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An Italian Genius Who Gave ‘Radio’ to the World

Gugliemo Marconi

Italy has produced some of the greatest scientists and inventors of human civilization. Gugliemo Marconi was one such Italian inventor who literally changed the world with his revolutionizing invention of wireless communication. Credited with the invention of radio, Marconi successfully demonstrated the working possibilities of wireless transmission of message and signal.  

Born into a wealthy and educated family at Bologna, Italy, on April 25, 1874, Marconi was first educated in Bologna and Florence, and was later moved to a technical school in Leghorn. Physical and electrical science fascinated him since he was a boy and he was greatly influenced by the works of Maxwell, Hertz, Righi, Lodge and others.

In 1895 he began experiments at his father’s country estate at Pontecchio where he succeeded in sending wireless signals over a distance of one and a half miles.

In 1896 he took his apparatus to England where British Post Office took interest in the invention. Later that year he was granted the world’s first patent for a system of wireless telegraphy.

He demonstrated his system successfully in London, on Salisbury Plain and across the Bristol Channel, and in July 1897 formed The Wireless Telegraph & Signal Company Limited (in 1900 renamed Marconi’s Wireless Telegraph Company Limited).

In December 1901, determined to prove that wireless waves were not affected by the curvature of the Earth, he used his system for transmitting the first wireless signals across the Atlantic between Poldhu, Cornwall, and St. John’s, Newfoundland, a distance of 2100 miles.

Between 1902 and 1912 he patented several new inventions which included magnetic detector which became the standard wireless receiver for many years, horizontal directional aerial and a “timed spark” system for generating continuous waves.

An entrepreneur and businessman, Marconi had served the Italian Army, and had represented Italy as a member of the Italian Government mission to the United States in 1917 and in 1919 was appointed Italian plenipotentiary delegate to the Paris Peace Conference.

He was awarded the Italian Military Medal in 1919 in recognition of his war service.

During his war service in Italy he returned to his investigation of short waves, which he had used in his first experiments. After further tests by his collaborators in England, an intensive series of trials was conducted in 1923 between experimental installations at the Poldhu Station and in Marconi’s yacht “Elettra” cruising in the Atlantic and Mediterranean, and this led to the establishment of the beam system for long distance communication.

Proposals to use this system as a means of Imperial communications were accepted by the British Government and the first beam station, linking England and Canada, was opened in 1926, other stations being added the following year.

In 1931 Marconi began research into the propagation characteristics of still shorter waves, resulting in the opening in 1932 of the world’s first microwave radiotelephone link between the Vatican City and the Pope’s summer residence at Castel Gandolfo. Two years later at Sestri Levante he demonstrated his microwave radio beacon for ship navigation and in 1935, again in Italy, gave a practical demonstration of the principles of radar, the coming of which he had first foretold in a lecture to the American Institute of Radio Engineers in New York in 1922.

Marconi was recipient of honorary doctorates of several universities and won many other international honours and awards, among them the Nobel Prize for Physics, which in 1909 he shared with Professor Karl Braun. This great Italian inventor died in Rome on July 20, 1937.

In its April 2019 edition Machine Maker in association with Indo Italian Chamber of Commerce and Industry as Knowledge Partner, is coming out with an exclusive edition on Brand Italy for Indian Manufacturing. Please write to rkambale@themachinemaker.in or call at +91 7030932700 or +91 7030932699 

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