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Marconi the Pioneer

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Marconi in London in 1896, showing the original apparatus brought by him from Italy.

Experiments with radio waves were carried out in 1888 by Hertz and were extended by various physicists in following years. It was not until 1894 when Hertz died, that the young Marconi, 20 years of age, appeared on the scene.

After reading a commemorative article on Hertz he began experimenting in the attic of his parents'. Large villa near Bologna, Italy. By the summer of 1895 he had transmitted a signal over a few yards using a simple spark-gap transmitter, and coherer type detector. By August 1895 Marconi had achieved transmission over 2.8 km. The Italian government remained unimpressed and so Marconi set sail for England.

Following preliminary demonstrations in his laboratory the chief engineer of the Post Office, William Preece, to whom Marconi had been introduced by his cousin, arranged formal demonstrations to Post Office officials. Observers were suitably impressed and in a second demonstration six months later the range was extended to seven km. An historic lecture at Toynbee Hall followed this and Marconi soon became a celebrity.

The scientific community was, however, less enthusiastic suspecting Marconi of plagiarism. In particular, Professor Oliver Lodge, who first developed the coherer and had in fact transmitted Morse signals over 60 metres before Marconi began his experiments, was deeply offended.

In 1897 Marconi established 'The Wireless Telegraph and Signal Company Limited' much to the disgust of the Post Office who did not favour experiments being carried out without their involvement. In 1899 cross-channel transmissions were successfully achieved and the possibility of transatlantic radio was soon realised.

On the 12th December, 1901 the first transatlantic message, a single Morse letter S, was transmitted from England to Newfoundland giving Marconi success against all the odds.

Guglielmo Marconi, with his personal radio operator Adelmo Landini, aboard the Elettra in Genoa Harbour, about to activate the switch which, by radio remote control, turned on the lights at the Electrical and Wireless Exhibition in Sydney City Hall. The event took place on 26th March 1930, and Marconi had designed the selector device himself.
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