close to the original inventions developed by Hertz, Tesla, Lodge, and Popov in past years. [4]

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                                          The Day The Universe Changed By James Burke- Radio's Influence on Society

Marconi's Inventions- Radio

     Between the years 1902 and 1912, Guglielmo Marconi patented numerous other inventions. He first demonstrated the "daylight effect," relative to wireless communication, in 1902. [2] Through indepth studies Marconi found that medium wave signals can travel long distances, but only at nighttime. In a daily light path they tend to fade very quickly. This thus disproved the scientist, George Kemp's, theory that signals can be transmitted during daylight. [2] In 1902, Marconi patented his magnetic detector which later became the standard wireless receiver for numerous years. [2] A few other notable inventions include; horizontal directional aerial and the creation in 1912 of a "timed spark" system for generating continuous waves. [3] The timed spark system, was a four-circuit design featuring two tuned-circuits at both the transmitting and receiving antennas. [3] This invention was issued the British patent number 7777 in 1900. This patent came under close scrutiny as it mirrored quite considerably earlier works by Oliver Lodge and Nikola Tesla. As a defensive move, in 1991 the Marconi Company purchased the Lodge-Muirhead Syndicate. [4] The Lodge-Muirhead Syndicate's primary asset was Lodge's 1897 tuning patent. [4] This followed a 1911 court case in which the Marconi Company was deemed to have illegally copied most of the techniques described under Oliver Lodge's tuning patent. Thus patent number 7777 came under close scrutiny by many individuals. [5]

 Marconi's Radio Transmitter System


Later Years

     Marconi devoted later years to serving in the Armed Forces. He was commissioned into the Italian Army in 1914 and later transferred in 1916 into the Navy in the rank of Commander. [5] He served as a member of the Italian Government mission to the United States in 1917 and was appointed at a later date delegate to the Paris Peace Conference. [4] He was awarded in 1919 the Italian Military Medal for his courageous efforts during World War I. While at war, Marconi continued his studies on short wave communications. He was put in charge of the Italian wirless service and developed short-wave transmission as a means of secret communication. [4] Marconi also studied during this time long distance communication. After numerous series of trials were conducted in 1923, the beam system for long distance communication was established. [4] Many proposals were put on the table to use this system as a means of imperial communications. Most of these proposals were accepted by the British government and the first beam station was opened in 1926, linking England to Canada. [3] Numerous other stations were added in subsequent years. Marconi continued on his explorations to develop even shorter waves. In 1932 the world's first radiotelephone link between the Vatican City and the Pope's residence during the summer months at Castel Gandolfo was established. [3] A few years later, in 1935, Marconi demonstrated his microwave radio beacon for ship navigation. [3]

     Radio broadcasting as a medium of mass communication was another area pioneered by Marconi. In 1920, Britain's first advertised public broadcast by singer Dame Nellie Melba was broadcast internationally by means of Marconi's 15 kW telephone transmitter. [2] In 1921, The Marconi Company was permitted to broadcast the first regular public entertainment program from a low-power transmitter at Writtle, England near Essex and later from the first London station located at Marconi House at Aldwych, London. [1] Marconi never had a strong passion for television, but his company located in England was strongly involved in advancing this new medium, though. In 1934, its television interests were merged with those of Electrical Music and Industries Ltd. to form the company, The Marconi-EMI Television Co. Ltd. [1] The British Broadcasting Corporation, better known as the BBC, in 1936 adopted the Marconi-EMI system for the first public television service in the world. [1]

     Guglielmo Marconi married the Honorary Beatrice O'Brien, daughter of Baron Inchiquin, in 1905. [6] O'Briena and Marconi gave birth to one son and two daughters during their marriage. Their marriage was annulled in 1915 and in 1927 he married Countess Bezzi-Scali of Rome. [6] The Countess and Marconi gave birth to one daughter shortly after their marriage in 1927. In the year 1935, Marconi moved to Rome, never to leave Italy again. [4]

