Guglielmo Marconi


Guglielmo Marconi : biography

25 April 1874 – 20 July 1937


Early years

Marconi was born as Guglielmo Giovanni Maria Marconi, Presso l’accademia, 1974 , p. 11. in Bologna on 25 April 1874, the second son of Giuseppe Marconi, an Italian landowner, and his Irish/Scots wife, Annie Jameson, daughter of Andrew Jameson of Daphne Castle in County Wexford, Ireland and granddaughter of John Jameson, founder of whiskey distillers Jameson & Sons. Marconi was educated privately in Bologna in the lab of Augusto Righi, in Florence at the Istituto Cavallero and, later, in Livorno. As a child Marconi, according to Robert McHenry, did not do well in school.Robert McHenry, "Guglielmo Marconi," in Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1993. On the contrary, historian Corradi Giuliano in his biography reports that Marconi was a true genius.Corradi Giuliano, "Guglielmo Marconi," Guglielmo Marconi. Tracce di un genio nel Tigullio, 2009. Baptized as a Catholic, he was also a member of the Anglican Church, being married into it; however, he still received a Catholic annulment.

Radio work

During his early years, Marconi had an interest in science and electricity. One of the scientific developments during this era came from Heinrich Hertz, who, beginning in 1888, demonstrated that one could produce and detect electromagnetic radiation—now generally known as radio waves, at the time more commonly called "Hertzian waves" or "aetheric waves". Hertz’s death in 1894 brought published reviews of his earlier discoveries, and a renewed interest on the part of Marconi. He was permitted to briefly study the subject under Augusto Righi, a University of Bologna physicist and neighbour of Marconi who had done research on Hertz’s work.

Early experimental devices

Marconi began to conduct experiments, building much of his own equipment in the attic of his home at the Villa Griffone in Pontecchio, Italy, with the help of his butler Mignani. His goal was to use radio waves to create a practical system of "wireless telegraphy"—i.e. the transmission of telegraph messages without connecting wires as used by the electric telegraph. This was not a new idea—numerous investigators had been exploring wireless telegraph technologies for over 50 years, but none had proven technically and commercially successful. Marconi’s system had the following components:Marconi delineated his 1895 apparatus in his Nobel Award speech. See: Marconi, "" Nobel Lectures. Physics 1901–1921. Amsterdam: Elsevier Publishing Company, 1967: 196–222. p. 198.

  • A relatively simple oscillator, or spark-producing radio transmitter.
  • A wire or capacity area placed at a height above the ground;
  • A coherer receiver, which was a modification of Edouard Branly’s original device, with refinements to increase sensitivity and reliability;
  • A telegraph key to operate the transmitter to send short and long pulses, corresponding to the dots-and-dashes of Morse code; and
  • A telegraph register, activated by the coherer, which recorded the received Morse code dots and dashes onto a roll of paper tape.

Similar configurations using spark-gap transmitters plus coherer-receivers had been tried by others, but many were unable to achieve transmission ranges of more than a few hundred metres.

Marconi, just twenty years old, began his first experiments working on his own with the help of his butler Mignani. In the summer of 1894, he built a storm alarm made up of a battery, a coherer, and an electric bell, which went off if there was lightning. Soon after he was able to make a bell ring on the other side of the room by pushing a telegraphic button on a bench.. Retrieved on 12 July 2012.

One night in December, Guglielmo woke his mother up and invited her into his secret workshop and showed her the experiment he had created. The next day he also showed his father, who, when he was certain there were no wires, gave his son all of the money he had in his wallet so Guglielmo could buy more materials.