Marconi - experimenting with radio waves

Marconi - experimenting with radio waves

Close at the heel of the twentieth century, on the most important day in the history of electronic communication, Marconi and his assistants heard the faint transmission from across the Atlantic: dot, dot, dot: The letter S. A message had been transmitted without wires across the Atlantic, between Poldhu, Cornwall, and St. John's, Newfoundland, a distance of 2100 miles!


This transmission had confounded the world's leading physicists. Marconi had shown that the electromagnetic wave (the transmission), rode over the Atlantic, at roughly the speed of light, over the sea and the earth. Scientists didn't know how the signal was curved, but now we know that the curvature was due to the ionosphere, which reflects radio waves that strike it and bounce back to the earth; this continues till the energy is dissipated. The ionosphere is a layer of ionized gas particles caused by the sun's radiation. It covers the earth at a height of approximately 100 miles.


A keen mind

What was once a thought in the mind of young Marconi had now become a reality. Guglielmo Marconi was born in Italy in 1874 and was the second son of Giuseppe Marconi, an Italian gentleman. Even as a young boy, Marconi's mind was attracted to physical and electrical science; though he didn't much of a formal education, his mother tutored him and he was mostly self-taught. He later studied under Augusto Righi, a scientist who had worked with electromagnetic waves. Since Righi was also a neighbor, Marconi would visit him often with questions and ideas.


In 1895, at the age of 21 he was already doing laboratory experiments in his father's country estate. He devised a system that allowed him to ring a bell two rooms away in his attic workshop purely by striking a telegraph key, which created electromagnetic waves. He extended this and soon he could produce the same effect over longer and longer distances, stretching to several hundred yards. This unofficially credits him with being the first inventor of the first practical system of wireless telegraphy.

The following year, he demonstrated his system successfully in London and was granted the first patent for a system in wireless telegraphy.


Combining business and science 
In July 1897 he formed The Wireless Telegraph & Signal Company Limited (later renamed Marconi's Wireless Telegraph Company Limited) in England, under the country's laws. He began selling transmitters to shipping companies, and, with that, stock in the company. Two years later, he traveled to the United States to supervise wireless reporting of the America's Cup yacht race between the 'Columbia' and the 'Shamrock' and in the process won a good deal of attention from the press. The U.S. Navy later invited him to demonstrate wireless telegraphy between the cruiser New York and the battleship Massachusetts, some 35 miles apart. An impressed Navy also wanted to deploy his products on vessels, torpedo boats, patrols, scouts and dispatch boats.

After the transatlantic signal in 1900, Marconi patented several new inventions. In 1902, when on a voyage in an American liner, he demonstrated 'daylight effect' relative to wireless communication and in the same year patented his magnetic detector, which then became the standard wireless receiver for many years.


In 1905, Marconi married Beatrice O'Brien, daughter of the 14th Baron Inchiquin, unfortunately the marriage didn't last and was annulled in 1927. The same year, he remarried, his second wife was Countess Bezzi-Scali of Rome. He had one son and two daughters by his first marriage and one daughter by his second wife.
Marconi continued to refine and conduct further experiments on his inventions and also turned more and more attention towards business aspects. He won the Nobel Prize in physics in 1909; he shared it with Karl Ferdinand Braun whose modifications to Marconi's transmitters significantly increased their range and usefulness. 
In Britain, Marconi and his companies were also influential in the startup of public radio broadcasting and helped establish the British Broadcasting Company, later the British Broadcasting Corporation or BBC.


In 1931, Marconi began intense research into shorter waves. The following year, it resulted in the world's first microwave radiotelephone link between the Vatican City and the Pope's summer residence at Castel Gandolfo. In 1934, he gave a demonstration of his microwave radio beacon for ship navigation. The following year, he gave a practical demonstration of the principles of radar.


Beyond radio

Marconi also rendered service to Italy during the war. He enlisted in 1914 as Lieutenant and was later promoted to Captain. When WWI was still in progress, he became a member of the Italian Government mission to the United States in 1917 and two years later, he was appointed Italian plenipotentiary delegate to the Paris Peace Conference. The same year, he was awarded the Italian Military Medal for of his service during the war.


Marconi was recognized for his achievements during his lifetime and was the recipient of several awards and doctorates from several universities and countries. Despite his fame status, Marconi never allowed it to get to his head. He simply listened to the praises and enjoyed it. Towards the end of his life, though he continued experiments in radio, he was also more and more involved in the affairs of the state. Marconi died in Rome on July 20, 1937.