October 1937 Radio-Craft
[Table of Contents]
Wax nostalgic about and learn from the history of early electronics.
See articles from Radio-Craft,
published 1929 - 1953. All copyrights are hereby acknowledged.
Dang, I meant to post this article on July
20th. It is an editorial commemoration written by Radio-Craft publisher Hugo Gernsback
to radio pioneer
Guglielmo Marconi, who died on that day in 1937. He was only 63 years old. Gernsback states,
"The debt which the world owes to Marconi is staggering - if you figure only one single result
of his accomplishments - the saving of tens of thousands of lives which would have perished
in the sea and otherwise, if had not been for Marconi." The January 1939 issue of Radio-Craft
featured an article titled, "Marconi
- Father of Radio?," wherein author Edward H. Loftin challenges the veracity of Marconi
receiving credit for the title. An
obituary appeared in
this same issue.
An Editorial by Hugo Gernsback
On July 20th, there died in Rome, Guglielmo Marconi, who may turn out to be the greatest
radio figure the world has ever seen.
... wireless ... radio; all are used synonymously and you cannot very well think of wireless
or radio without the accomplishments of that indefatigable genius who was the first to capture
the public's imagination by an accomplishment,. which in the early years of wireless well
nigh bordered on the miraculous.
Marconi no doubt will go down in history as one of the race's great benefactors, as great
or greater than any other benefactor who ever lived. The debt which the world owes to Marconi
is staggering - if you figure only one single result of his accomplishments - the saving of
tens of thousands of lives which would have perished in the sea and otherwise, if had not
been for Marconi.
But the saving of untold lives is only one of the things that the world is indebted for
to Marconi. The wireless, later the radio age, has brought to life not only a huge industry,
but has brought all humans closer together, has made rapid communication, particularly between
fixed and mobile stations, a possibility and lately in broadcasting has given the human voice
wings such as it never before dreamt of having.
Yet great as Marconi's accomplishments are, he was not the pure inventor type of man, although
his name is frequently linked with the word "inventor." Without trying to detract from Marconi's
greatness - there could be nothing further from my mind - Marconi was really not the man who
invented wireless or radio. He admitted this freely in his own lectures. The credit for the
original invention belongs to Heinrich Hertz, who, long before Marconi, investigated in pure
scientific terms the electromagnetic waves, and indeed to Hertz belongs the honor of being
the real Father of Radio.
Hertz it was who in his laboratory actually transmitted and received wireless signals.
By means of a spark coil he let loose into free space wireless waves. For a receiver, he merely
used a small loop of copper wire and observed a small spark which appeared between the two
open ends of the loop every time the key of the transmitter was depressed. These experiments
were made by Hertz while Marconi still was a boy, but, Hertz was a pure physicist and had
little imagination. Marconi, reading of Hertz's experiments, promptly started to experiment
on his own behalf, and soon he had a wireless transmitter and receiver going on his father's
estate in Bologna, Italy. Even Marconi's "coherer" was not his own invention, but Branley's.
Others before had noted that loose metallic filings in a glass tube became conductive to the
electric current when exposed near the wave effect of a spark coil or high-power induction
As for the elevated aerial used by Marconi, this also was not an invention of his own as
Nikola Tesla had already patented a wireless system years before the youthful Marconi began
his own experiments. It was Tesla too, who seems to be the first to show the use of an elevated
conductor for inter-communication purposes without wires.
All of this should not detract anymore from the glory of Marconi's accomplishments than
the parallel facts that Edison was not the original inventor of either the electric light,
motion picture or other inventions usually accredited to him; Neither Marconi nor Edison were
pure research men who discovered new principles and used them.
Why then Marconi's greatness? It is one thing to discover an important and record-making
discovery, but it is quite another thing to find a practical use for it. The two, as a, rule,
have little relation, and it is usually the man with the imagination, and the hard-working
experimenter who, knowing certain principles, applies them to practical use. If it had not
been for Marconi, Hertz's discovery might have lain dormant for decades, but the highly original
experiments and the terrifically hard work coupled with boundless enthusiasm which Marconi
applied to a well-known principle, gave him the credit which rightfully belongs to him.
And let no one think that it was all easy and that wireless communication sprang into life
overnight. It was always hard work in the face of an incredulous world. Indeed, after his
first experiments in Italy were successful, the Italian government in their shortsightedness
would have nothing to do with Marconi's "contraption" as they termed it. This made it necessary
for Marconi to go to England and continue his experiments there. Soon his signals had reached
across the English channel to France, and from then on wireless communication required no
further proofs of its practicability.
But still wireless in those days was very crude and far from universal. In the meanwhile
Marconi surrounded himself with good technical talent; he also knew where to get needed finances,
and finally he availed himself of every new invention that came along to make his system more
practical. While he devised many radio circuits, ,he did not himself discover the fundamental
tuning principle, yet he improved existing methods of tuning - syntony - as it was then called;
and soon it became possible to operate many wireless stations without too much interference
from each other.
But Marconi was not content. He never rested on his laurels. He always was a modest worker
who gave credit to whom credit was due, and the honors for dreaming about trans-Atlantic wireless
and the courage to actually start experimenting with it in the face of an incredulous world,
certainly belong to Marconi. It should not be forgotten that it took a tremendous amount of
courage and belief in himself to think that a new and untried system of transmitting electromagnetic
waves over almost 2,000 miles of curved ocean surface was within the realm of even a remote
possibility. That took more than courage. It was really a supreme heroic gesture, and it is
probably for this one outstanding accomplishment, more than any other, that the world is paying
homage to the dead inventor today.
In his later years, Marconi again was responsible for great improvements in radio communication,
particularly in the shortwave range and his final researches in the microwave field which
hold great promise, were cut short by his untimely death.
Marconi was truly an international figure, and if there is one man who ever trod the earth,
who is entitled to have a monument erected in his honor in every civilized country on the
globe, that man without a shadow of a doubt is the illustrious Marconi.
Posted September 26, 2016