Marconi, Marchese Guglielmo

Marconi, Marchese Guglielmo
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b. 25 April 1874 Bologna, Italy
d. 20 July 1937 Rome, Italy
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Italian radio pioneer whose inventiveness and business skills made radio communication a practical proposition.
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Marconi was educated in physics at Leghorn and at Bologna University. An avid experimenter, he worked in his parents' attic and, almost certainly aware of the recent work of Hertz and others, soon improved the performance of coherers and spark-gap transmitters. He also discovered for himself the use of earthing and of elevated metal plates as aerials. In 1895 he succeeded in transmitting telegraphy over a distance of 2 km (1¼ miles), but the Italian Telegraph authority rejected his invention, so in 1896 he moved to England, where he filed the first of many patents. There he gained the support of the Chief Engineer of the Post Office, and by the following year he had achieved communication across the Bristol Channel.
The British Post Office was also slow to take up his work, so in 1897 he formed the Wireless Telegraph \& Signal Company to work independently. In 1898 he sold some equipment to the British Army for use in the Boer War and established the first permanent radio link from the Isle of Wight to the mainland. In 1899 he achieved communication across the English Channel (a distance of more than 31 miles or 50 km), the construction of a wireless station at Spezia, Italy, and the equipping of two US ships to report progress in the America's Cup yacht race, a venture that led to the formation of the American Marconi Company. In 1900 he won a contract from the British Admiralty to sell equipment and to train operators. Realizing that his business would be much more successful if he could offer his customers a complete radio-communication service (known today as a "turnkey" deal), he floated a new company, the Marconi International Marine Communications Company, while the old company became the Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company.
His greatest achievement occurred on 12 December 1901, when Morse telegraph signals from a transmitter at Poldhu in Cornwall were received at St John's, Newfoundland, a distance of some 2,100 miles (3,400 km), with the use of an aerial flown by a kite. As a result of this, Marconi's business prospered and he became internationally famous, receiving many honours for his endeavours, including the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1909. In 1904, radio was first used to provide a daily bulletin at sea, and in 1907 a transatlantic wireless telegraphy service was inaugurated. The rescue of 1,650 passengers from the shipwreck of SS Republic in 1909 was the first of many occasions when wireless was instrumental in saving lives at sea, most notable being those from the Titanic on its maiden voyage in April 1912; more lives would have been saved had there been sufficient lifeboats. Marconi was one of those who subsequently pressed for greater safety at sea. In 1910 he demonstrated the reception of long (8 km or 5 miles) waves from Ireland in Buenos Aires, but after the First World War he began to develop the use of short waves, which were more effectively reflected by the ionosphere. By 1918 the first link between England and Australia had been established, and in 1924 he was awarded a Post Office contract for short-wave communication between England and the various parts of the British Empire.
With his achievements by then recognized by the Italian Government, in 1915 he was appointed Radio-Communications Adviser to the Italian armed forces, and in 1919 he was an Italian delegate to the Paris Peace Conference. From 1921 he lived on his yacht, the Elettra, and although he joined the Fascist Party in 1923, he later had reservations about Mussolini.
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Principal Honours and Distinctions
Nobel Prize for Physics (jointly with K.F. Braun) 1909. Russian Order of S t Anne. Commander of St Maurice and St Lazarus. Grand Cross of the Order of the Crown (i.e. Knight) of Italy 1902. Freedom of Rome 1903. Honorary DSc Oxford. Honorary LLD Glasgow. Chevalier of the Civil Order of Savoy 1905. Royal Society of Arts Albert Medal. Honorary knighthood (GCVO) 1914. Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Medal of Honour 1920. Chairman, Royal Society of Arts 1924. Created Marquis (Marchese) 1929. Nominated to the Italian Senate 1929. President, Italian Academy 1930. Rector, University of St Andrews, Scotland, 1934.
Bibliography
1896, "Improvements in transmitting electrical impulses and in apparatus thereof", British patent no. 12,039.
1 June 1898, British patent no. 12,326 (transformer or "jigger" resonant circuit).
1901, British patent no. 7,777 (selective tuning).
1904, British patent no. 763,772 ("four circuit" tuning arrangement).
Further Reading
D.Marconi, 1962, My Father, Marconi.
W.J.Baker, 1970, A History of the Marconi Company, London: Methuen.
KF

Biographical history of technology. - Taylor & Francis e-Librar. . 2005.

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