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Guglielmo Marconi (1874 - 1937)






Marconi in 1896

  Photograph source: GEC-Marconi Ltd

So, who was Guglielmo Marconi?

Guglielmo Marconi was born at Bologna, Italy, on April 25th, 1874. His parents were well-to-do and he was brought up in a country villa. His mother was a Scot who had lived in Ireland and then met and married his Italian father whilst studying music in Italy.

Marconi had a great interest in electricity and at the age of twelve was further inspired by his teacher, Professor Righi, who was replicating Hertz's experiments in transmitting wireless signals. Thus he became intent on discovering a method of wireless telegraphy. Before he was fourteen, Marconi had set up rough aerials on either sides of the family garden at Villa Grifona. He was able to receive signals over a distance of some 100 metres.

Whist still a young man, Marconi was able to send Morse signals by wireless across several kilometres of space. Marconi tried to sell his invention to Italian business people, but no one was interested.

What did Marconi do now?

Aged twenty one, keen not to be defeated, Marconi left Italy for England. He went to see Sir William Preece, who had also been working on the problem of sending Morse signals by wireless. When Marconi set up his equipment at the general Post Office in London and showed that thick walls and roofs made no difference to the transmission of his signals, everyone was amazed.

In 1896, Marconi took out his first patent for wireless.

In 1897, he conducted new tests on Salisbury Plain and also successfully sent a message across the Bristol Channel.

In 1899, he communicated across the English Channel. The same year saw the wireless telegraph being used to save a ship in distress in the North Sea. This gave Marconi tremendous publicity.

On 12th December, 1901, the Marconi team successfully communicated across the Atlantic Ocean. A Morse signal was transmitted from Poldhu, in Cornwall, England and received at St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada.

In 1909, Marconi was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics as recognition for his work on wireless telegraphy.

With this, Marconi became famous the world over and was made a marchese or marquis in his native Italy. He died in on 20th July, 1937, aged 63, a rich man who had seen his invention grow and grow and grow.