Guglielmo Marconi


1874 - 1937

Guglielmo Marconi was born in Italy in 1874 to a rather wealthy Italian father and Irish mother. He was educated privately and then went to the Livorno Technical Institute. While there, he read an article that grabbed his attention.

The article suggested the possibility of using radio waves to communicate without wires.The year was 1894, and the most modern way to send a message was over telegraph wires. (Heinrich Herz, for whom the units hertz and megahertz are named, had discovered and first produced radio waves in 1888.)

Marconi jumped right on the problem. He began experimenting at his family's home near Bologna. Within a year he had sent and received signals beyond the range of vision (including over a hill) and then over increasingly great distances -- up to two miles!

Marconi had been playing with electricity since he was a child. A rebellious student, he hated lessons but loved to experiment and invent. By the time he was nineteen, he had resolved to be the first man to give the world a system of communication based on electromagnetic waves. By trial and error, relying on his own intuition and audacity, Marconi conducted a series of experiments indicating that long-distance wireless communication was possible. His goal was accomplished and crossed the world over the threshold of radio as we know it today.

The radio was born to the sound of a rifle shot. By September 1895, Guglielmo Marconi, a self-taught 21-year-old from Bologna, had already performed simple experiments which had convinced him that it was possible to send signals by using electromagnetic waves to connect a transmitting, and a receiving antenna. At first, the distances were short; the one hundred metres between his house and the end of the garden; but it then became necessary to demonstrate that, by using the ether, transmission was also possible between two points separated by an obstacle. Scientists and other experts held that electromagnetic waves could only be transmitted in a straight line and then only if there was nothing in the way. Above all, they thought that the main obstacle was the curvature of the earth's surface. Marconi, (like every self-taught man) was more interested in practice than theory, and so he placed his transmitter near his house and the receiver three kilometres away, behind a hill. Overseeing it, there was the Marconi's servant, Mignani, whose only duty consisted in firing a rifle shot when the signal was received. When Mignani fired his gun, for the first time in history the three dots of the letter "S" of the Morse alphabet had travelled through space. Marconi found little enthusiasm for his invention in Italy: the appropriate Italian minister even considered that it was "not suitable for telecommunications".

Marconi was supported with his invention and financed where he was able to patent his new invention in 1896. By 1897, the British Ministry of Posts gave Marconi enough money and technicians to continue his experiments where by his transmission distances became longer and loger: 5, 8, 15, 30 & 100 kilometers then radiotelegraphy had become reality.

Guglielmo Marconi was the first Trans-Atlantic radio transmission in the world. That signal was transmitted across the Atlantic from Poldhu, Cornwall England to St John's, Newfoundland & Labrador (Canada). Radio pioneer, Marconi, sat listening at Cabot Tower on Signal Hill in Newfoundland & Labrador while his antenna dangled from a kite in the sky, and through that hanging wire, he heard the anticipated signal from across the ocean at 12:30, it was faint but distinctly, "pip pip pip". The letter, "S", in Morse code. I now felt for the first time absolutely certain that the day would come when mankind would be able to send messages without wires not only across the Atlantic but between the farthermost ends of the earth.

Marconi's First radiotrasmitter that was used in Villa Grifone, Bologna

December 12, 2001 will mark the 100th anniversary of the first Trans-Atlantic radio transmission.