Honors and Awards

     Marconi received numerous prestigious honors and awards during his lifetime, including honorary doctorates from several universities as well as many other international honors, including the Nobel Peace Prize for his works in the field of physics. [5] Other honorary awards include, the Albert Medal of the Royal Society of Arts, the Kelvin Medal for promoting public awareness in the field of physics, and the John Fritz Medal for his achievements in science and industry. [3] He was honored with the title of Commander of the Order of St. Maurice and St. Lazarus and was awarded the Grand Cross of the Order of the Crown of Italy in 1902. [3] In 1914, Marconi was created a Senatore in the Italian Senate and was appointed the title of Honorary Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order in England, which was awarded for his civilian and military merit. [3] He received the honory title of Marchese, meaning Italian nobleman, in 1929 by King Victor Emmanuel III. Various other honors and awards Marconi recieved include, the title of Chevalier of the Civil Order of Savoy in 1905 and freedom of the City of Rome in 1903. [2]


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                                    Summary of Marconi's Life and Accomplishments

Closing Remarks

     Marconi passed away during the early hours on July 20, 1937. [3] Following Marconi's death from a heart attack at age 63, Italy held a state funeral for Marconi. Radio stations worldwide held tributes for his accomplishments in the field of physics observing two minutes of silence resembling the silence prior to Marconi's arrival. [5] At his funeral in Rome thousands of mourners lined the streets in a fitting tribute to a truly great inventor. [4] Marconi is now know as the Pioneer of Wireless, freeing communications from the constraints imposed by fixed cable and visible distance. He facilitated mass and commericial communication, connecting all parts of the world closer together than ever before. Marconi's body is housed in the mausoleum in the grounds of Villa Griffone at Sasso Marconi, Emilia-Romagna, one of the twenty regions of Italy, located just outside the capital city of Bologna. [5] Sasso Marconi was renamed in 1938 in honor of Sir Marconi. [5]


     Marconi's grandson, Francesco Paresce Marconi commented regarding his grandfather's death:


          "He obviously straddled the three basic cultures of our society: science, technology and business, and was probably as such conversant with some aspect of each, yet uncomfortable with the rules of all of them."



     Guglielmo Marconi's daughter, Giola Marconi Braga reflected on her father's death stating:


          "He was a quiet. reserved person who recognized a spiritual force outside and above himself. He preferred to trust his own intuition rather than to accept too rigidly the limitations of his own plans which might have been imposed by the science of his day."


     Hugh Aitken, a famous radio historian commented:


          "Personally, I would call him the master 'technological entrepreneur and innovator' of his time, and certainly the 'first entrepreneur of the electronic age; yet he would have preferrred his own humble definition as an 'ardent amateur of electricity."

Original Author: Kate M. Fisher



       [1] Sonneborn, L. (2005). Guglielmo Marconi: Inventor of Wireless Technology.

Newark, NJ: Scholastic Library Publishing


      [2] Sherrow, V. (2004). Guglielmo Marconi: Inventor of Radio and Wireless Communication.

               Berkely Heights, NJ: Enslow Publishing, Inc.


      [3] Zannos, S. (2004). Guglielmo Marconi and Radio Waves.

Hockessin, DE: Mitchell Lane Publishing, Inc.


      [4] Adler, R. (2002). Science Firsts: From the Creation of Science to the Science of Creation (1st ed.).

Somerset, NJ: Wiley


     [5] Guglielmo Marconi. (2008). In Encyclopaedia Britannica.

Retrieved October 13, 2008, from Encyclopaedia Brittanica

               Online: http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/364287/Guglielmo-Marconi


      [6] The Franklin Institute. (2008). The Case Files: Guglielmo Marconi. Retrieved October 31, 2008,

               from http://www.fi.edu/learn/case-files/marconi/land.html










Comments (4)

Jeff Martinek said

at 2:24 pm on Oct 19, 2008

Kate: The goal is to keep this as objective and balanced as possible, so I would omit the reference to his political beliefs from the title, since it's far from clear how they are relevant to his contribution to the technology of radio. Also, why the Italian terms? I think it might confuse some people. -- JM

Kate M. Fisher said

at 8:36 pm on Oct 19, 2008

This is NOT a completed article. It is just the beginning of it. I was getting too many conflicting dates and facts regarding Marconi from the two sources I was using, so I have ordered a few other books online and through interlibrary loan in my hometown. Will finish once my additional references/sources arrive.

Jeff Martinek said

at 5:00 pm on Oct 30, 2008

A Marconi source that might be worth checking out:

Kate M. Fisher said

at 10:33 pm on Nov 2, 2008

Page is still in progress.

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