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.
This editorial commemoration
was written by Radio−Craft
Hugo Gernsback to radio pioneer
who died on July 20th, 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 magazine 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.
Marconi ... 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
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
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
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
But still wireless in those days was very crude and far from universal. In the
meanwhile Marconi surrounded him-self 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 November 1, 2023
(updated from original
post on 9/26/2016)